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A Shetland Cow (Part 3)

What to do with all the extra milk, there being a definite limit to the number of milk puddings one can eat. My constant reference book is ‘The Back Yard Cow’ by Ann Williams and gave me the basics for butter and cheese making. You can muddle along with ordinary kitchen equipment but it is not so efficient and is time consuming, also the fascination of turning a liquid into a solid takes hold.

We went to Rothbury Mart house clearance sales looking for butter chums and cream separators, and continue to do so. My first acquisition was some butter pats or Scotch hands as they are called here, they are rather dainty so a friend made some full sized ones for me. The first lactation we borrowed a cream separator, it was one that belonged to the previous owner of the farm, so it returned for the summer. You need to be fit to separate a lot of milk, its hard work keeping up the speed with a bell telling you off if it is too slow. The cream was turned in to butter using a small electric hand whisk, the temperature and ripeness dictating how quickly it turned. Excess butter was frozen.

I thought my sister would be able to help when she came to stay as she has qualifications in dairying. When asked how to make clotted cream her reply was ‘you press the button at 4 o’clock in the morning’ Yes, she only knew how to operate the commercial machines. The first attempt at clotted cream was edible but it takes ages and again temperature is all important.

The skim milk is turned into yoghurt or soft cheese. It is very hit and miss how the cheese turns out. The best is from a special cheese starter but normally I make it using yoghurt to start the bacteria and rennet to coagulate the milk. Soft cheese can be frozen for use in cooking later. Much is given away to friends although some have politely said it is not to their taste! The gallons of milk that have not turned into cheese are not poured down the drain but poured on the ground round the orchard trees. 1 have read somewhere that milk might cure mildew on plants but have not tried that yet as milk and mildew have never arrived at the same time.

I now have two old separators which may make one good one, a bargain at £15, when a new one costs between £200 and £300. 1 also have a butter chum which is great when there is lots of cream, 2 pints or more, but a smaller one is needed for the lesser amounts. At auctions they go for daft prices to be painted and made into objets d’art in fancy homes. A new chum can cost £50 or more and it would need a lot of butter to justify the expense.

It is not possible to sell any extra produce as the food hygiene standards are very strict, probably rightly so as milk can very easily be contaminated or pick up taints. Pasteurising is a bit of a fiddle and can quickly give the milk a boiled taste; it also destroys some of the vitamins.

At times milking and processing the milk can become a chore but when the flow lessens and then when the cow is having her 2 months rest before the next calf you realise how much milk and butter is used and it’s not the same from the shops.

Gill Philipson