Milk always has a reoccurring role on my grocery list, but until I moved to Columbus I never really knew the series of steps it took to end up in my cart. My husband and I discovered local milk at a farmers market and I navigated through the winding foothills of Appalachia, around 94 miles, to Snowville Creamery to uncover the mystery. The Snowville Plant Manager, John Stock, was happy to explain to me what sets their milk apart from the rest.
This is where it all begins. From April until December Snowville purchases raw milk from Bill Dix and Stacy Hall’s 273 beautiful dairy cows. They are a genetically diverse herd of Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Friesian and Jersey. After Christmas, the cows take a much needed pregnancy holiday and for the remainder of the year Snowville purchases milk from Hamm Valley Farm. The creamery and the farms from which it purchases its milk have a great partnership. The farms must meet a long list of requirements (some are mentioned below) in order to become Snowville Creamery products and they are happy to comply:
- The cow’s primary nutritional needs are met by feeding pasture in season and hay during the winter months
- Corn silage is not acceptable and cannot be a part of their diet
- Cows should be treated calmly and with respect
- Cows must not be given rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone)
- The pastures can not be managed with the use of pesticides or herbicides
- No antibiotics can be present in the milk or it will be rejected
Although there are over 300 acres at the Dix/Hall farm, the cows do not have free reign of the entire spread all at once. They are corralled into a new parcel of about 20 acres every 12 hours. This constant movement naturally manages the pasture and also allows the cows to eat only their favorite grasses. Happy cows might come from California, but I can attest the also come from Pomeroy, Ohio!
Everything at Snowville is in close proximity. Twice a day the cows are paraded to the milking parlor and then the raw milk is taken a few yards to the creamery. (Seriously, the buildings are a few yards from another keeping the milk as fresh as possible). Even the creamery owner, Warren Taylor, lives in the neighboring town conveniently called Snowville. Inside the creamery, three to four employees turn the raw milk into what you see on the store shelves. The raw milk travels through a series of pressurized stainless tubes to a milk separator, which is essentially a giant centrifuge. There it is spun at very high speeds to separate the skim milk from the cream. At Snowville Creamery, the milk is pasteurized at the lowest of temperatures to retain as many characteristics of raw milk while still meeting the regulated requirements. Depending on the butter fat content of the product, the milk is heated to 163º F – 168º F for 14 seconds; that is all it takes. You may have noticed some milk on your store shelves has an expiration date that is months away. This is because the milk is ultra-pasteurized at a much higher temperature giving it a longer shelf life, but unfortunately killing much of the nutrition. The Snowville milk is heated, cooled, and travels to 1,000 gallon holding tanks where it briefly waits to be packaged. The milk is then set to the filler machine, where it takes a little under two seconds to fill. Finally, the carton is sealed and stamped with a date guaranteeing its freshness.
Snowville’s products are non-homogenized, allowing a natural, wonderfully thick layer of cream to form on top of their milk. In the past, this separation was a method by which the quality of milk was judged – a thicker layer of cream meant higher quality milk. As is all too often the case with our modern day food, good enough couldn’t be left alone. The result was the widespread adoption of a process which arguably provides no benefits in order to produce a “pretty, uniform” product – homogenization. Homogenization is a treatment where milk is pumped at high pressures through very narrow tubes, breaking up the fat globules, which prevents the cream from separating away from the skim milk. Snowville milk is a throwback to the old days, when a simple shake of the milk jug mixed the cream back into the skim and allowed the drinker to enjoy milk the way it was meant to be.
After the products are packaged and crated, they are ready to be transported to retailers across the state. Snowville offers Fat Free, 2%, and Whole milks, as well as Half and Half and Whipping Cream. They also sell their cream to Jeni’s to make delicious local ice cream! You can find Snowville products at a variety of stores around Central Ohio including Kroger, Giant Eagle, North Market and Whole Foods. From cow to carton, the milk is delivered to your local grocery store within 48 hours!
The milk from Snowville Creamery (pictured left) traveled approximately 94 miles to Columbus while the milk (pictured right) made a journey of close to 1,040 miles!
What determines the different grades of milk is the percentage of butter fat in each finished product. At Snowille the raw milk from the dairy farm is a little over 4% butter fat. Their Fat Free is less than a percent, 2% (you guessed it), and Whole is around 4%. To create anything other than Fat Free, a percentage of cream which was separated in the centrifuge prior to pasteurization is added back into the skim milk.
We all know milk’s benefits of calcium and vitamins, but it is important to know the Snowville way versus an industrialized way. An industrialized dairy farm consists of fields of corn as far as the eye can see, as this is the commodity crop used to feed the cows. It is packed full of enormous, noisy farming equipment, and large silos to hold all the harvested grain. The cows are packed together tightly in a building where their feed is brought to them. In less than ideal living conditions, they are also fed hormones (rBGH) to produce more milk and antibiotics whether or not they are needed. On the flip side, picture in your mind rolling hills covered in beautiful, wild grasses and happy cows grazing on what they are supposed to eat. (Yes, cows are ruminants and contrary to what you might have been told they are designed to eat grass.) The farm is quiet and contains minimal equipment since the cows are put to work tending to the fields. The cows are healthy, treated humanly, and because of this they produce a delicious tasting product. I urge you to visit Snowville and witness “Milk the Way it Used to Be.”
ReferencesMilk: America’s Health Problem
Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone
Homemade Greek Style Yogurt with Strawberry Swirl
- 4 cups of Fat Free milk from Snowville Creamery
- 2 tablespoons Greek style yogurt with live active cultures, at room temperature (will serve as a “starter” for your batch of yogurt)
- Heat milk in a medium sauce pan until it reaches 180º F stirring occasionally to
avoid scorching on the bottom of the pan
- Cool the milk to 110º F by placing the pan into a sick of ice water, stirring frequently
- Add “starter” yogurt into warm milk and stir to distribute
- Cover with a dish towel and place on a heating pad set to medium
- Allow the milk to sit undisturbed for at least seven hours, the longer you allow the milk to sit after seven hours have passed the tangier it will become
- To make a thick, Greek style yogurt, allow the newly fermented yogurt to strain through cheese cloth (draining away the liquid whey) in the refrigerator for 2 hours or until the desired thickness is achieved
- Pour into containers (refrigerated it will last 2-3 weeks)
- Save 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt to use as a starter for your next batch
- Makes approximately 2 ½ cups
Strawberry Swirl Ingredients
- 2 cups fresh strawberries
- 1 teaspoon grated orange rind
- 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
- 6 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon quality vanilla extract
- Sliced almonds
Strawberry Swirl Directions
- Puree cleaned and hulled strawberries in a food processor until smooth
- Add to medium sauce pan along with orange rind, juice and 3 tablespoons of honey
- Cook on medium high heat until thick sauce forms, about 10 minutes
- Stir in remainder of honey and vanilla to plain yogurt
- Top with strawberry swirl and sliced almonds