#NYSDairyTour2014 Food & Wine Weekend 2014
Momma Lew contributor Amy Nunamacher, owner of The Giggle Worm shop, recently spent a weekend in the beautiful Finger Lakes in upstate New York. This is her guest post.
I had the pleasure of being part of the NY State Dairy Tour for 2014 (#NYSDairyTour2014), which was hosted by the American Dairy Association & Dairy Council and held in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region of upstate NY. Geneva on the Lake was our resort for the weekend and truly was top notch. Being directly on Lake Seneca was a huge bonus as well.
Sitting in Adirondack chairs by the lake among the beautiful fall colors makes for such a relaxing morning.
I stayed in one of the townhouse units, which afforded me lots of space. Two floors including 2 bedrooms and 2 baths felt extremely spacious. Let’s not forget the full kitchen with the complimentary local wine in the fridge. I don’t mind if I do.
The NY State Dairy Tour’s purpose was to show how passionate dairy farmers can create high quality products that go from farm to family table.
COW FACT – a dairy cow can drink about 30 gallons of water each day.
We were able to visit with Patterson Farms, a 6th generation dairy and crop farm located on 2500 acres in Auburn, NY. It really is 7th generation, as the children were so knowledgeable about many aspects of the farm, I just know that they will keep the farm alive when it is their turn to run it. The farm has been in the family since 1832. Wow, can you imagine all the technological changes since then?
Currently, Patterson Farm has 1100 milking cows, and another (approx) 1000 young cows that have not started milking. Young female cows will stay in pastures for about 2 years before attempting pregnancy. Did you know that cows do not produce milk until they birth a calf? On average, the farm will see about 3 births a day. They keep all the female cows and raise them for future milking; and as such their herd is increasing by about 10% per year.
We were able to get a tour of parts of the farm and even got to see some day old calves. Yes, day old, as in born the day before. I was even able to bottle feed a tiny calf. And, by tiny I mean 80 pounds at birth. So cute, I wanted to bring him home with me. Honestly, this was the highlight of the weekend.
Since the farm is also a crop farm, they grow and harvest most of their feed. And, since each cow can go through 130 pounds of feed a day, there is lots of crops on the farm. Impressed does not seem adequate enough to describe how the farmers study the chemical makeup of the feed to determine what is the best mix for each stage of the cow’s life. Working with nutritionists, the farmers are able to provide the highest quality milk. Feed consists of cornmeal, wheat, soybeans, hay, cotton seed, grain mix, canola meal, just to name a few. Most of which are found right on the farm. When you have just the right proportions of each ingredient you get healthy cows. Healthy cows produce healthy milk.
I truly was amazed about the great care the farm gives to their cows. The cows are milked 3 times a day. And when they are not milking they are free to roam the barn as they please, rest and eat. They are given plenty of feed throughout the day as well as plenty of water. Like I said, they drink about 30 gallons of water and eat 130 pounds of feed. The barn even has misting fans in the summer to keep the cows cool from the heat. I should put misting fans on my birthday list. The cows are so well kept that they even get 60 days vacation a year. During vacation time, they roam in the pastures and probably take selfies and tweet about their day. lol. No, but seriously, the cows only milk for 300 days, then take 60 days off during which their diet changes and can eat free range grasses as well.
With all these cows, there’s a lot of poop. Let’s be honest; no one wants to talk about poop. But, it was one of the most interesting things I learned. I think everyone knows that manure make good fertilizer. But, it also smells gross. And, no one wants to be driving through the beautiful countryside holding their breath, right? Well, Patterson farms actually “recycles” the natural by-product of their cows (aka the poop). Wait, did I say recycles the poop? Yes I did. Turns out that you can take the solid portion of the waste and use it for the bedding in the barns. Take what’s left and heat to 110 degrees. At this point the methane gas can be collected and harnessed into a usable energy source. What you have at the end of this process is now great, non smelly, fertilizer for the crops. I’m sure their neighbors like this idea very much. The methane harnessed from this process actually provides electricity for the whole farm. The whole farm! That’s a lot of poop.
Patterson Farm is actually just one of about 30 farms working as a collective to provide fresh, high quality milk to the Cayuga Milk Ingredient plant. At Cayuga, we were able to do a tour of the brand new, state of the art plant which recently opened in June 2014.
I honestly had no idea what to expect when we toured the plant. Really I thought it would be a plant processing liquid milk. But in reality this is totally different. The Cayuga Milk Ingredient plant actually separates the liquid portion (water) of the milk and then is able to use leading edge technology to create milk ingredients. These ingredients include: Pasteurized Cream, Whole Milk Powder, Liquid Permeate, Condensed MIlk, Skim Milk Powder, Non Fat Dry Milk, Milk Proteins, as well as customer specified compositions. These ingredients can be used in almost endless ways and is currently being shipped around the world.
Since the farms in the collective are all local farms, the milk is processed within hours of being milked, allowing the freshest milk for the best quality products. The high standards of the Cayuga Milk Ingredient plant start before the trucks even enter the facility. Testing for viruses, hormones, bacteria, antibiotics, and excess water are done outside the plant; which ensures that any contaminated milk does not come in contact with quality milk.
There is recycling happening at the plant as well. No, not poop. Water is being taking from the raw milk to make the milk ingredients. The water could just be sent down the drain. However, the water is recycled and used for the cleaning of the pipes, tubes, and equipment. They would have to purchase 130 million gallons of water had they not recycled. Talk about innovative.
All this talk about food is making me hungry. Our last stop on the tour was to the New York Wine & Culinary Center, where we would create our dinner focusing on dairy rich ingredients. My mouth was watering just looking at the menu for the night. Walking into the cooking room was like walking onto a TV cooking show set. Three huge stations, each consisting of a full working kitchen, filled the room. The main station was set up with an overhead video camera, allowing the chef to prepare food items and broadcast it to the 12 screens around the room. Super cool. I felt like he was teaching me one on one.
Our Chef for the night was Jeff (AKA Cheffory lol); he was able to create 4 awesome dairy rich items that I can’t wait to make again. And, bonus – they are all pretty easy. Since we were a large group, we split up into teams and had 3 teams for each item. I was at the Inside-Out Poutine station and will be making these again. I know my kids would love them too.
The menu was as follows:
- Caramelized Cheese Crisps stuffed with Pulled Chicken – Disks of shredded cheese baked until golden and shaped into cones. Filled with shredded chicken and topped with a Greek yogurt sauce.
- Inside-Out Poutine – Flavored cheese curd covered in breaded mashed potatoes and deep fried. Served with a side of brown gravy.
- Roasted Garlic & Red Pepper Greek Yogurt Spread on Crudites and Crostini – Farm-Fresh Greek yogurt combined with roasted garlic and red bell pepper to form a creamy spread to be dipped with crostini or raw vegetables.
- Chocolate Brownie & Vanilla Ice Cream Boats – Handmade brownie cups topped with delicious vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.
Poutine is a Canadian dish consisting of french fries, topped with gravy and cheese curds. I have heard of this, but never tasted it. It kinda reminds me of Disco Fries. Chef Jeff did a twist on this dish to create the inside-out poutine. The cheese curds were covered in mashed potatoes, breaded, fried, and served with a brown gravy. It was perfection. And, it was super easy to make it look pretty. I could see this at a cocktail party or even a brunch. My kids could even help with most of the preparation of this dish.
While I did not create the other dishes, I did eat them. The cheese cups seem so easy, and were so delicious; such an interesting use of dairy. Shredded parmesan cheese was laid in circles on a baking sheet; placed in the oven until the cheese was a beautiful golden brown. Once removed, these cheese circles could be molded into a shape. Teams laid the crispy cheese over a shot glass, and placed another glass over top, creating a cheese cup. Yummy, edible cheese cups, um yes please. The cheese cups were filled with shredded chicken and topped with a greek yogurt dressing. I could totally see this method being used in a variety of ways. I’m thinking tuna salad would be a perfect match for the cheese disks. Maybe this will give me an excuse to have a party.
The weekend was awesome. I honestly learned so much new information about dairy production, dairy ingredients, and cooking with dairy. Information that I’m able to share with friends, family, and blog readers. I use dairy quite often, so I now have a bigger appreciation for the dairy industry; starting with the dairy farms all the way to the ingredients that make-up a delicious dish. Thank you again to the American Dairy Association & Dairy Council for showing us how dairy goes from Farm to Family Table.
*The Giggle Worm, on behalf of Momma Lew, received a complimentary stay as part of this weekend.