Well here we are, in the final stretch of the Year of Food & Drink. I don’t know about you, but this celebration of Scottish produce and the wonderful people who make it has been one of my favourite ever years! Last month saw us all celebrate Scottish dairy although I doubt organisers could have predicted the headlines that ran between farmers and supermarkets! I think its safest for me to stay out of the argument but suffice to say, I’m not convinced Tesco and their counterparts have a full understanding of the British public’s’ love of our farmers . We could pay a penny more a litre, they could take a penny less… Look at what we pay for bottled water after all. Milk, my friends, is cheap.
My worry is, if we don’t get this sorted out the threat of a cow cull will become a reality and before you know it we’ll be in the ridiculous position of importing milk from Europe. Supermarkets are monopolising our milk and I for one do NOT want to be using or drinking the watered down, pasteurised fluid we get on a continental holiday.
But enough of economics and politics! Let’s chat about the amazing Scottish dairy farms that are several generations old and the families who have been fueling us all for years. I’m talking about everyone from the large, local dairies providing us with fresh milk and cream to the smaller artisan cheese companies supplying everyone from Farmers’ Market customers to kitchens in top hotels as far away as Dubai. We have a great deal to shout about and it’s certainly something we can be very proud of.
I remember as a wee boy, getting the milk delivered to the doorstep and pouring the rich creamy top onto my cereal. I had a paper round back in those days and I’d often catch the milkman as I started my route, pedaling like crazy in a race round Coupar Angus.
We were all about the full fat milk and cream back then, and although some days I feel like I could be 105, it wasn’t actually that long ago!! I can’t help but feeling that milk and dairy products were more natural back then, more raw. I love unpasteurised cheese – a wee bit bacteria is fine if you ask me – and as long as the rest of your diet is balanced I see no reason why we need to wrap our digestive systems in cottonwool!
Over the years we’ve been subjected to a great deal of health and safety laws (not always for the good if you ask me!), medical advice (often twisted by the media) and a never ending stream of fad diets. Nowadays, almost every household fridge has a continuous supply of milk in a variety of forms like organic, skimmed, and reduced lactose. There are reports suggesting our milk intake should be limited due to a rise in lactose intolerance but personally, I think everything is good in moderation. Milk has to be in there and it certainly needs to be part of our kids’ daily diets. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been mulling this blog over in my head, but last night I opened the fridge and poured myself a tall glass of cold milk – it was bloody brilliant!
In the past couple of decades all our major dairies have expanded their offerings to include products like butter, yoghurts, cheese and now wonderful fresh dairy ice-creams. Add our native berries to this mix and hey presto, you have a product that can be shipped all over the world giving people a true taste of Scotland.
I was lucky enough to visit Arran recently and met some fantastically passionate cheese producers – each making something unique and unbelievably tasty. At 63, we only serve native cheeses and this isn’t just because they’re Scottish; I love the quality, variety and consistency you are guaranteed throughout the year. I’m told that this is down to the natural, artisan cheese production methods that have been in place for hundreds of years; long may that continue!
As with all our native produce we need to support our dairy and cheese producers, buying it as often as we can. Maybe opt for a cheese you wouldn’t normally buy, or spread butter from a local dairy on your toast for a change. That way we can continue to champion a huge sector in our land of food and drink.
Best cheesy wishes, Graeme
Want to make ice-cream, but don’t have an ice-cream machine? Well, hope is not lost – if you have a stick blender! Here’s how. Start by making a custard ice-cream base (there are plenty of recipes online, try this one) then cool it over ice before pouring into a durable freezer container. Freeze for 45 minutes, then blend thoroughly with the stick blender and return it to the freezer for 15 minutes. Repeat the process a few times until the ice-cream is frozen. If you want to add berries, make a coulis or purée to pour, rather than folding it through the ice-cream as you make, as their water content will produce more ice. Enjoy!