When waking temperatures are below freezing and snow blankets the ground, it seems eating locally and seasonally will be months away. But looking beyond the obvious notion of “seasonal” brings into focus a view of items we take for granted yet are available year round, each with seasonal variations that take their culinary applications beyond the obvious – Milk and Honey.
With Pennsylvania the nation’s fourth largest milk producer, home to 10,000 commercial dairy farms cranking out more than 1 billion gallons a year, it’s easy to drink locally produced milk. But for milk that reflects both the locality and the season, you will want to seek out fresh raw milk. Available locally from a handful of diary farms that have a ‘raw milk permit’, raw (or fresh) milk is just that – whole milk fresh from the cow. It hasn’t undergone pasteurization or homogenization so in addition to getting the full nutritional benefits from downing a cold glass, it is a preferred ingredient for any recipe calling for milk. Dairy-based items like cheese, butter, yogurt and even ice cream made with raw milk will likely reflect subtle regional and seasonal variations and complexities due to soil composition and vegetation of the cows’ diet throughout the year. Our Homemade Ricotta Cheese is just one easy way to enjoy this fresh seasonal diary product year-round.
Like raw milk, raw unprocessed honey varies according to season and what’s in bloom when the bees gather their nectar. According to the National Honey Board, there are more than 300 unique varieties of honey available in the U.S. It is estimated that more than 2000 beekeepers across Pennsylvania are producing a variety of honey, from clover and wildflower to lavender and highly prized buckwheat. Like wine, varietal honeys reflect the effect annual climactic changes have on the nectar source and like milk, local honey’s characteristics change with the seasons. Honey varies in color and flavor from light and mild to dark and robust, all with myriad culinary options beyond drizzling on toast or sweetening your tea. Close to a dozen jars inhabit my pantry, gathered from farms and market in different seasons and locations. Since honey never goes bad they are always available for dressings, marinades, baking or any time I want a unique, flavorful and natural sweetener.
Milk and honey are also legendary beauty treatments, especially for softening skin. Try this Milk & Honey Hand Soak for a relaxing treat.
Some other tidbits of information:
– Honey will last virtually forever…raw milk on the other hand should be consumed in a few days.
– Recently, honey has been recognized for its antioxidant properties with the darker honeys generally having higher antioxidant content.
– Store honey in a dark pantry…refrigeration will cause it to crystallize.
– If honey crystallizes, it has not gone bad. Simply place the jar in a pan of hot water until the honey liquefies again. Cover and store.
more info on milk and honey:
www.realmilk.com (to find local raw milk producers)
www.honey.com (all about honey!)
www.burghbees.com (about beekeeping in Pittsburgh)
(information for this post was originally developed for Rhonda’s Simply Seasonal column for TABLE Magazine and appeared in the Spring 2010 issue)
November 9, 2011:
See the following information provided to us by Karen Plansis, a registered dietitian and nutrition communications manager with the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, a regional affiliate of the National Dairy Association. Thank you, Karen, for this important information on some of the common misconceptions surrounding organic and raw milk!
“…both organic and conventionally produced milk must meet the same stringent safety standards. Research shows that conventionally produced milk does not contain more antibiotic or pesticide residues than organic milk. If a tanker of either type of milk tests positive for pesticides or antibiotic residues, it is immediately dumped. All milk naturally contains very small amounts of bovine hormones (bST) and science shows there is no difference in hormone levels between organic an regular milk. Whether or not a cow has received supplemental bST (rbST) to increase milk production has no bearing on the level of hormone present in the milk itself. Also, because bST is a protein hormone and is species specific to cows it’s completely digested when consumed and has no biological effect on humans.
The Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, many health professional organizations as well as the dairy industry itself recommend that no one consume unpasteurized milk. The FDA recently reported that during the 27-year period between 1987 and September 2010, there were at least 133 outbreaks of food borne illness due to the consumption of raw milk and raw milk products. These outbreaks caused 2,659 cases of illnesses, 269 hospitalizations, 3 deaths, 6 stillbirths and 2 miscarriages. Because not all cases of food borne illness are recognized and reported, the actual number of illnesses associated with raw milk is likely greater.
In spite of an abundance of urban legends to the contrary, there is no scientific evidence to support the position that raw milk is more nutritious than pasteurized milk. Research clearly shows that there is no meaningful difference between the nutrient content of pasteurized and unpasteurized milk. In addition, there are no beneficial bacteria in raw milk that aid gastrointestinal health or digestion; raw milk does not enhance the immune system, nor does it contain natural antimicrobial components that make it safe.”
Raw Milk Misconceptions and the Dangers of Raw Milk Consumption:
Q & A Raw Milk:
Real Raw Milk Facts: