MILK IN GELATO
As we saw in ‘what is gelato?’ milk is the ENTIRE point.
So, it follows that to make great gelato you need to use really great milk. Find out what makes great milk and why it is so important.
What is good Milk?
Good milk is the polar opposite of bad milk. Funny that. The good stuff comes from local dairies that really care about things like happy healthy cows and working with the land.
The not so good stuff comes from sprawling commercial dairies that care about things like maximising yield and squeezing out extra profit.
Great Milk Tastes Better
Ethics aside, the good stuff simply tastes better. And, what’s more, it doesn’t all taste the same. Because, like great cheese or fine wine, good milk is a product of the land.
We never really think in terms of artisanal milk, but that is exactly what it is. But why does it taste better? Surely milk is just milk?
Terroir is the term we use to describe the environment that shapes local produce. The climate, the geography, the fauna and the flora of a particular place directly influence the food it produces. That’s why Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France and Roquefort can only be produced in the Roquefort caves.
Milk is just as much a product of the environment. It might look like cows (the lucky ones) eat grass all day, but within that field and it’s surrounding hedgerows are hundreds of different types of plants. Furthermore, each individual cow knows exactly which plants to eat, in exactly what order, to meet it’s own daily nutritional needs. Hands up who still believes cows are stupid?
Rich summer milk is creamy, sweet and floral. It is the product of lush summer meadows; green tender grass and wildflowers. Winter milk is different. The lush floral tones are replaced by something lighter and more herbal; the earthy depth of sweet smelling hay. As the seasons change, so does the character of the milk. Which is exactly as nature intended.
Most commercial milk has very little flavour at all. Just one flat note of something akin to white water. Not entirely flavourless, but not exactly doing cartwheels on your tongue. Nuanced flavour has depth. Different little notes coming at you from all directions. Some are fleeting, whilst others stay around for longer. What you are tasting are all those different plants that this particular cow likes to eat. Like we say; a product of the land. Or not. As the case may so often be.
Danieli Gelato is Made with local milk
All of our milk comes from Northiam dairy, a small independent farm on the Sussex/Kent border where they focus on raising happy healthy cows to produce outstanding quality milk.
Northiam has been the family farm for over a century, so they know a thing or two about breeding (and milking) cattle. Their ladies are a cross breed of Norwegian Red (for health), Flekvieh (for stamina), and the traditional Black and White (for yield). This gives the best quality milk with a good yield, without jeopardising the health of the cow.
The cows graze the pastures all year round. In winter their diet is supplemented with local hay and even specially made ‘cow cake’ which is produced just 3 miles away using only local ingredients. They know that happy healthy cows produce a better product, so do everything they can to raise happy healthy cows.
Nothing at Northiam is outsourced. They breed, feed, milk, pack and deliver all the milk, cream and yoghurt that we use in our gelato.
Understanding the subtle Flavours of Milk in Gelato
It is clear that better milk makes better gelato. But in terms of flavour why does it matter so much?
For a start, even deeply flavoured gelato such as chocolate will benefit from the richly nuanced flavour, not to mention creamy texture, of good milk. But in the world of Italian gelato, that lives and dies by the quality of its milk, there is something else. Fior di latte.
Fior di latte translates as flower of milk and is a flavour in its own right, found in some of the best gelateria in Italy. But as a base it is also where many flavours begin. Unsullied by the scent of vanilla, or the cloying taste of eggs, fior di latte is all about the subtleties of milk.
The best illustration for this is stracciatella. Which is simply milky gelato with crisp dark chocolate strands. The entire character of stracciatella rests upon the milk from which it is made. Many Danieli flavours are created around a base of fior di latte, featuring pure white milky gelato with a simple fruity compote swirled through. Our cherry gelato, and our strawberry gelato, are both made in this way. These flavours are all about subtlety, and letting that milk shine through.