The other day I was at the Elm City Market in downtown New Haven. It used to be a genuine food co-op; the co-op failed, and now it’s just a grocery store that caters to an extremely food-aware, and pretty affluent, clientele. Some items are crazy expensive and some are perfectly reasonable. On the whole, the quality is very good indeed. While I do not do most of my shopping there (far from it) I’ve come to rely on it for a few categories of things I can’t easily obtain elsewhere.
A case in point: it is one of the few shops I can get to easily that has my preferred brand of milk — Farmer’s Cow — in big jugs. We go through a lot of milk, and while I’m not wild about buying milk in plastic jugs, generally, there’s no question this is more cost-effective than the waxed cardboard cartons. So once in a while, I pop by the Elm City Market and buy milk; I also like to snag Cabot or Arethusa Farm Dairy brands’ sour cream, and sometimes I’ll pick up a tub of really good yogurt, usually Arethusa.
A few days ago I was in there getting my milk and some yogurt and my plan was to buy a big tub of yogurt so that we’d have some to eat for a few days and then I’d use the last of the yogurt as a starter for a batch of homemade. I thought, “Well, with this big container of Farmer’s Cow milk, we should be fine,” but then my eye landed on a smaller container of milk that had a $1.99 sale sticker on it. Kimball Brook was the name of the dairy. I knew nothing about it. But it said “Cream on Top Whole Milk,” and I found that interesting. I decided that for two bucks, I could afford to take it home and see what it was like.
This afternoon I opened the carton because I needed milk for making carrot pudding. Actually, I needed cream, which was something I didn’t have (technically speaking). Reading the recipe that said I needed 1/4 cup of heavy cream, I thought, “I bet the stuff on top of that carton of milk will work,” so I opened the milk, and I’ll be damned: the stuff on top of the milk was a solid, unpourable mass. In a good way. “HOLY CRAP,” I said loudly. My daughter, sitting at the kitchen table glumly writing a thank-you note, said, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” I said. “But you remember how we were watching Two Fat Ladies and they were using double cream to make that cake?” My daughter nodded. “I think I have double cream here,” I said, peering into the bottle. “Look at this!” I said. I carried the bottle over to her. “Ewwwwwww,” she said, squinching up her nose.
“No,” I said, “This is incredibly cool.” I took a knife and jabbed it into the carton. Milk came up through the cream; the cream had formed a plug, a second seal, on top of the milk. “This is just like the milk that your grandma and I used to buy when we lived in England,” I said. “This is amazing!”
“Gross,” said my American daughter.
“Be that as it may,” I said, “I am using this to make dinner.”
I used it to make a carrot pudding. Carrot pudding is the kind of vegetable pudding that was standard fare in households in another era: a pureed, cooked vegetable, with cream and egg added, poured into buttered ramekins, and baked. In this case, a pound of carrots was prepped, boiled in a small amount of water, and then pureed with two eggs, salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg, and about 1/2 cup of cream from the top of this bottle of milk. The recipe I used (which I found somewhere online, and which was sufficiently dull and inaccurate that I’m not even going to link to it) advised using 1/4 cup of cream (which didn’t seem like a enough to me) and baking the puddings for twenty minutes. At twenty minutes, these things were still basically raw. It took 45 minutes at 375° to get these done correctly. When you put the puree into the cups, it just looks like orange slop, not too inspiring. But it bakes up into this sweetly puffy little thing that you can either serve in the ramekin or turn out from its mold onto a plate. It’s true it’s not an exciting dish, though certainly one could add spices and such to make it more interesting. I think the purpose of it is just to hide the essential fact of “vegetable” and make it soft and comforting and a bright, colorful spot on an otherwise drab plate of food. In my case, I was serving it alongside peppery steak and a delicious-but-not-interesting-looking curried rice with chickpeas and coconut milk. So the carrot pudding was just the thing.
However: there is no question that Kimball Brook Farm milk is a very interesting addition to my kitchen. The milk is very rich. I am looking forward to making yogurt with it. Stay tuned.