Milk makes a perfect protein and calcium-packed pairing for cereal and cookies. But that’s not all it’s good for. From yogurt to cottage cheese to cheddar (and everything in between), U.S. food producers and artisans of all sizes and philosophies transform milk into an extensive list of irresistible edibles.
Take Gina and Chris Buskirk of Scottsdale, Ariz. The couple craved the traditionally made Italian cheeses that they’d grown up eating and still loved as adults. When they couldn’t find what they were looking for at area stores, they began crafting their own fresh Italian cheeses by hand.
That was three years ago. Now, they sell to Whole Foods Markets in their region, as well as local specialty stores and area farmers markets. Because it’s extra fresh, their mozzarella makes any homemade pizza special, while the creamy mascarpone adds lightness to cheesecake. And the pillowy ricotta? Spread it on crostini with a drizzle of olive oil, it’s unbeatable.
On a slightly larger scale is Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, Vt., where Andy and Mateo Kehler have been following their passion of making cheese from pasture-raised cows since 2003. The family-owned dairy crafts six luscious varieties of cheese year-round, including Bayley Hazen Blue, a peppery, milk blue cheese that pairs like a dream with fruity red wine, juicy burgers and even dark chocolate. Willoughby, another favorite, is Jasper Hill’s newest offering: The brie-style wheel boasts ripe peach and cream flavors that take center stage on any cheese plate, especially with a drizzle of honey. Best of all, you can order the cheeses directly from the farm to try them for yourself.
Then there’s yogurt — specifically, the protein-packed Greek stuff, which is more popular than ever before. But for a food that can be found at almost any supermarket in America, Greek yogurt’s roots are surprisingly modest: In 2005, one of the first U.S. Greek yogurt makers bought a closed-down yogurt plant. His mission? Perfect a recipe for thick, creamy yogurt made only from natural ingredients, without any artificial preservatives or flavors.
At the time, the yogurt company consisted of just four other employees — but today, it’s now nearly 2,000 people strong. And their yogurt, loaded with live and active cultures and blended with real fruit like strawberries, apples and blood oranges, is perfect any time of day: Add whole grain cereal to Greek yogurt for breakfast, or stir honey and chopped walnuts into it for a sweet snack or dessert. And for lunch or dinner, plain Greek yogurt serves as a lighter swap for sour cream on baked potatoes, Tex-Mex fare, and in dips or dressings.
And though they operate on different scales and offer different products, the one thing that binds dairy food makers across the country is a singular obsession with one source: Milk. Because in a world of endless edible possibility, it’s just the beginning.
To find more local cheese, yogurt, and milk products near you, visit localharvest.org.