POLMARKYN DAIRY FARM
In the cornish village of liskard, KATIE wood produces milk and cheese from a pedigree goat herd with a growing fan CLUB.
~ WORDS AND IMAGES BY BETH DRUCE
Each week at Fifteen Cornwall ten litres of raw goat's milk is delivered to the restaurant kitchen. The goat's milk comes from Polmarkyn, a dairy farm near Liskeard owned by Katie Wood and her partner Glyn, whose goats produce some of the finest milk in the county.
“They’re a pedigree herd, so all registered, and some will be shown”, Wood tells me when we meet at the dairy farm where she takes me into a field to meet the herd. “I’ve always loved animals, we started with three goats and they are just the best animal I have ever worked with”.
Polmarkyn currently milk 20 goats, enough to make cheese and yogurt and sell milk. Their mixed herd include British Alpine, British Toggenburg, Golden Gurnsey and British Saanen goats, and Woods dotes on them all with the love and affection normally reserved for small children. “Claudia, come here you great lump of a goat” she chides.“This is Dollar, and Lily, Alice and Bamboo, she’s probably the tamest. Are you posing Bamboo?”. The goats are left to roam freely on their own pasture where they pick on brambles and hazel.
Wood takes me into a large and roomy shed where we meet five breeding males who are hairy, colourful characters. As we enter, a stinky farmyard stench wafts over us. “They are in competition with each other with who can be the smelliest” laughs Katie, explaining how their odour is what makes the male goats attractive to the females. “The girls love it, they think they smell a-ma-zing”. Like their female counterparts, Wood gives all the billy-goats at Polmarkyn names. One of them, a blonde, jovial and foppy-haired goat, Wood facetiously calls 'Boris'.
Wood's care and treatment of her herd is paying off. Having established the dairy four years ago when she moved to Cornwall from a cheese farm in Gloucestershire, today she produces and sells raw goat's milk to restaurants like Fifteen Cornwall as well as at farmers' markets, whilst also using it to make three varieties of Polmarkyn Cornish goats cheese.
Similar in flavour to semi-skimmed cow's milk, the benefits of drinking goat's milk, though not widely appreciated, are substantial. More easily to digest than cow's milk, the fat globules in goat's milk are smaller. Once it reaches the stomach, the protein in goat's milk forms a softer curd than cow's milk. Approximately 2% of goat's milk is curd, compared to 10% in cow's milk which helps the body to digest the milk with less irritation. It’s also lower in lactose (milk sugars), which makes it a more viable option for people with a moderate lactose intolerance. Earlier this year, at the Cornish Cheese and Dairy Awards, Polmarkyn were awarded gold for their goat's milk, beating the cow's milk competition.
Adam Banks, Fifteen Cornwall’s head chef has multiple uses for Polmarkyn’s goats milk, using it in the first instance to make goat's curd. “We split the milk by heating it up and adding lemon juice. Then we separate the curds and whey and use the curds for pasta fillings, or in salads with charred leeks, buckwheat and sorrel. We also use it as a dressing on beef carpaccio, combining it with extra virgin olive oil and milk. Using goat's milk gives us an opportunity to show the apprentices how to create curds and whey, and also how creative we can be with that one product”.
The whey also has its uses, in pasta sauces and as a broth served with tortellini. “We use it to cook rabbits in, which we pick down once they are cooked and then strain the cooking liquid and pour it back over the rabbit to coat it as a sauce, and serve with garganelli pasta. Recently we have been adding honey to the curds to sweeten them before spreading on grilled Schiacciata, a fruity, focaccia-style loaf with stewed plums for a lunchtime dessert”.
That Wood is producing and selling raw, unpasteurised goat's milk in Cornwall is not unexceptional. This is because whilst the nutritional benefits of raw milk are increasingly extolled, a license to sell unpasteurised milk requires rigorous regulation and inspections that can deter even the most committed of dairy farmers, but which Wood is wholeheartedly embracing. “People are so busy buying nut milks or energy drinks, or even paying a pound for a bottle of water” she tells me. “The number of people who say, oh, I can’t drink goat's milk. But we give them a glass, they drink it, and they like it”.