The Jersey girls on Bill Grammer's 148-acre Mahoning County dariy farm are a bunch - make that a herd - of busy cows.
Each of Bill Grammer's 640 sable-coated, brown-eyed beauties produces about 58 pounds of butterfat and protein rich milk every day. In the dairy case, that's equivalent to 7 gallons of milk or 11 half gallons of ice cream or 9 pounds of cottage cheese. Grammer's dedication to the fine details of dairy farming and herd management might not be on the label, but it certainly shows up in the taste.
Grammer bought the dairy farm from his father in 1992 and since then has grown the herd from 35 to 640 registered Jerseys, a breed of dairy cattle originally bred on the British Channel Island of Jersey. For more than 200 years, the breed has been prized for the same reasons Grammer values his herd today.
Jersey cattle have genial dispositions, a reputation that earned one of them a spot as Elsie, the unofficial sweet-faced mascot on Borden products since the 1930s. The breed is small in size and uses feed efficiently while producing large amounts of milk per pound of body weight. Jersey cattle also breed well, experiencing relatively few calving difficulties, and have a long productive life.
"Each cow in our herd averages 19,000 pounds of milk a year," Grammer said. "Five percent of the content is butterfat and 4 percent is protein, making the milk full of flavor and texture." Milk from Grammer's farm goes to Smith Dairy in Orrville where it is used in a variety of products but is especially desirable for ice cream and cottage cheeses.
Grammer's Jersey herd lives in free stalls filled with sand for bedding, which Grammer likens to "lying on the beach." The herd thrives on a diet that includes corn silage, alfalfa and hay from other local farms and wet brewers grain. During the summer, the herd is kept cool with fans that circulate air through the barns and milking parlors. In the winter, heavy protective curtains protect them from the cold and wind.
Ohio has more than 3,300 dairy farms and the majority, like Grammer's, are family-owned and operated. His wife, Debbie, handles the administrative side of farming and his two sons, Billy, 17, and Ben, 14, are involved when school and sport activities allow. They know that a typical day on a dairy farm has no beginning or end. The herd is milked three times a day. The efficiency of the breed and that of the farm has earned Grammer the distinction of being one of the state's top producing Jersey dairy farms and that keeps him committed to making sure the next glass of milk or scoop of ice cream made from his herd's milk is better than the last.
Marilou Suszko is a food writer from Vermilion. She is the author of "Farms and Foods of Ohio: From Garden Gate to Dinner Plate".
Braising in Milk
Braising is a cooking technique that works magic on tougher, economical cuts of meat. It calls for searing the meat first and then gently cooking it for a long time. This combination slowly breaks down the tough connective tissues, delivering a tender, buttery finish to meats. How does that work?
Dr. Valente Alvarez, a professor of dairy foods research at Ohio State University said that braising in any liquid will make meat tender, but milk adds a little something extra. "As the water evaporates from the milk," he explained, "the fats and lactose, or sugar, remains, greatly enhancing the flavors of braised meats."
Robert L. Wolke, consulting science editor for Cooks Illustrated and author of What Einstein Told His Cook agrees but credits some added benefits to the curdling of cooked milk. "When the milk is reduced all the way down to a thick sauce as many recipes recommend," he said, "the curds (as in yogurt and soft cheese) will coat the meat with a 'silky' texture."