Got Milk!

Once the Bownes got the equipment assembled, they ran smack into another brick wall. It turned out they needed something called a phase converter to get the 1940s-era machinery running, and it needed to be made to order by a shop in Owatonna for two grand. There was no way to process their milk. Deliveries to the Cities stopped. "It was terrible," remembers Dick. "But then the phone rang off the hook. It was customers. How much do you need?"

Envelopes started rolling in--$20 here, $50 there. "We owe all those little loans out," says Pam. "People have just been phenomenal." Then another metro customer came through with the $2,000 for the converter. "It was just all this magic shit," marvels Dick. "We didn't lose one damn customer in Minneapolis. All our grocery stores and co-ops made space for us--some had held our shelf with a sign saying what was going on."

As Dick and Pam told their tale, I marveled at the mellow, toffee-colored cows. These 60-or-so Guernseys spend their summer days wandering the pastures, where the Bownes contain them with movable fences. This keeps land from getting torn up by too much hoof traffic; it also allows for that natural fertilizing and reseeding process that animals excel at. And, as Pam Bowne puts it, "It means that what wants to grow grows here--like alsike, timothy, clover, dandelions, green hay."

Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl

Location Info

Map

Linden Hills Co-Op

2813 W. 43rd St.
Minneapolis, MN 55410

Category: Retail

Region: Southwest Minneapolis

North Country Cooperative Grocery

1929 S. 5th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55454

Category: Retail

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

As we walked through the center aisle of the barn, all the cows turned their heads to look at us. From the nose up they looked like Betty Boops, all giant eyes, red ringlet hairdos, and sweet dispositions. Guernseys are valued for their excellent milk, which has a yellow tinge and a fat content of about 4.5 percent; milk from the black-and-white Holsteins preferred by conventional farmers runs around 3.5 percent.

And what exactly is the difference between conventional milk and the Gemini Guernseys? Think of it like the difference between a single-malt Scotch and a blend, between box wine and the product of a single estate in a single bottle--and no, I'm not pulling your leg with a lot of foodie bullshit. The taste of the milk is most aptly--and inadequately--described simply as "fresh," a taste I previously had known only from the fresh ricotta cheese I had in northern Italy. If you allow the milk to sit, it will form a cream layer on top; simply wedging a teaspoon in there and eating the cream is a delicious treat. (Is it the cheapest thrill in town? Maybe--the milk costs $1.75 a half gallon or $3.15 a gallon at the Farmers' Market.) You should experience what it's done for my banana cream pie. I used to make what I thought was a great cream pie; now it's twice as good. It has a broader, richer, finer taste. It rocks.

My only caveat: Gemini Guernseys doesn't have the shelf life of conventional milk. You've got only about ten days, tops, till it goes bad. If you're the sort who only buys milk to use in coffee on weekends, you won't like this. (Also, if you're buying it from certain co-ops, dig! Sometimes I've seen week-old milk in the front blocking the fresh stuff behind.) However, if you make rice pudding, bisque, chowder, risotto, paneer cheese, mozzarella, ricotta, panna cotta, ice cream, crème fraîche, flan, or custard, you've simply got to try this milk. Local chefs--from Teresa Conner at St. Paul's Prairie Star Café, to Café Brenda doyenne Brenda Langton--sing its praises. So does Greg Smith, who works in the dairy department at the pretense-free Jerry's Foods in Edina: "Weekend pancake warriors can't get enough of the Bownes' milk," he says. But Steven Brown, chef at the Local, best described the treasure that is Gemini Guernseys: "It makes the best coffee drinks in the world. It's just like the milk we used to have growing up--our neighbor had cows, and we got milk from him. I remember being little and getting real mad at my mom because she got store-bought milk one time. I mean--eewww, it tastes like water!"

 

So where can this elixir be found? Aside from the Minneapolis Farmers' Market, 312 Lyndale Ave. N., (612) 333-1737, and Dick Bowne's delivery route, which all are invited to join, Gemini Guernseys milk is available at Jerry's Foods, 5125 Vernon Ave. S., Edina, (612) 922-4858, and at local co-ops, including:

 

Linden Hills Co-op
2813 W. 43rd St., Mpls.; (612) 922-1159

North Country Co-op
1929 S. Fifth St., Mpls.; (612) 338-3110

The Wedge Co-op
2105 Lyndale Ave. S. Mpls.; (612) 871-3993

Seward Community Co-op
2111 E. Franklin Ave., Mpls.; (612) 338-2465

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