The cream of the crop

If their new project makes Rick and Jeanita Rand any busier, they might have to forgo sleep altogether.

PORT WILLIAMS, N.S. — If their new project makes Rick and Jeanita Rand any busier, they might have to forgo sleep altogether.

Saturday — market day — already starts at 3 a.m. at the Fox Hill Cheese House in Port Williams, N.S., when close to 1,000 kilograms of cheese, yogurt and gelato get loaded up. Beginning in September, room will have to be found for their newest product, whole milk in glass bottles.

“They’re super excited,” Jeanita Rand said of Fox Hill’s customers.

“We get calls every week, ‘Is it here yet? When is it coming?”’

It was only five years ago that the Rands started making nine types of cheese, in the hope of helping their dairy farm’s modest bottom line.

Today, there are 24 varieties of cheese, about 20 flavours of gelato, and vanilla and natural yogurt. The Queen ate Fox Hill yogurt at Government House during her recent visit to Nova Scotia.

But Rick Rand said that though it’s the most expensive venture they’ve begun, nothing else has generated the excitement of their plan to sell whole milk.

“We have the chance to drink whole milk at our table, and I think the customer deserves that too, or at least the choice,” he said.

“Much more body to it and it’s fulfilling. I drink whole milk at my table — it’s raw milk that I drink — but we won’t be selling that to our consumers. I believe in pasteurization myself, even though I don’t drink pasteurized milk.”

Milk sold to the public is pasteurized to boil away any pathogens because of the risk of Listeria and E. coli.

“There’s two ways to pasteurize. There’s batch pasteurization — you heat it up to 145 degrees (63 C) and you hold it for 30 minutes, then you cool it,” said Rand.

“There’s HTST — high temp, short time — which most larger dairies use because of the volume they have to do.

“That’s 187 degrees (86 C) for approximately 18 seconds. We’ll do a batch pasteurize; it’s fairly gentle with the milk, and for our volume that’s the most efficient way to do it.”

The dairy herd at Fox Hill consists of 50 Holsteins and eight Jersey cows. Jerseys produce less milk than Holsteins, but with more milk fat and more proteins.

When the new product goes on sale at the farm, the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, the Wolfville Farmers’ Market and possibly Kent Co-op in New Minas, it will be in two per cent, 3.25 per cent and whole milk varieties. Chocolate milk at two per cent is planned for next spring. All will be non-homogenized.

“There are fat globules in milk, and when you homogenize, you break that down … very fine, so the fat stays suspended in the milk,” said Rand.

“Non-homogenized, you don’t touch that fat, so it doesn’t break down and it rises to the top as cream.”

Fox Hill received a licence to produce milk two years ago, and planning has been going on since then.

The Rands visited Cook’s Dairy in Yarmouth to discuss packaging options, including cardboard boxes and plastic jugs or bags. And glass.

“They weren’t very encouraging about using glass,” Rick Rand said.

“We did a survey with our customers in Halifax. One of the questions was what type of container would you like your milk to come in, and 93 per cent said they wanted a glass bottle.”

One-litre bottles of Fox Hill milk will sell for $4.99, including $1.85 for the bottle. Customers can use the bottles as vases or return them.

“A glass bottle is green, is refundable, and when a customer buys a bottle and they bring it back they just pay for milk,” Rand said.