The Dutch love milk. They daily indulge in dairy products from cheese, yogurt, quark, buttermilk, butter, ice cream, cream and sour cream to just plain milk to quench their thirst. A typical Dutch lunch would consist of a sandwich with butter and cheese and a glass of fresh milk or buttermilk.
The dairy farming remains one of the most important elements of Dutch agriculture, with its 20 000 farms and 1.5 million cows taking over 60% of the agricultural land in the Netherlands. The dairy industry processes around 12 million tonnes of milk per year, an unimaginably large amount. It is among the world’s major dairy exporters, keeping about 40% of its production for the domestic market.
All that said it would seem logical for dairy products to be easily accessible, possible to buy on every corner. It quite might be so with a wide selection of hard cheeses and processed milk products but when it comes to two things I look for the most - raw milk and soft cheeses, the selection suddenly becomes very limited or at best almost outrageously expensive.
Everything that isn’t marked with an UHT sign and is instead proudly showing off its ‘organic’ or ‘local’ label is pricey, somehow superior, fancy and nowadays more and more popular. Almost to the point that fresh raw milk from the local farmer seems more of a luxury than something completely normal.
I guess I came to a big city and should leave the benefits of small town living aside. But to briefly summarize: When I felt like making cheese I took my bottle and I headed to the nearest fresh milk vending machine (mlekomat). We have plenty. I prepared the change and got a litre of fresh, creamy and delicious unpasteurized and unhomogenized milk for one euro. It was something I took for granted, but the truth is that the availability and regulation of raw milk vary from country to country.
Some believe there is a pathogen risk associated with drinking raw milk and is therefore unsafe to consume it and others argue that while it is undoubtly beneficial to destroy dangerous germs, pasteurization does more than that, taking from the milk its most vital qualities and health benefits.
When it comes to availability of raw milk I believe in the freedom of choice. It’s the farmer’s job to inform the costumer about the milk’s origin, the hygienic standards, its qualities and possible risks and it’s the consumer’s responsibility to demand such information.
(Mlekomats in Slovenia: http://www.mleko-mat.si/ and more)
The milk vending machine system was developed in Switzerland, but perfected in Italy where it is now very popular under the name latteria. Fresh milk is delivered by the farmer every morning, is available 24/7 and is under constant control - the temperature is automatically checked every twenty minutes, the program of the machine does not allow dispensing of milk that is more than 24h old, the farmer is constantly informed about the status of his machine and the milk is regulary tested by health inspectors.
There are no such milk vending machines in Amsterdam. Or at least not that I know of. But there’s one just outside of the city, on the northside of Amsterdam, on the way from Zunderdorp to Broek in Waterland. The farm that owns it is called Biologische Zorgboerderij “Ons Verlangen” and it has by now become fairly good known among healthy food conscious people of Amsterdam. With increasing popularity of organic products and local producers there’s a growing number of costumers who come either for a litre of fresh milk or for other products they offer (fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese…). For some it has become a regular stop on the way and for others an occasional weekend bike trip destination. Myself included.
I got it! And what better way to use it then to make cheese?
Goat’s milk is next!