Last weekend I was privileged to take part in a bloggers trip to celebrate all that is good about food and drink in Dumfries & Galloway. As well as being able to spend some child free time with my best friend, I got the chance to meet some truly lovely fellow bloggers and a whole bunch of inspiring businesses across the region. There are great things happening in Dumfries & Galloway people. It is impossible to cram all of my discoveries into one blog, therefore I am going to feed you in bite sized chunks over the coming days and weeks.
First of all let me tell you about one of my favourite parts of the grand trip – the Cream O’ Galloway farm tour and tasting. The visitor centre is not open until Valentines Day but they opened up especially for us (felt like a VIP) to tell us all about their business. Wilma Finlay and her marketing guru Helen led the tour with an awe-inspiring passion for their business.
The Finlay family have been farming in this beautiful spot since the 1920’s. In the 40s they produced farmhouse cheeses to help feed a hungry population. However the mass production of cheddar in the 70s put a stop to that and they moved their focus onto milk. Fast forward a decade or so when the Finlay family became passionate about organic farming and since the early 90s have been producing food in a more ethical and sustainable way. Using their milk they have become one of the leading artisan ice cream makers in the UK.
One thing that strikes you when you hear Wilma and Helen speak is their passion for the welfare of the herd and how that affects the quality of their produce. I will admit that the vasectomised bull wandering around ‘having his wicked way’ with the cows on our visit was somewhat distracting but I still managed to learn a hell of a lot. I know you are keen to hear about the tasting but bear with …… I need to share just how amazing Cream O’ Galloway is and it is incredibly important to find out a bit about where your food comes from.
They have a small herd and boy do they care about the welfare of these wee coos. They are staging a quiet revolution in dairy-farming by trying their damnedest to keep the calves with their mums so that they can wean naturally whilst still milking the cows. Cows normally are removed from their mothers after just one day and most conventional dairy farms think they are down right bonkers. I think they are brave and fabulous! They went all out with this theory on a 6 month trial and although it cost them dearly due to the massive amounts of milk the hungry wee buggers drank, it did convince them that a modified version of the model had to come to fruition. The herd were happy, confident and less aggressive. Their determination to make this happen in the future is brilliant and I can’t wait to find out how it goes.
OK on to the tasting. I was as happy as the proverbial pig in …. to be able to taste a whole range of Cream O’ Galloway ice creams. The selection we were tasting all had a Scottish theme, celebrating the best of our food heritage. On offer in more than generous tasting pots were Raspberry, Cranachan, Sticky Toffee pudding, Salted caramel, whisky honey & oatmeal and of course vanilla. I was in heaven, it is just the creamiest most gorgeous ice cream and is wholly responsible for putting my plans to ditch sugar on the back burner. As one of my fellow bloggers commented “this is how ice cream should taste”. Every new flavour seemed to beat the last and in the end I was confused in the most pleasurable way. I think however looking back that I may like to take a large pot of the whisky honey and oatmeal into a room armed with only a spoon and polish off the lot – sugar be damned!
There are absolutely no nasties lurking in this ice cream, only high quality natural ingredients – no artificial flavourings or colourings. Their pasturised organic milk simply creates the creamiest ice cream I have ever tasted.
Ice cream was expected, cheese was a wee bit of a bonus. Cream O’ Galloway have gone back to their roots and have started to produce cheese again. There were three of their 6 delicious cheeses on offer for tasting – Rainton Round, Laganory and Carrick. Laganory won the day for me and there is a big block of it in my fridge at the moment. It is medium strength but with a lovely clean tang to it. Rainton Round was a beautiful creamy cheese but perhaps a little bit too delicate for my palate – lovely all the same. The Carrick was also a winner – bursting with sweet flavour. It is lovely to see Cream O’ Galloway go back to their roots.
I think the reason that this business impressed me the most was the amount I have learned. I have never really thought about the welfare of dairy cows before and just take my milk and indeed ice cream at face value. But most of all I was inspired by the sheer passion of Wilma Finlay and her team – and of course it tasted bloody marvellous too.
Next up on the Dumfries and Galloway food extravaganza is the trip to Loch Arthur Camphill Community and the wonderful Kilnford Barns Farm Shop.
Year of Food and Drink Scotland 2015 is a Scottish Government initiative led in partnership by EventScotland, VisitScotland and Scotland Food & Drink.