Another one of the very common questions we get asked. What does sheep’s milk taste like? The answer is mild and creamy with a slightly natural sweet taste. We’ve observed that people think that sheep’s milk is going to taste a bit like goats milk or they are afraid that sheep’s milk might taste “sheepy” or taste like the smell of sheep. 100% of the time when we get people to taste our Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk yogurt or our sheep’s milk, they are always pleasantly surprised. The reason sheep’s milk tastes creamy and naturally sweet is because it is naturally homogenised, this means that the little fat globules in the sheep’s milk are so small that they float around naturally in the milk giving it that creamy taste. Because the fat molecules in cow’s milk are larger than those in sheep’s milk they don’t float around naturally but separate out of the milk and rise to the top. This is why when I was a child the cream of the milk would rise to the top of the milk bottles, and if you didn’t bring in the milk quickly after the milk man had left it on your door step, the birds would come and peck holes in the tops of the bottles to drink the cream. However now a days commercial cows milk is mechanically homogenised, in other words it is mechanically processed so the fat globules are broken up and therefore don’t rise to the top of the milk, but with sheep’s milk we don’t have to do any processing because it is already naturally homogenised, giving you that lovely creamy taste “like milk used to taste” is a very common reaction we get when giving out tastings.
SHEEP’S MILK MORE EASILY DIGESTED THAN COW’S MILK
Sheep milk’s protein is more readily digested and its fats are more readily converted into energy compared to cow milk, a New Zealand study has shown. The milk’s unique composition could make it a good option for the very young and the elderly, sports nutrition, and people who are looking for alternatives to cow’s milk, researchers say.
Scientists from the University of Auckland-based Liggins Institute and the Crown Research Institute AgResearch ran the clinical trial.
The participants, 30 women who normally avoided drinking dairy, consumed 650 mL of either cow milk or sheep milk on two separate occasions. Afterwards, the women reported on their digestive comfort, appetite and liking, and provided breath and blood samples. During the trial neither the women nor the researchers knew who was drinking what at the time.
Study co-lead Dr Amber Milan, a research fellow at the Liggins Institute and researcher for AgResearch, says, “We already knew that sheep milk is different from cow milk. It has more nutrients per glass: more protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. For example, sheep milk has almost twice the level of calcium and zinc, compared to cow milk.
“What our trial has shown is that New Zealand sheep milk is not just compositionally different to cows milk, but has inherent properties which means we digest it differently,” says Dr Milan.
“We have, for the first time, confirmed that the protein in sheep milk is more readily digested compared to cow milk. Sheep milk delivered more of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, valine and isoleucine than cow milk. Amino acids are building blocks for protein, and these kinds are important for forming muscle protein.
The higher total fat levels do not produce a higher spike in blood triglycerides, probably due to the different types of fat in sheep milk. Sheep milk delivered more of some so-called ‘good fats’ (medium-chain fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA) than cow milk.
The renowned chef Jp McMahon is a great supporter of Irish artisan products and uses Velvet Cloud in all three of his restaurants. In today’s The Irish Times magazine (150619) he gives us a shout out and shares some great ideas for using yogurt. As well as the usual straight out of the pot or with granola he asks us to consider it as a summer sauce for fish.
Here at home we use Velvet Cloud all the time on the side with baked salmon or breaded haddock or as a clean but creamy salad dressing.
JP sometimes seasons it with rapeseed oil and sea-salt to match some grilled langoustines, or gently smoked to pair with some couscous as a tapa.
To smoke yogurt you can buy a small camp smoker online or just use smoked seal salt if your stuck !
Yogurt and herbs work well together, JP suggests adding some chopped fennel or dill and serving with grilled lamb chops. A diced cucumber will also give the sauce a refreshing zing.
Finally some frozen yogurt. 500g yogurt 100 ml whipped cream and 125g honey (our favourite is Sliabh Aughty Honey & Natural Irish Skincare). Fold all together & freeze, whisking the mixture every hour until its smooth & frozen (or use and ice-cream machine if you have one)
It seems a bit mad that I am only putting up our first blog post three years into setting up our business. But if any of you are involved in or know anyone involved in a small start up business you know how hard it is to juggle everything, so blogging had to take a back seat to, the more serious matters or making sheep’s yogurt and cheese, selling it and keeping up with customer enquiries and trying to build awareness, never mind the small matter of raising a family of four kids!
It’s clear however from reading all the best practice on how to build awareness on line that the more information you give you customers on line, the greater the chance that they will find you on line and hopefully convert to a customer. So my first blog post is going to be a summary of the most common questions we get asked and the answers we give to those questions. In future blog posts I’ll write more about the daily grind of a small food business and some of our highs and lows.
HOW DO YOU MILK A SHEEP?
We honestly get asked this all the time, for some reason people seem a bit embarrassed when they ask this, as if it’s a stupid question. It’s not, so much so we actually say on our pack of yogurt, “If you want to know how do you milk a sheep, we’d love to hear from you”. We milk our sheep exactly as cows are milked nowadays i.e. with a milking machine. The only difference is the machines are smaller and a sheep has two teats on her udder instead of four teats which a cow has.
WHAT DOES SHEEP’S MILK TASTE LIKE?
After the “how do you milk a sheep” question, this is the next most common question. Some people don’t even ask the question they just make what we call “The Sheep Face” when we ask them would they like to try a sample. We think this is because people think there is going to be a strong taste and or aroma similar to that which you get from goat’s milk products. Or people who have grown up on or near sheep farms think it will taste like “the smell” of sheep!. 99.9999 % of the time if we can convince someone to taste they are ALWAYS really surprised at how creamy and mild it is.
IS SHEEP’S MILK GOOD FOR YOU?
There are links to scientific papers and lots more information on the home page of this website, but the summary is:
Sheep’s milk is higher in solid content than cows’ milk, which makes it thicker and creamier.
Sheep’s milk has a higher nutritional profile than cows’ milk, it is significantly higher in calcium, protein, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.
Sheep’s milk suits many people who have reactions and a sensitivity to cow dairy. This is because of the molecular make up of sheep’s milk and because the molecules are smaller and therefore passes through the gut quicker (is digested quicker) causing less of a reaction.
Sheep’s milk is naturally homogenised, this means that the fat globules are naturally floating around in the milk. We don’t have to mechanically homogenise (i.e. break up the fat globules) in our sheep’s milk before using it. However most of the cow’s milk you find on supermarket shelves must be mechanically homogenised before its bottled, because the manufacturers don’t want the cream separating out from the milk.
Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk products come from sheep, who are raised on grass, they graze on grass and clover pastures, in the unpolluted fields of Co. Mayo.
Velvet Cloud Sheep’ milk yogurt has NOTHING ADDED and NOTHING STRAINED away. It is unusual nowadays to find yogurt on a supermarket shelf that hasn’t be strained or had a thickener or a sweetener of some sort added to it.
Velvet Cloud Sheep’s milk yogurt has LIVE PROBIOTIC cultures in it.
Velvet Cloud Sheep’s milk yogurt and cheese have unusually high levels of heart healthy monounsaturated fats. This is according to the Department of Biological Sciences, in University College Limerick who have tested our milk and yogurt.
WHERE CAN I BUY SHEEP’S MILK YOGURT, SHEEP’S MILK CHEESE?
There is a list of both yogurt and cheese stockists here on this website, we sell directly to these stores. You can also buy our products on line from Ardkeen Food Stores along with a range of other fabulous food producers. We also sell to a distributor who then sells on to health food stores all around Ireland, so if you can’t find us in your local store and have a health food store near you ask them to order it in for you. You can tell them it is stocked by the distributor Irish Independent Health Foods and there should be no problem getting it in for you.
WHY IS VELVET CLOUD NOT AVAILABLE IN MY LOCAL STORE?
We often get asked why can’t you sell it in our local shop, or how come it’s not available in this area/shop. As a small business selling chilled product, distribution (i.e. getting the product into shops) is our greatest challenge. We have to drive around in our own chilled van or pay someone (our distributor) to this for us. If a shop is not on our delivery route or is hundreds of kilometres from us here in Mayo it is often not commercially viable for us to send a van to that shop. The diesel would cost more than the sales to the shop, not to mention the time. As we grow, we are hoping that some of the large retailers in Ireland will buy from us under what is called central distribution. This means that we will deliver to one depot and the retailer will do the distribution.