You can hear their gentle munching, a reassuring noise which may sometimes stop briefly mid-chew, when one of the ladies adopts a comical ‘Disney cow’ expression, blades of grass hanging out of the sides of her mouth, as she eyes you curiously to see who you are and what you’re doing. As soon as she realises you’re only passing by on your country walk, she’ll start munching happily again.
In the evening, the herd will arise from their afternoon rest and feasting, and begin to form an orderly queue to wander back to the farm for milking. A slow lazy walk through country lanes lined with hedgerows, the sky glistening gold as the sun begins to dip in the sky. When you visit Ireland, the sight of the cows ‘coming home’ for milking sums up the gentle pace of life in rural areas of our country, and makes a memory-hard to forget.
The grass is the Key
The grass is the essential ingredient that makes milk so special, so rich, so full of flavour. Like any fresh ingredient which comes from the soil, grass has its own nuances and characteristics depending on where it grows. Milk can have natural sweetness, herby notes and floral scents, all of which contribute to the dairy produces it goes to make.
Northern Ireland is famous for its dairy produce. The Dairy Council of Northern Ireland acts on behalf of the dairy industry to promote dairy produce from farm to fridge. And what a host of wonderful foods they have to work with. From artisan butter made and rolled by hand in the old fashioned way, to several styles of farmhouse cheese, estate produced natural yoghurts, milk, cream, buttermilk and creamy ice creams.
ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM
At Glastry Farm in Co. Down, no one knows the value of good milk better than the Taylor family of Kircubbin. They have farmed the land here since 1856. Now in the capable hands of Will Taylor, the fifth generation of the family to be a farmer. Since 2007, Will and his family have been producing Glastry Farm Ice Cream, a decadent range of ice cream made with the milk of the farm’s own herd of dairy cows. The Glastry Farm pedigree herd dines out on the plentiful supply of grass from the fields of the Ards Peninsula. This region has a marine micro-climate, which adds its own unique twist to the taste and aromas of the grass.
Glastry Farm Ice Cream comes in an unusual range of flavours. How does White Chocolate and Blackberry, Chocolate and Salted Caramel, Vanilla Bean, Yellowman Honeycomb, Strawberry Blonde, Chocolate Heaven, Rhubarb and Custard grab you as tempting taste combinations? We think they sound pretty swooningly lovely and wouldn’t know which one to choose!
In total, there are around 13 different flavour combos, some of which offer completely seasonal glimpses of the fragrances and tastes of summer. Like the Ling Heather Honey ice cream which totally bowled over judges at the Great Taste awards in 2015. Our Hastings Hotel group members, which include Culloden Estate and Spa, Slieve Donard Resort, Stormont Hotel, Europa Hotel and Ballygally Castle, all serve Glastry Farm ice creams on the menu. This time of year, look out for Lavender, or Chocolate and Rasberry, which epitomise the flavours of the summer season.