1871 Dairy had been at Green City Market in Chicago for some time, but this is, to my recollection, the first time we've had a milk vendor at the Oak Park market. So now, during the summer, we can get almost all essential foods – fruit, vegetables, meat and now milk – in the Pilgrim Congregational Church parking lot on Saturday morning.
Last weekend, a young man and woman, Daniel and Miriam, were selling 12-ounce, quart and half-gallon bottles of milk, and 12-ounce and quart bottles of drinkable yogurts (some flavored) and buttermilk (which may be a bigger seller than you'd think). According to their website, 1871 Dairy has other products – including butter, cottage cheese and ice cream; they're limiting their Oak Park offerings, I'm guessing, until they can figure out what's selling.
I bought a quart of milk and a quart of plain yogurt. I tasted both when I got home and liked them a lot. How do I know I liked them? Because I wanted to drink more.
When I was a kid, I used to drink a lot of milk. That was in the day when most of the milk we drank around these parts was sourced from farmers who lived within an hour's drive from Chicago.
For years, I was a milk-drinker. Then, in my twenties, I started not liking milk. I always assumed I grew not to like milk because, you know, I grew up. But now I'm beginning to wonder if what happened was that the milk itself had changed.
Milk from 1871 Dairy tastes good. It's lightly floral and grassy, with a creamy butteriness perhaps due to the low heat pasteurization (145F, lower than the industry average of 161F) that minimizes the natural enzymes that are destroyed during regular high-heat pasteurization. Milk from 1871 Dairy is also not homogenized; because it's so fresh, you don't get the clumping that's found in other un-homogenized milk.
1871 Dairy cows graze on organically grown grass, which may or may not make much difference to you, but there's no arguing with this milk's quality – and it's a quality that I believe used to be more the norm for all mil.
Low-heat pasteurization and no homogenization, cows fed on organic grass, all those factors go into making a better glass of milk.
How good is 1871 Dairy milk? Well, it's being served at Alinea, one of Chicago's two Michelin 3-star restaurants, which is a mighty endorsement. 1871 Dairy was also covered in the opening paragraphs of a "New York Times" story about the rise of micro-dairies. And I like it, too.
Of course, this milk is expensive: $7 for a half gallon.
As I was buying my quart of milk for $5, Daniel offered me a two-dollar discount because the milk had a sell-by date of the following week. I took the discount, though I knew full well that milk this good was not going to be in my refrigerator for more than a few days. I may be becoming a milk drinker again.