Milk and Ice Cream and Cheese From a Fish
Fish Family Farm, Bolton
No, the Fish Family does not raise or sell fish. They raise cows and chickens and sell milk and ice cream and cheese eggs and other related items. The Fish Family Farm Creamery and Dairy really is a great little reminder of days gone by.
As I look at these pictures of my son on a beautiful warm summer’s day… These are the moments I cherish as a parent. Okay, before I get all misty on you, let’s get to it.
Another day off with Damian looking for stuff to do… I decided, quite randomly, that we’d drive over to Bolton and check out the Fish Family Farm. My plan was simply to see the animals and maybe get an ice cream cone, for I didn’t really know what else they had to offer. Even though it’s in Bolton, which sounds so exotic and distant to many Nutmeggers, it’s right off of I-384 and I got there surprisingly fast. (However, once on their long and winding driveway, don’t drive like an idiot. There are two blind corners and if someone is also driving like an idiot coming the other way, watch out. I had this experience at a later visit and had a very, very near miss. I wasn’t the idiot for once.)
Owner Don Fish always dreamed of owning a farm that he could share with other people, so in 1981 he bought the farm and he opened it to the public. “We just feel like we have 200 acres and we should share it.”
Damian and I began exploring the farm and he was immediately drawn to the chickens. The chickens here live in an inside/outside coop and seemed rather happy as they clucked about – even as Damian poked at their heads through the mesh.
Around back is a large pasture with some of their cows grazing about. All of their cows are Jerseys and they were born on the farm. The Fish Family Farm is one of the state’s few remaining dairy farms that milk, pasteurize and bottle their own milk. I’ve read there are only three others in the state… which I don’t think is true. Whatever the case, as you’ll read below, the milk here is simply the best I’ve ever had.
There is also a barn we walked through with a few cows milling about. It’s all very open and Damian and I were allowed to go anywhere we wanted. We watched the cows for a while but it was pretty hot, so it was time for some ice cream.
We went into the farm store and I was stopped in my tracks. I had no idea they also made cheese here! How exciting!
I just love finding places like this and since I’m not sure they’ll be around forever, I want to be sure to enjoy them for as long as they are. (Read this article to see what I’m talking about. It’s interesting to learn (just now, from that article) that the owner of the Fish Family Farm is the same DW Fish from DW Fish Realty company, which is a nice way to finance his “hobby” farm.
Depending on when you’re on the farm, you may catch the milking operation. You are welcome to observe the milking and bottling process right there in the barn. You can also watch the bottling and ice cream making processes through the observation window from the little shop area as well.
I bought 2% milk but upon reflection, I should have gone for the real stuff – the whole milk. It’s funny, I grew up drinking milk as a kid. I was only allowed milk at dinner every single night of my life until I could drive. I never hated it – but I didn’t love it either. Milk was just milk.
Oh yeah, I bought it at lunch every day (for 15 cents) through middle school. Shout out to Hy-Point Dairy in northern Delaware!
Anyway, I put milk on my cereal now, but never really just drink it. But since the Fish Farm milk was fresh and supposedly better, I thought I’d give it a shot. As their website says, “Some of our visitors have turned into regular customers. They even come out in a winter snowstorm to buy glass bottles of milk.”
Wow, this must be some kinda milk. After all, no one actually lives in Bolton (do they?), so that means they must drive a ways in bad weather to get this stuff.
Here’s the thing: The milk is extraordinarily good. I took a sip and had a reawakening. All the sudden the milk triggered some taste memories for how milk used to taste when I was a little kid. It was actually pretty weird and startling.
I’m not kidding either; this milk – real, fresh milk – is sweeter, creamier, and I could taste the grasses and grains the cow ate. It was delicious and I couldn’t wait for Hoang to get home and have a taste herself.
Upon doing so, she felt the same exact way. Damian, for his part, just drank it up and asked for some more. I didn’t think it at the time, but yes, this stuff really is worth $4.50 (and I don’t even think it’s a gallon) plus another $1.50 for deposit on the old school bottle.
I tried returning the bottle several times to get more milk, but they were always out of it so I finally gave up and just got my $1.50 back. But rest assured, I’ll definitely pick some more up next time I’m out that way. And if I’m lucky, maybe they’ll have some cheese too…
The Ice Cream
Fish Family Ice Cream? Surely at least a few of you reading this sentence are familiar with the oft-repeated joke on Iron Chef about fish ice cream. It all started with the original Japanese version when one of the original Iron Chefs made ice cream from fish. Perhaps it was Sakai with the cod fish roe… But I’m not sure. Nowadays, it seems every chef on the American version of the show heads towards the ice cream machine with some wacky non-traditional ingredient. It’s now become cliché, except when I oh-so cleverly use it in on CTMQ. Right?
After checking out the chickens and cows and barns and stuff, we retired to the little retail area for some of their homemade ice cream. You just read about their milk, and it’s that same milk from those same cows that the ice cream comes from. I bought Damian a little cup of black raspberry ice cream and we went outside to the bench to enjoy it together. Mmm-mm, delicious. Rich and creamy, just the way I like it. My son and I sort of just sat there for a while, enjoying the peacefulness of the farm (and Bolton in general), which was pretty nice.
At the time of our visit, I hadn’t yet begun my CTMQ list of Connecticut’s homemade ice cream joints. But no matter, I distinctly recall the Fish Family Farm product to be most excellent. Like I said, this is the rare farm dairy store place thing that is only a few minutes off a major highway – albeit at the end of that highway, but that’s okay. I somehow have found myself on Route 85 in Bolton on many occasions after this first time.
But then again, I’m the guy who goes to everything everywhere in the state, so I guess I don’t really count.
Great atmosphere at the farm, check. Great ice cream, check. Great milk, check. Can they go four for four with great cheese? Yes.
I had never had so-called Farmer’s Cheese before, but I’d seen it here and there at farmer’s markets and also up at UConn. But what is it? It’s as quick and easy as it gets in the cheese-making world…
Farmer cheese is most often an unripened cheese made by adding bacterial starter and rennet to acidify milk. After coagulation it is cut into curds and whey, then the whey is drained off. The drained curds are cottage cheese. Further pressing out of the moisture yields the malleable solid results of pot cheese, whilst even more pressing makes farmer cheese, which is solid, dry and crumbly.
As a result, farmer cheese has the mild flavor associated with cottage cheese, but it is firm and dry, not watery at all. It may also develop a slightly tangy flavor, especially if yogurt or buttermilk are added to the milk while it is curdled. A farmer cheese has spreadable curds, rather than spoonable ones like fresh cottage cheese.
Sounds kind of gross, but man, it’s delicious. Hoang and I ate the package of it right up, with some simple olive oil with it on some water crackers. The flavor was subtle, yet complex.
If this place was in my hometown, I’d drink 6 dollar whole milk and eat farmer cheese every day. Fortunately, I guess, it’s not.
I can’t recommend the Fish Family Farm enough. They are producing real locally made dairy products with superior flavor. Of course, the business model is not practical for mom and pop dairy operations, but we still need to appreciate what we can get from “hobby” farmers like Don Fish.