Posted - Nov 17 2017 : 2:38:20 PM
Author: NF Ambery
GOSHEN — One has heard the term “farm-to-table,” but Thorncrest Farm & Milk House Chocolates at 280 Town Hill Road brings the concept to another level.
“It is cow-to-chocolate,” remarked Clint Thorn, 52.
The farm sells 122 varieties of artisanal sweets (with 14 new flavors during the holidays) at their chocolate shop, as well as fresh milk, yogurt, and butter, all derived from their own cows. But the difference at Milk House Chocolates is that specific cows’ breeding and diet determine which chocolate flavor they contribute to with their milk.
Clint’s wife Shirley, 51, took a few minutes from their small, busy chocolate shop recently, adding, “We are making chocolate 30 feet away from the cow.” She added, “We are taking milk to the next level. It is all-natural, pasteurized but not homogenized.”
The Thorn’s sons, Garret, 27, and Lyndon, 25, also serve integral roles at the farm. Lyndon works at the farm’s saw mill and harvests hay while learning about operating the creamery. Garrett helps with milking the cows but also helps out in the farm in a variety of jobs. Both sons were home-schooled from the earliest of ages. “They were doing chores and learning while playing with their toy tractors,” Clint added.
Lyndon commented, “There is always something of interest and to take care of here.” Following a daily early-morning meeting of the family, he added, “We all work together wearing a variety of hats.”
Garret said, “You are never at one place at one time. You never get bored.”
The 22 primarily Holstein cows on the farm enjoy a relaxed and stress-free environment, which the farm owners say makes for more delicious dairy. “Stress shows up in milk as an acidic flavor,” Clint said. “We pride ourselves in creating a zero-stress environment.”
Nearby, a five-day-old Holstein calf, Charlie, playfully danced in her pen while under the watchful eyes of her mother, A-OK.
“Of the 22 cows, we have groups of five flavor groups,” Clint said. “We have, for example, dark chocolate cows, and then we have our caramel cow, Daydream.” He referred to one of their three Jersey cows, Daydream, whose milk is used to make the caramel-based confections.
The farm’s chocolate business started in the 1990s but officially opened to the public as a business in 2011 after the Thorns moved their herd from Ives Road to the Town Hill Road property in Goshen that had been in Clint’s family. One of the original cows was a Canadian-born Holstein named Hanoverhill J. Koral, whose photo hangs on the wall of the reception area of the dairy barn.
According to the owners, everything on the farm revolves around the comfort of the cows. Tucked away on a dirt-road detour off Beach Street, indeed the environment sometimes resembles a bovine day spa. The gray barn where the cows are milked was built especially so that inside the dairy parlor, the two rows of cows’ heads or tails (their rows stand opposite each other with a walkway in between) are aligned with the Earth’s magnetic field. In the summer the open barn doors allow a cross-breeze that cools the bovines. Clint said that many factors are considered when raising their cows in determining where their milk talents lie: the farm’s preservation of successful cow lineages; the minerals in the soil when growing their food; and the proprietary homemade hay and feed that the cows eat.
“We produce all of our own feed with no pesticides,” Clint said, adding, “We can’t use anything on their skin: no soaps and no fly sprays. We brush them in a form of ‘dry cleaning’ so the milk stays pure.” Clint expounded: “It is truly about the saying, ‘You are what you eat.’ We have a quality of feed.”
Clint explained that the cows are milked each morning at 4:30 a.m. and then put out to roam the pasture and relax. In the afternoon, they return to the dairy barn and are milked again. Clint said the farm does not use the pumps, tubes, or hoses used at larger commercial dairy farms. Each cow is milked into an individual stainless-steel pneumatic pail. “We used to have pipelines,” Clint explained. “But cows are sensitive to electricity.”
A visitor to the dairy barn on a weekend, Adrian Selby of Litchfield, recounted to Clint how he grew up on a dairy farm in western England. “Your farm is lovely,” Selby commented.
Kimberly served visitors samples in the dairy barn of the newest chocolate confection, honey cinnamon with a milk chocolate shell. “The clean, fresh dairy really comes through,” Kimberly said. “The clear, smooth notes are sort of like music notes that make up a song. The honey is very subtle.”
Clint remarked that Kimberly is a “single-cow-origin artisanal chocolatier,” adding, “She is the only person on Earth doing what she is doing.”
“All the techniques are self-taught,” said Kimberly. “The quality of the dairy is first and foremost.”
Fresh milk from the “ladies,” as Kimberly refers to the cows, is first pasteurized to kill any bacteria and then brought to Kimberly for specialized mixing in the handmade, small-batch chocolates. Each bottle of milk comes from a specific cow. The chocolate-making process utilizes trade secrets, but Kimberly said she uses ingredients that come from their backyard and from around the world, including fresh mint, nuts, Madras curry, organic orange oil and orange zest, blueberries, and English culinary lavender.
A sample menu at the chocolate shop can include oblong-triangle-shaped dark-chocolate ganaches made from Princess the cow’s milk, cream, and butter; bean-shaped dark-chocolate double espresso courtesy of milk and butter from the cow Valor; and milk chocolate, lightly-salted soft caramel hearts made from Daydream’s milk.
Clint explained that when the new calves are old enough and have been given a bland diet, “Kimberly smells the cow. She smells the flank of the cow to see if it is a special cow.” If the cow is determined to have Thorncrest Farm milk chocolate potential, they raise the cow. If it is not determined to have potential, the young cow is sent to an Amish farm, which traditionally has the reputation of possessing a good and humane dairy farming industry.
The farm sells 14 new flavors during the holidays. In October, the holiday chocolate menu was still under wraps but some holiday items in the past have included the Chocolate Ornament Box, which is a sea salt dark chocolate caramel ornament box, and Father Christmas, a vintage European chocolate design in white and dark chocolate flavors.
“2017’s holiday chocolates began the day after Christmas 2016,” said Clint, referring to the planning involved in the yearly endeavor, adding, “The cows for holiday flavors, we breed them in advance. The cows spend 10 months milking and two months off.”
Clint said the idea for the chocolatier business came into being when his future wife Kimberly visited in Ireland in 1984. Every day she would see an old man riding into town with milk totes on his bike. When asked, the old man explained that he took the fresh milk and cream from his farm to a chocolate shop that used his farm’s dairy especially for certain chocolates. The idea stuck with Kimberly. Later that summer, she was joined by Clint, who was her boyfriend at the time, and they backpacked through Europe, sampling small artisanal chocolate shops to study. Even back then, she was studying her future craft. “We visited 14 countries’ small chocolate shops,” Clint said. “Europe has the most unbelievable chocolate. Now we produce chocolate that rivals European chocolate shops.”
Another visitor, Frank Goldberg of New York, New York, attended with his daughter Amelia, 3. He explained, “We come here all the time. She loves the milk-chocolate lollipops.”
The farm also has a wood mill and a furniture and sculpture shop named The Open Talon. There are cheese-making and wine pairing classes throughout the year.
Milk House Chocolates’ hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Their telephone number is 860-390-2545. Their website is: www.milkhousechocolates.net.
MaryJane Butters, author of Milk Cow Kitchen ~ striving for the stoicism of a cow standing in the rain ~