It seems completely appropriate to have our first blog post be about one of our strongest partners, Autumnwood Farms. On Tuesday, February 8th, we loaded up the Dogwood staff and headed north to Forest Lake, Minnesota. Autumnwood has been run by the Daninger family since 1902. Pat and Sharlene have raised their 4 children on the 250 acre farm alongside their happy cows and a very talented Border Collie.
We were warmly greeted by the Daninger family and their hard-working staff that keep the dairy production moving. We were first given the history and story behind the farm; then came the ever-so-stylish “blue boots” for the creamery tour.
The single-source raw milk is piped from the milking barn into the creamery. Once it arrives, the first step is pasteurization. Autumnwood uses Vat pasteurization, which we believe is critical to maintaining the quality of the cow’s milk. Pasteurization is a heating process, which is used to greatly reduce micro-organisms in the milk. The most widely used method of pasteurization in dairy is HTST (High Temp Short Time), in which the milk is heated to 180 degrees for 15-30 seconds. Another method is UHT (Ultra High Temp), where the milk is brought to 285 degrees for 3 seconds (e.g. shelf stable ½ and ½). Autumnwood’s pasteurization is essentially "old school."; the milk is heated in a small, 260 gallon vat to only 145 degrees, but for 30 minutes, leaving 5% of the micro-organisms. We believe this lower temperature pasteurization is critical in protecting the inherent sugars and proteins of the milk. At our coffee bar, we steam our milk to roughly 140 degrees to optimally heighten the solubility of the natural sugars without breaking down the proteins in the milk. Think sweetness.
After the raw milk is pasteurized, it is skimmed to either 1% or skim or left as whole (4%). At Dogwood, our default milk is whole and our low fat option is 1%. The milk fats are a necessary contribution to the overall mouth feel and texture of our drinks. The milk is then brought to the machine that homogenizes the milk, if desired. Autumnwood offers both homogenized and non-homogenized (Cream Line) milk. We use the non-homogenized milk at our coffee bar. During our milk comparisons, our opinion was that the non-homogenized milk had a better body, likely due to the larger fat particle sizes. Plus, with all the bottle shaking going on, our baristas' biceps are tough to beat. (Pat Daninger describing their pasteurization method)
The homogenizing machine uses a lot of pressure (2,500 psi), pushing the milk through various tapered tubes that break down the milk fats into smaller, more uniform particles. These smaller particles are less likely to separate and rise to the top (as in non-homogenized milk). The final step before bottling is a rapid cooler in which the milk enters at 145 degrees and leaves 6 seconds later at 35 degrees. Engineers are awesome! Now the milk is ready to be bottled. Glass bottles actually help keep the milk colder, not to mention they are more environmentally friendly and look great. (From R to L: skimmer, homogenizer and rapid cooler)
After touring the creamery, we moved on to visit the stars of the show - the cows. The Daninger family farm milks 50 to 60 cows, twice a day, 7 days a week. The average cow produces 7-8 gallons of milk per day. They use only Holstein cows and breed only with their own mama cows. They produce little guys like this…
The cows are extremely friendly and their tongues are like 160 grit sandpaper that could handle any of your fine woodworking projects. The cows rotate pasture every day, except when temperatures require them to stay warm in the barn. They enjoy a natural grass diet supplemented with old-fashioned silage (fermented hay or corn that actually smells pretty amazing). As a result of their diet, their milk is higher in Omega- 3 fatty acids (good fat) and heart-healthy CLA (conjugated linoleic acid).
It was very clear to us that these cows are well loved and cared for. This cow was so happy, she was actually giving high-fives to our baristas.
We had a fantastic time visiting the Daninger family farm. It was both educational and meaningful for us to connect with such an important part of our coffee bar. We are proud and honored to be working with Autumnwood Farm. Next time you are near Forest Lake, make sure you pay the Daninger's a visit.
19435 Granada Avenue N.
Forest Lake, MN 55025