Milking sheep goes back to the dawn of agriculture and although the cow has now replaced the milking ewe as the primary supplier of milk in Northern Europe, large numbers are still milked across Southern Europe, the Balkans, the Middle-East and N. Africa. Spanish 'Manchego', 'Roquefort' in France', and Italian 'Pecorino' are world-famous cheeses. Other more generic products such as ricotta, yoghurt and feta are often made with sheep's milk and particularly prized when they are.
In Britain, the cow began to replace the milking ewe after the Black Death but some of our most famous cheeses, such as Wensleydale and Cheddar, have their origins in the large numbers of ewes that used to be milked in those areas. The revival of sheep milking in Britain goes back to the importation of East Friesland sheep [the most popular milking breed in Northern Europe] in the 1960's. Though these were originally imported to improve the milk yields of commercial meat breeds, a small but intrepid band of pioneers started to try their hand at milking and by the early 1980's a domestic sheep-dairying industry was well under way making a wide variety of artisan cheeses as well as yoghurt. In 1987 Martin and Juliet became the first commercial producers of ice cream from sheep's milk.
Sheep's milk is both nutritious and delicious. It has a pure white colour and a rich, slightly nutty flavour. It is much higher in total solids than either cow's or goat's milk [see table below] and also provides up to twice as many of the minerals like calcium, phosphorus and zinc and the all important B group Vitamins.
Sheep's milk is also naturally homogenised. The very small size of the fat globules mean that they remain mixed evenly through the milk rather than rising to the top like cream. This makes the milk easy to digest and is one of the reasons why sheep's milk is often tolerated by people who are allergic to goat's and cow's milk.
MAKING ICE CREAM WITH SHEEP'S MILK
Using sheep's milk has enabled us to develop a unique style of ice cream-making. The richness of the milk and the small-size of the fat globules enable us to make ice cream out of the full-fat milk without the addition of further fats in the form of cream, butter or eggs. The resulting ice cream has a smooth, creamy texture but contains less than 7% fat. This compares with about 12% fat in conventionally-made cow's milk ice creams. The low level of fat also gives it a deliciously clean and fresh taste in the mouth.
The light, smooth base allows delicate flavours to come through and sheep's milk ice cream is the ideal complement for fresh fruits, nuts, spices and other natural ingredients. We make many of our own flavours from raw ingredients and where they are available - as with strawberries, raspberries, tayberries, blackcurrants and damsons - we source from local growers. We sell nearly all our ice-cream directly to the consumer, through our shop and at outdoor events, which means that it is rarely more than a few days from making when it comes to be eaten.
A typical comparative analysis of Sheep, Goat and Cow milks
|Whole Milk %||Sheep||Goat||Cow|
|Calorific value /100g||102||77||73|
|Folic acid ug/l||0.5||0.06||0.5|
|Calcium (Ca)||162 - 259||102 - 203||110|
|Phosphorus (P)||82 - 183||86 - 118||90|
|Sodium (Na)||41 - 132||35 - 65||58|
|Magnesium (Mg)||14 - 19||13 - 19||11|
|Zinc (Zn)||0.5 - 1.2||0.19 - 0.5||0.3|
|Iron (Fe)||0.03 - 0.1||0.01 - 0.1||0.04|
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© Shepherds Ice Cream (Juliet Noble & Martin Orbach)