Local foods, Product info, Today on the Farm

HOW IT’S MADE: Butter makes everything better!

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We make salted and unsalted butter in our Hansen’s Dairy creamery.

It’s June Dairy Month, and here at Hansen’s Dairy, we are celebrating all of our fresh dairy products! Each week in June we are posting a new segment in our “How It’s Made” series. For our final week, we are featuring our rich, creamy butter.

When we opened our on-farm creamery in 2004, we only produced whole milk. We soon realized there was customer demand for skim milk. When removing the butterfat to make low- and non-fat milks, that leaves a lot of cream left over. So beginning in 2005, we decided to utilize that cream for making butter and ice cream.

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Hands-on tour participants shake their own jar of heavy cream to make butter at Hansen’s Dairy.

Butter is super simple to make. In fact, it’s one of the things that visitors on our hands-on tours get to do, and they are always pleasantly surprised at how tasty it is on crackers. I think it’s so good, it’s like frosting — and some of the younger kids must agree with me, because many of them skip the crackers and eat it right out of the jar!

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Hands-on tour participants are surprised at how easy and tasty it is to make their own butter.

In our creamery, we make what’s called “sweet cream” butter. That means it’s produced from fresh sweet cream, as opposed to butter made from cultured or sour cream.

Our salted butter contains only two ingredients: cream and salt. We also make unsalted butter, for those using butter when baking. However, unsalted butter is only available frozen, because salt is a preservative — and without it, the butter will spoil faster.

To make butter, one hundred gallons of pasteurized cream are put in the butter churn and rotated. Butter is formed simply by the agitation of the churn.

After 1 to 2 hours, the buttermilk is drained, revealing 330 pounds of rich, creamy butter. If salted butter is being made, salt is then added to the churn and mixed thoroughly.

Finally, the butter is carried to the filling station and is hand-packaged into 1 pound and 4 pound containers.

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Brad Hansen individually fills one-pound tubs with butter.

Hansen’s butter is higher in fat content and lower in milk solids, which makes it a higher quality butter. The proof is in the deep yellow, all-natural color. No dyes are added to get that bright golden yellow  — it’s naturally colored due to beta carotene in a cow’s diet, and the color may vary from pale yellow to bright yellow throughout the year.

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Hansen’s butter is naturally golden in color.

Our butter is the perfect addition to fresh bread, pancakes, waffles, baked potatoes, muffins, pastries, homemade cookies, quick breads … are you hungry yet? 🙂

We hope you’ve enjoyed our How It’s Made series. Check out our other posts:

HOW IT’S MADE: ‘Legendairy’ milk!

HOW IT’S MADE: Say cheese curd!

HOW IT’S MADE: We all scream for ice cream!

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Local foods, Product info, Today on the Farm

HOW IT’S MADE: We all scream for ice cream!

It’s June Dairy Month, and here at Hansen’s Dairy, we are celebrating all of our fresh dairy products! Each week in June we will post a new segment in our “How It’s Made” series. This week we are featuring our old-fashioned, premium ice cream.

hansen_dairy_ice_cream_scoop

When we opened our on-farm creamery in 2004, we only produced whole milk. We soon realized there was customer demand for skim milk. When removing the butterfat to make low- and non-fat milks, that leaves a lot of cream left over. So beginning in 2005, we decided to utilize that cream in the best way — to make ice cream!

At first, dairy experts discouraged us from making ice cream with our non-homogenized milk, saying it wouldn’t be smooth and creamy. (Side note: Homogenization breaks down the fat particles in milk so it no longer separates as it sits. Our milk is non-homogenized because we wanted to keep the milk in a more natural state, and not put it through more processing.)

However, through our own trial and error, we did develop a technique resulting in a premium, old-fashioned, homemade-type ice cream. And people have loved it ever since! Our ice cream has a high fat content and very little air pumped into it (aeration), creating a denser texture that freezes harder. It has a cold, clean mouth-feel as opposed to a creamy mouth-feel. 

hansen_dairy_ice_cream_dip_cabinet

We now make ice cream in over 20 flavors, which we sell at our own retail stores in Waterloo and Cedar Falls, along with other local restaurants, grocery stores and concession stands. Hansen’s Dairy Waterloo (Moo Roo) sells our ice cream in cones, shakes, malts and sundaes, along with ice cream cakes.

The list below includes flavors we make consistently year-round, unless marked seasonally. We also make limited-time micro-batches for the ice cream dip cabinet at Hansen’s Dairy Waterloo (here’s looking at you, Cookie Monster lovers!).

  • Brownie Batter
  • Butter Pecan
  • Cake Batter
  • Candy Bar
  • Candy Cane (winter)
  • Caramel Cup
  • Chip & Cherry
  • Chocolate
  • Chocolate Brownie
  • Chocolate Turtle
  • Coffee
  • Cookie Dough
  • Cookies & Cream
  • Key Lime Pie (summer)
  • Lemon Squeeze (summer)
  • Mint Chocolate Chip
  • No-Sugar-Added Vanilla
  • Peanut Butter Yum
  • Pumpkin Pie (winter)
  • Raspberry
  • Strawberry
  • Vanilla

To make the ice cream, we have to mix the base ingredients first. All flavors of Hansen’s ice cream include skim milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, locust bean gum, guar gum and dextrose. Cocoa powder is added to make chocolate ice cream. We also make No-Sugar-Added Vanilla, which is sweetened with maltitol. Other flavorings, colorings and candy pieces are added to individual flavors later in the process.

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Creamery manager Brad Hansen adds sugar and stabilizer to the ice cream mix.

Occasionally people ask about the inclusion of stabilizer ingredients like locust bean gum and guar gum. Locust bean gum is a natural food additive that comes from the carob seeds of the carob tree. It is used as a stabilizing agent in ice cream to prevent ice crystals from forming during temperature fluctuations. (So when you leave your ice cream tub on the counter a little too long after scooping out your after-dinner dessert, it helps prevent icy chunks from forming when it goes back in your freezer.) Guar gum helps thicken and maintain homogeneity of texture. It keeps thinner ingredients combined uniformly with thicker ingredients.

After the base ingredients are added, the mixture is pasteurized, and the heat from the pasteurization helps create a uniform mix. The mix is aged for 12 hours.

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Chocolate chunks are added to the batch freezer to make Hansen’s Dairy Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream.

The mix is then put in the batch freezer machine. This is where each batch is hand-crafted with the individual flavorings and chilled to 22 degrees. The ice cream has the consistency of a milkshake after removal from the batch freezer.

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Brad Hansen hand-fills containers of Hansen’s Dairy Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream.

We then individually fill (that’s right, no automation here!) each of our containers: half-gallons, pints and half-pints. To complete the process, the ice cream must be placed in the flash freezer to be quickly frozen to -30 degrees. Then it’s distributed to you!

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People of all ages love Hansen’s Dairy ice cream!

Check out the other blogs in the How It’s Made series:

HOW IT’S MADE: ‘Legendairy’ milk!

HOW IT’S MADE: Say cheese curd!

Health, Local foods, Product info, Today on the Farm

HOW IT’S MADE: ‘Legendairy’ milk!

Hansen_Dairy_milk_filling
Brad Hansen and Hannah Nelson bottle half-gallons of whole milk at the Hansen’s Dairy farm creamery in Hudson, Iowa.

It’s June Dairy Month, and here at Hansen’s Dairy, we are celebrating all of our fresh dairy products! Each week in June we will post a new segment in our “How It’s Made” series. This week we are featuring our genuine, nutritious and delicious milk!

In February of this year, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of processing our own milk on the farm. We have been so blessed to live in an area where the community supports us local food producers. With the low milk prices of the dairy industry today, many small dairy farmers are going out of business. We are fortunate that we have been able to support five owner families and employ another 25 people while living this dream of ours.

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Blake Hansen preps cows for milking at Hansen’s Dairy farm in Hudson, Iowa.

We currently milk about 130 purebred Holsteins twice a day. Our cows are born and raised on our farm and are never treated with growth hormones. The milk is processed three times a week and distributed to dozens of places in Eastern Iowa.

Here are a few things that make our milk different from many other brands of milk on the shelf:

  • Hansen’s Dairy produces creamline (non-homogenized) milk, so the cream rises to the top. Homogenization breaks up the fat globules of milk so that the particles are uniformly sized and won’t separate. Since Hansen’s milk is non-homogenized, that means that the cream rises to the top. It should be shaken before being served. Unlike pasteurization (heating the milk to kill bacteria), homogenization is not required to sell milk. We choose not to homogenize to keep the milk in its most natural state. Some people who have trouble digesting milk have told us that they don’t have a problem with our milk, which we attribute to the non-homogenization. If that’s you, maybe you should give it a try!
  • Our milk is extremely fresh. The milk a cow gives on the morning of a processing day is pasteurized, delivered to our retail stores, and could be bought and served at your table that night.
  • Our milk is “single source,” which means it comes only from our closed herd of cows. At larger processing plants, many different farms’ milk is being blended together. You can tour our farm and see exactly where the cows live, what they eat and how they are milked. And then you know exactly what goes into the jug!

So how is it processed?

Check out the video below for actual footage of processing milk in our creamery.

We process whole, 1% and skim milk into gallons and half-gallons three times each week.

The first step in the process is to send the milk through the cream separator, which clarifies the milk and also removes some of the fat.

Hansen_Dairy_cream_separator
Cream is collected from the milk separator and bottled as heavy whipping cream, and is also used to make butter and ice cream at Hansen’s Dairy creamery in Hudson, Iowa.

The cream that is collected from the separator is later packaged as heavy whipping cream in quarts and gallons or used to make our butter and ice cream.

The next step is to pasteurize the milk. This process heats the milk to at least 165 degrees for 15 seconds to eliminate any bacteria.

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Brad Hansen operates the pasteurizer at the Hansen’s Dairy creamery in Hudson, Iowa.

After being pasteurized, the milk is ready to be bottled. Labels are placed on the empty jugs. The jugs travel on the conveyor belt to the carousel where milk fills the jug. Another machine stamps the sell-by date on the jug.

The cap is then put in place and sealed. The full jug travels down the conveyor belt and into the cooler.  There the milk will be stacked in crates and put on the delivery truck. Hansen’s milk is delivered to our own retail stores and other grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, daycares and retirement homes in Eastern Iowa.

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Gallons of skim milk are bottled at Hansen’s Dairy creamery in Hudson, Iowa.

Enjoy your Hansen’s milk, and remember to shake well before serving!

Local foods, Product info, Today on the Farm, Uncategorized

HOW IT’S MADE: Say cheese curd!

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Cheese curds are typically made twice weekly at Hansen’s Dairy.

It’s June Dairy Month, and here at Hansen’s Dairy, we are celebrating all of our fresh dairy products! Each week in June we will post a new segment in our “How It’s Made” series. The first product we are featuring is our squeaky, delicious cheese curds.

Check out the video below for actual footage of the creamery cheese curd process.

Curds are a popular product made here at Hansen’s Dairy. Cheese curds are just the first step in the process of making aged cheese. People rave about eating curds on the day they are made, even when they are still a little warm. The mark of a fresh cheese curd is when it squeaks in your mouth!

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Hansen’s Dairy makes six different flavors of mild white cheddar cheese curds, including spicy red pepper.

Hansen’s Dairy makes several flavors of mild white cheddar cheese curds, including plain, spicy red pepper, dill, bacon, buffalo and ranch.

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Creamery manager Brad Hansen stirs the milk/culture mix.

To start the cheesemaking process, 300 gallons of whole milk are added to the cheese curd vat and heated to 90 degrees. When the tank is full, the culture is added, which gives the cheese the mild cheddar flavor.

Hansen’s curds are white because no dye is used to color them yellow.

Later, vegetable rennet is added to thicken the mixture and begin the separation process. Soon curds and whey will begin to form, and the cheese is raked to a mixture resembling cottage cheese.

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At this stage, the mixture resembles cottage cheese.

After more agitating and heating, the curds become more solid. The curds are pushed and pressed to drain out as much whey as possible.

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The whey is pressed and drained from the curd.

The cheese is then cut and formed into large slabs. The slabs are repeatedly cut and stacked on top of each other to squeeze additional whey out of the curds below.  This process is called cheddaring.

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The process of cutting and stacking the cheese in slabs to drain out additional whey is called cheddaring.

The slabs go through a mill to be cut into chunks. Salt is added and mixed thoroughly. Finally, the curds are ready to be packaged.

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Cheese curds are typically made twice weekly in our on-farm creamery, on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Fresh curds can be kept at room temperature for a few hours (although food inspectors might disagree). The squeak can be revived in refrigerated curds by heating on a microwave-safe plate for 10-15 seconds. Curds can be frozen in a deep freezer.

Hansen’s curds are available in 12-ounce bags and 4-pound bags. Many restaurants serve up our cheese curds as appetizers, including Doughy Joey’s, Pump Haus, Gilmore’s Pub, Table 1912 and La Calle in Cedar Falls; Highway 63 Diner, Locals Bar & Grill, SingleSpeed and Newton’s Paradise Cafe in Waterloo; East Bremer Diner in Waverly; Finley’s Curbside Bistro in Ames; Ice Cream Junction in Oelwein; and Todd’s Neighborhood Grill in Parkersburg.

Hope you enjoyed learning about our cheese curds … next week we will show you how the milk is made!

Community, Local foods, Local Resources, Product info

#MilkMonday a win-win for NEIA Food Bank, Hansen’s Dairy

By Jordan Hansen

Hansen’s Dairy has a long-standing relationship with the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Now, with the help of the Farm Bureau, Fareway grocery stores, and customers like you, our partnership is about to grow.

Black Hawk County Farm Bureau board members Brad Jesse and Len Orth spearheaded an initiative to increase donations of milk to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and improve demand of dairy farmers’ products.

MilkMonday_BlackHawk_HansensThe initiative, called #MilkMonday, will begin on Monday, April 1, and run every Monday through June (National Dairy Month). Fareway grocery shoppers will have the opportunity to round up their total purchase to the nearest dollar to help provide milk to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Hansen’s Dairy shoppers can also round up their purchase, or they can decide to purchase an extra gallon that will go directly to the Food Bank.

The NEIA Food Bank is located in Waterloo, and serves as a hub for food programs and pantries in a 16-county area: Allamakee, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Delaware, Fayette, Floyd, Grundy, Hardin, Howard, Mitchell, Poweshiek, Tama and Winneshiek.

All Fareway stores in the 16-county region will be participating. Waterloo Fareway Manager Allen Weimerskirch also reported that the Fareway corporation has decided to match up to the first $2,500 raised in the initiative.

Northeast Iowa Food Bank, #MilkMonday
Representatives from Farm Bureau, Fareway, the Food Bank and I kicked off the #MilkMonday initiative on National Ag Day, March 14, 2019. The Farm Bureau gave an initial donation of $1,000, which comprised funds from Black Hawk, Winneshiek, Allamakee and Tama county Farm Bureaus.

The #MilkMonday program will allow the Food Bank to purchase more milk from our farm, which is already supplying the Food Bank with about 50,000 gallons of milk each year through a combination of sales and donations.

Our relationship with the Food Bank is mutually beneficial, and we see it as an important way to give back to our community.

First, a little background into how it all started.

You need it, we’ve got it

When cows are milked, they naturally produce what’s called “whole” milk. The fat percentage of our whole milk is about 3.5%. The milk can be run through a separator to produce two different products: skim milk, which is our biggest seller; and heavy cream, which is bottled itself and also used to make butter and ice cream. For every 10 gallons of whole milk, it will separate into 1 gallon of cream and 9 gallons of skim milk.

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Cream from the separator flows into the holding tank.

For several years now, the supply and demand of cream and skim coming from our farm has been a little out of balance. We need that cream to make those high-demand (yummy) products, but we’re just left with way too much skim milk than what our customers demand. Sometimes, in order to have enough cream, that skim milk would literally go down the drain.

Enter the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and Barb Prather, executive director, who just happens to live in our town.

“Milk is one of the harder items for us to keep in stock for the people we serve,” Barb said. “And it’s such an important part of daily nutrition, giving young kids as well as adults the essential vitamins and calcium they need.”

We agree. So in July 2016, we formulated a plan where the Food Bank would purchase skim milk from us at a reduced rate, and we would donate more gallons on top of that. We are at about a 3:2 ratio — for every three gallons of milk the Food Bank buys, we donate two gallons. In 2018, we donated nearly 19,000 gallons of skim milk.

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Skim milk is bottled at Hansen’s Dairy.

This has benefited both of our organizations in several ways:

  • We avoid dumping perfectly good milk down the drain.
  • The Food Bank receives extremely fresh milk — sometimes just bottled at our farm that day — instead of getting close-to-expiration milk that may be cast off from grocery stores.
  • We get paid for most of the milk, while also donating some and taking advantage of the state of Iowa’s Farm to Food Tax Credit.
  • Our delivery team can efficiently drop a lot of milk at one location.
  • The Food Bank has distribution points to share the milk across Northeast Iowa.
Hansen's Dairy delivery truck
Delivery Manager Brent Hansen loads up crates of milk for his next route.

We salute the Farm Bureau members to spearhead this effort to benefit us dairy farmers while getting nutritious food to those who need it.

“As farmers, we have a calling to help feed people and take care of those in our communities,” said Ben Bader, Black Hawk County Farm Bureau president. “And you don’t have to be a farmer to realize being able to pull the whole community together to provide milk to families in need is part of the ‘farm strong’ spirit we all embrace.”

To help bring awareness to the event, grocery shoppers are encouraged to spread the word using #MilkMonday on social media.

Will you “round up” for the Food Bank?

Cooking with the Hansens, Farm animals, Local foods, Product info

Our farm’s juicy secret: Wagyu beef

wagyupieceHave you heard the buzz about our newest product on the farm? It’s actually not a dairy product.
 
Our newest venture is in Wagyu-Holstein beef. That’s kind of a mouthful —literally!
 
Wagyu, a breed of Japanese beef cattle, may not be a familiar term to most people. But it’s actually the breed behind the famous Kobe beef that you see on restaurant menus.
 
Real Kobe beef actually comes from the Tajima bloodline of Japanese Black Wagyu cattle, and it must be raised, fed and slaughtered in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan. Many U.S. restaurants may put “Kobe” beef on the menu, but in truth, only a handful are certified to serve it (check out this article from Business Insider for more on that topic).
 
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These Wagyu-Holstein ribeyes have excellent marbling.

Highly desirable beef

So what’s so great about it? Wagyu (pronounced “wahg-you”) is widely regarded as highly desirable beef due to:
  • Superior marbling, shown in raw meat as tiny white dots or a spider web of ultra-thin veins throughout the muscle, which results in tender texture 
  • Rich, buttery flavor
  • Healthy, monounsaturated fatty acids — especially oleic acid, which is responsible for flavor. These monounsaturated fats have a lower melting point, below human body temperature, so they literally melt in your mouth. Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels, which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Starting a Wagyu herd

Blake Hansen, Hansen’s Dairy co-owner and herd manager, first heard about Wagyu beef about four years ago from family friends in Des Moines. They were raising a few head just to feed to their own family, and one taste-test had Blake hooked.
 
This family raised both full-blood cows (mother and father are both Wagyu) and Jersey crossbreeds (Jersey mother and Wagyu father). That got Blake thinking about crossing Wagyus with his Holsteins and offering a very nice selection of meat to customers who already knew us by our dairy products. Blake actually preferred the taste of the crossbreed to the full-blood. Because it wasn’t as rich, he could eat more of it. 😉
 
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One of the Hansens’ Wagyu-Holsteins
The first step was finding the semen. Our dairy cows are artificially inseminated so that we don’t have to keep live bulls on the farm. This provides a lot of genetic variety without having to house and feed bulls and worry about their temper. So to have a crossbred Wagyu-Holstein, we would breed a Holstein female with Wagyu semen.
 
Blake discovered that Wagyu cattle are typically butchered at 27-29 months old, as they gain the most marbling after 24 months. This is in contrast to more well-known breeds of beef cattle raised in Iowa, which are usually butchered at around 14-16 months.
 
So this is where things got hard to predict. How much demand would there be for this new beef? When you add up the time it takes for a cow to become pregnant, carry the calf for 9 months, and then raise the calf to 28 months of age, that’s more than three years. And he had to choose how many cows to breed to this Wagyu semen, and how often, because a pregnancy is never guaranteed. In the end, he decided to aim for one or two cows to be butchered each month.
 
Just like our dairy cows, the Wagyu-Holsteins are raised with great care and quality feed throughout their lives. They are housed in the same pens and fed the same diet as the dairy cows. We do not use growth hormones or preventive antibiotics, and we grow the majority of their feed — corn silage and alfalfa hay silage — on our own land. The genetic traits of Wagyu cattle just naturally result in better meat quality even on the same diet as a dairy cow. 
 

Farm-to-fork

Our first Wagyu-Holstein cow went to the meat locker (we use Marks Locker in Rowley, Iowa) in August 2018. We developed a great partnership with the new restaurant Table 1912, located in the Jorgensen Plaza development of the Western Home in Cedar Falls, to feature this beef on their menu. The Western Home Communities have purchased our dairy products for almost as long as we’ve been producing them, and their restaurant concept is focused on farm-to-table fine dining. They source many of their ingredients from Iowa farmers, so they were excited to be the exclusive server of this new local beef.
 
We also began selling the meat cuts privately to individuals. A Waterloo Courier article about our beef garnered national attention, as it was picked up by the Associated Press and published in more than 40 newspapers across the country, including the Miami Herald (Fla.), US News & World Report, Washington Times (D.C.) and Houston Chronicle (Texas). Not bad for a small-town Iowa farm.
 

Try some for yourself

Is your mouth watering yet? Here are some things to know when preparing it:
  • Small serving sizes. Wagyu is very tender and has a buttery flavor. Steak serving sizes are typically smaller because of the rich flavor profile. 
  • Faster cooking time. Wagyu cooks faster than other beef. It is recommended that steaks are cooked to no more than medium rare for optimum palatability.
  • Juicy hamburger. Wagyu-Holstein beef is about 90% lean.
We sell our Wagyu-Holstein hamburger in bulk and patties at our Waterloo and Cedar Falls stores for $8/pound. We don’t sell the finer cuts of meat in our stores because of limited quantities and higher price point. If you are interested in purchasing prime cuts of our Wagyu-Holstein beef, call Blake Hansen at (319) 610-1530. As of this post, there are several cuts available, including roasts, short ribs, top sirloins, New York strips, ribeyes and filets, ranging in price from $16 to $100 per pound.
Community, Cooking with the Hansens, Local foods

Five Things I Love About Food

By Aaron McNally

Moo Roo Assistant Manager

Working for a family dairy that produces, bottles, and distributes its own high-quality products (and retails other high-quality items as well) has been incredibly inspiring for someone who loves food. Day in and day out, my time spent working with and for the Hansens has given me much opportunity to consider all of the elements that prove food is one of the most important things in a human being’s life. I’ve jotted down five things that immediately came to mind.

 

Dairy foods provide nine essential nutrients and are one of the most affordable sources of nutrition.
Dairy foods provide nine essential nutrients and are one of the most affordable sources of nutrition.

5.) Food is essential. 

Everyone eats, or should. If not … well, I‘d hate to think about it. Almost all of the nutrition the body takes in comes from food. But more than that, what we eat, and how that food is prepared, can substantially influence our mood, the health of our skin, our digestive system, and our heart’s ability to perform its all-important job. Without food, no life. And without good food, no good life.

4.) Food connects us to our region, and our world.

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Hansen’s Dairy sells a variety of high-quality Wisconsin cheeses. Wisconsin is one of the top dairy producing states.

Every segment of these United States (and, indeed, the entire globe) carries with it some regional cuisine. Oftentimes, this cuisine is inspired by what ingredients are readily available. This unites people to their region in the most fundamental way. Whether it’s an Iowan eating an ear of sweet corn during the summer, a resident of New Mexico eating a dish spiced with heirloom green chiles, or someone in Maine enjoying fresh clams, everyone in every region has something that they associate with their geographical identity, whether they realize it or not. Even in the age of widespread global distribution of food, local abundance still characterizes a region’s style.

3.) Traditions are passed down through food. 

Family’s ethnic histories are passed down through dishes that stay in the family, and the smell or flavor of a favorite traditional food ignites emotions in a way that even the arts can not. In addition, learning how to cook is often an activity shared by grandparents and parents with their children and grandchildren. And who hasn’t instantly remembered a deceased relative when they were presented with, say, a certain type of cookie, or some classic casserole. And, like the regional connection that is made by certain available ingredients, regions and neighborhoods are often defined by their particular style of cooking, uniting friends and strangers alike via shared tastes.

2.) Culture is experienced through food. 

People come together over food in a way that they do no with nothing else. Dining with others offers an opportunity to share and communicate even with strangers. Food is always a staple at gatherings, reunions, athletic events, block parties, and awards ceremonies. But beyond the regional elements mentioned above, food can serve as the center of religious rituals and seasonal ceremonies, and can be the binding cement in certain urban environments where diverse residents might otherwise seem at odds with one another. Foodies flock to certain coveted spots, inspired by social media, and saveurs worldwide associate themselves with foreign friends via shared affection for certain culinary hotspots. In every tourism-heavy locale, the sale of food is an economic staple, not only because those travelers need to eat, but because these cultural hubs are in part defined by the variety of cuisine they serve.

1.) Eating involves all five senses.

My personal theory is that this is much of why we have such an emotional connection to foodit’s a wam-bam, all-inclusive sort of thing.

Visually, a chef takes great pains to make sure that an entrée has been properly “plated,” and this arrangement on the plate can sometimes seem like a variety of sculpture. When summer vegetables are in season, a full palette of vivid color can be seen across a table. (And rich, deep, or bright colors are often indicators of a food’s nutritional content.)

People may like or dislike something based on texture alone. When something is browned on top, it means not only a bit of color, but also a crunchy texture. Creaminess, chewiness, toughness, softness … these things can make or break a meal, and a lack of attention to them might prove a poor cook’s lack of technique.

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The aroma and sounds of the grill can easily ignite the appetite.

Aroma triggers immediate memories, instantaneous transport to Grandma’s house or the grade-school cafeteria. But it can also whet the appetite of someone not all that hungry before sitting down at the restaurant and smelling the light smoke wafting off the grill. Maybe I will have something after all.

Meanwhile, sizzles and crunches are omnipresent amongst culinary experiences. And in the preparation and serving of food, there are clangs and clatters of knives, skillets, spatulas, and plates, and the bubbling of beverages being poured into glasses. Add some laughter and chatter, cue a little music (preferably live) and voilà! You’re on your way to a very memorable experience.

Flavor might seem to go without saying, but its connection to mouth-feel, aroma, and the visual and auditory sensations we’ve been discussing makes taste perhaps the most important element of all. Like the five senses, the five major flavors (sweetness, sourness, saltiness, savoriness, and bitterness) span a gamut of psychological possibilities. And the very word “taste” indicates whether or not we might value a certain person’s opiniondo they have it? Have they been paying attention?

***

hansenicecream
Ice cream is one of the delicious dairy products made on the Hansen farm.

Every day, I get to see all of these elements at play in the world of the family dairy, and amidst Iowa’s agriculturally-driven culture. What could be more exciting? If this piece has your taste buds’ attentions piqued, stop by one of our retail stores or consider taking one of our farm tours. Additionally, consider eating at one of the many restaurants that boast an attitude of “Buy Fresh, Buy Local,” or just get out and attend a summer barbecue or church potluck. Or heck, just treat a friend or family member to dinner — homemade or restaurant procured. There’s an inspiring life of food surrounding us, and amidst it an infinity of blessings.

 

 

 

 

Cooking with the Hansens, Family, For kids, Local foods

Making butter — a fun and tasty snack

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Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy makes butter on a much larger scale, but the process is essentially the same.

Making butter is a fun, easy experiment — it’s educational and delicious. Try this at home with your kids. No old-fashioned butter churn required!

This activity will yield just enough butter for a single piece of bread or several crackers. For larger amounts of butter, use more heavy whipping cream and a mixer to thicken the cream. As a bonus, you can also make your own buttermilk by following these directions.

To start, purchase a quart of heavy whipping cream from Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy.

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Hansen’s Dairy tour participants shake their jars of cream.

Pour 2 tablespoons of the heavy whipping cream into a small sealable container (preferably glass, like a baby food jar).

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The chunk of butter is clearly visible after draining the buttermilk.

Seal the container and shake it vigorously for 3-5 minutes. The cream will start sticking to the sides, but you’re not done yet. Suddenly, a chunk of light, fluffy butter will clearly separate from the watery buttermilk and you’ll be able to hear it start slapping around in the jar. Once you hit this point, it’s important to stop shaking the jar (don’t over shake). The cream turns to butter because of the agitation and the warmth of your hands.

The butter isn’t ready to eat quite yet. Drain the buttermilk (the excess liquid) from your container. Next, spoon up the butter left in your container and dip it into cool water to rinse the remaining buttermilk from the butter.

When the excess water is gone from the butter, sprinkle on a small amount of salt, or even some fresh herbs, and spread it onto your bread or crackers. Enjoy your homemade butter!

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Let us do the work — try a tub of Hansen’s Dairy butter!

To store leftovers, put the butter in a sealable container and refrigerate it.

Written by Kelby Robb, Hansen’s Dairy intern

Family, Farm animals, Local foods, Today on the Farm

Is dairy farming really one of the worst jobs in America?

CareerCast.com recently posted their annual listing for the 200 Worst Jobs in America for 2013. The rankings were based on five factors: physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. “Dairy farmer” was listed as No. 6. So what do the farmers at Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy have to say about that?

Blake Hansen feeds hay to the 3-month-old heifers.
Blake Hansen feeds hay to the 3-month-old heifers.

“If everyone loved their job as much as dairy farmers, there wouldn’t be such a list,” says Blake Hansen, herd manager.

Indeed. Working with cows can be very satisfying and rewarding, and a dairy farmer has to be completely committed to his craft in order to be successful. Like other self-employed people, their whole life revolves around their business. They do what they love to provide a nutritious food group to feed America. Their livelihood relies on those animals staying alive and healthy for years. If a farmer takes proactive steps to maintain the health of his cows, he maximizes his chances of success. If he takes care of the cows, they will take care of him.

Let’s address the factors that went into creating this worst job list.

Physical demands. Dairy farmers milk their cows at least twice a day, feed them three times a day, and care for them around the clock. They deal with inclement weather, delivering calves, heavy lifting and being on their feet all day. But Blake says the physical demands are nothing compared to the mental effort. Keeping track of the needs of 375 animals in different life stages is mentally taxing.

The 375 cows on the farm include Black and White Holsteins and Red and White Holsteins.
The 375 cows on the farm include Black and White Holsteins and Red and White Holsteins.

Work environment. OK, sometimes the smell is a little overwhelming. (You get used to it.) But who wouldn’t love the wide open spaces a farm provides? The steady supply of milk right outside your door? The opportunities for your kids to learn the value of family and hard work? Our small-scale farm (375 cows from newborn to 10 years old) allows us to get to know each cow by name and temperament. Blake knows who likes to be first in the milking parlor, who loves her tail rubbed and who is ready to calve. Imagine working with a group of girls with very unique, individual personalities, and not a catty one in the bunch!

Income. We’ll agree with this one. Many small dairy farms have had to sell out because of high input costs (feed and fuel) and low income (market prices for the milk). Twelve years ago our family took a financial risk by investing in facilities and equipment to bottle our own milk, and it has paid off in a big way. But we know it would be much harder for single-family farmers to put in that kind of time, money and effort. We are grateful to be able to support five families with the size farm we have.

Blake Hansen checks on a calf born just minutes earlier.
Blake Hansen checks on a calf born just minutes earlier.

Stress. Every job has its ups and downs. The death of an adult cow who you saw being born, trying to get fieldwork done ahead of the rain, working side by side with family members, and managing employees can all be stressful. There’s very little vacation time. But there is nothing like the feeling of seeing a cow nursing her newborn calf that you helped deliver overnight. The life cycle is renewed, and it’s wonderful to think about that calf’s potential down the road. Our oldest cow has produced enough milk in her lifetime to fill four semi-trailers. And she’s still going.

Hiring outlook. Land prices around here have skyrocketed, so if you don’t already have a farm in the family that will be passed down to you, getting into the business by yourself is financially tough. And with large operations streamlining milk production, jobs are harder to come by. But hey, if any of you are looking for a job in the dairy industry, we usually have something available!

Gallons of 1% milk are bottled in the Hansen's Farm Fresh Dairy creamery.
Gallons of 1% milk are bottled in the Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy creamery.

So, we would argue with dairy farming’s placement on the worst jobs list. The proof is bottled in a jug on your table with our name on it.

Local foods, Product info

Artisanal Micro-Roaster Jed Vander Zanden Strives for Perfection, Says Hansen’s is Perfect

You may have noticed a new product in the Hansen’s stores recently…or perhaps a new aroma – coffee! We are now carrying coffee from Sidecar Coffee Roasters, a new and very local business in Cedar Falls. We’ve had a lot of questions about the new coffee, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to tell you a bit more about Sidecar and the man behind the whole operation. This is the first in a series of features that we will post on the product lines we carry at Hansen’s stores. Aaron McNally, local poet, writer, grad student, and Moo Roo employee, wrote this feature on Sidecar.

When Jed Vander Zanden sets out to roast a batch of coffee beans, he has a lot on his mind.

“Every time you get a different coffee you have to figure out how to develop it,” he explains. “The longer you roast it, you gain some things and you lose some things. It’s a matter of finding the balance of time and air and heat to really get it where you actually nail it. You go way too dark, you get that carbony bitter dirt flavor. If you don’t go dark enough, it’s equally bad.”

Throughout the roasting process, Jed has to constantly monitor the progress of the beans.
Throughout the roasting process, Jed has to constantly monitor the progress of the beans.

The Ethiopian bean he’s working with today “is a wild coffee, it’s funky. It’s really good. I’ve been trying to figure out how to roast it now for it seems like forever. It’s been fun—it’s a real challenge. I’ve gotten to where I actually think it tastes good, it’s just this never-ending pursuit of making it better.” What are his goals for this particular bean? “I just wanna see if I can tweak the profile a little bit. Maybe stretch it out a little longer or speed it up. see if I can get a little more balance, a little more body, a little more sweetness. Which is a little harder in a really dark roast.”

 Jed can perfectly control the freshness of his product by constantly monitoring and refreshing his inventory. His small batch coffee stands out in stark comparison to nation-wide suppliers.

Jed prides himself on controlling every element of his roasting process, from selecting the perfect beans to making sure he has the freshest coffee on the shelf. This is something that only a local, small roaster can do to perfection. In a larger operation, “the level of precision that they achieve is not anything like this,” he says. “I can adjust and modify the profile within ten to twenty seconds, just by controlling the air and temperature. The amount of variability I can create with this type of roaster is just entirely different.”

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In addition, Jed can perfectly control the freshness of his product by constantly monitoring and refreshing his inventory. His small batch coffee stands out in stark comparison to nation-wide suppliers. With larger operations, “we’re talking about millions of pounds a day being roasted. Then it goes to a warehouse. Then it goes to a distribution center. Then it goes to a secondary place before making it to the shelf. Who knows? It could be three months, it could be nine months old. Coffee is perishable, like anything. The flavor compounds, the essential oils, they all dissipate, they go rancid.”

Jed says that the “sweet spot” for coffee freshness is about one to three weeks. Every bag that he has on display at Hansen’s is stamped with the roast date, so that our customers can determine for themselves whether the product is fresh enough for their liking.

 “People who like really good stuff, care about it being local, people who want value but aren’t opposed to paying for quality. That’s Hansen’s.”

Beyond that guarantee of freshness, Jed is also very excited to be selling at Hansen’s Outlet and MooRoo stores for other reasons. He says that Hansen’s customers are the perfect customers for his coffee: “People who like really good stuff, care about it being local, people who want value but aren’t opposed to paying for quality. That’s Hansen’s. Really good milk, cheese, eggs, butter—all those things. Everything Hansen’s provides is stuff that I want to buy. Every week, for my shopping, I have my Hansen’s list. There isn’t a better place for this coffee than Hansen’s.”

In particular, Jed is a fan of Hansen’s whole milk, and prefers it to Half & Half in his coffee.  “The milk makes this coffee taste so good. It adds a whole depth of sweetness. I always think that the fat content of Half & Half kind of coats the roof of your mouth, limiting the palate. But the whole milk seems to mix in perfectly.”

Vander Zanden moved to Cedar Falls with his wife, a professor at UNI, two years ago. He has lived in Indiana, Colorado, and D.C., though he grew up here in the Midwest—in Wisconsin. He’s very excited to be in an area where local businesses seem to be popping up and thriving. His coffee business seems to be doing very well here. “I’m loving that it’s growing organically, slowly and steadily, by word of mouth,” he explains.

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Here you can see the finished product in comparison to the original, raw bean.

Come meet Jed on March 16th at Hansen’s Moo Roo location. He’ll be performing a tasting from 1-3 p.m., and will be happy to answer any questions and explain more about his roasting process.