Hook & Son
BY NICK MACMAHON | 11 SEPTEMBER 2019
Hook & Son are a dairy farm in Hailsham, East Sussex. You can find them at many markets around London. They sell the usual dairy products like milk, cream and butter, buttermilk, yoghurt, ghee, as well as dairy beef. But, unlike the dairy products you will find in a high street supermarket, Hook & Son specialise in raw dairy products. This means that the milk doesn’t go through the pasteurisation process — pasteurisation is a process of heating milk to 71c for about 15 seconds, this is to kill all the active bacteria in the milk and also improves shelf life. Hook & Son sell raw and pasteurised versions of their dairy products.
Hook & Son also sell beef from their dairy cows. Dairy cattle are a different breed from cattle grown for beef (like Angus and Hereford). Historically considered low quality, dairy beef is usually never labelled as dairy beef and is mostly turned into generic mince. At Hook & Son, the beef is treated with more respect, the meat is hung for weeks to improve flavour and then butchered into the standard cuts of beef.
More and more, butchers and restaurants are taking notice of dairy beef. If aged properly, the beef from a dairy cow has a remarkable flavour that can easily stand amongst beef from traditional beef breeds. It’s certainly not the same beef though. It has a much stronger, earthier and grassier flavour, with an almost malty aroma while cooking. It is not just the young cows used for beef, retired dairy cows, some as old as 15 years, are being used for beef. With prices rivalling, and sometimes higher than, regular beef.
The sad reality is that many dairy farms cannot afford to raise male calves, they don’t produce milk and it isn’t financially viable to raise them so they are killed at birth. Hook & Son do not follow this practice, all their calves are raised on their farm. They even have ‘Billy’, an old bull, twice the size of all the other cows in the herd. The dairy beef from Hook & Son is always in high demand and if you get to the markets late they are often sold out. If you like beef then you have to try dairy beef.
Now, I won’t be advocating any health benefits of raw milk because there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support any of those claims. As with any food, there are also potential dangers, so if you do want to drink raw milk, the most important thing is to always source your milk from a dairy with strict hygiene standards. Hook & Son’s dairy goes above and beyond to make sure their milk is as safe as possible. Their facilities are regularly inspected and the milk tested every week.
Regardless of health benefits, I do champion raw milk because it simply tastes really good. It’s creamier, richer and makes supermarket milk taste watered down in comparison. The bacteria that are in the milk has a great effect on the flavour of the milk. As the seasons change and the cows consume different flora, the bacteria changes, leading to an ever-changing flavour. Tony, the market manager of Hook & Son’s, tells me the grass in spring makes for the best milk.
Unlike pasteurised milk, raw milk doesn’t ‘go off’. As it gets older, fermentation occurs, converting lactose into lactic acid, turning the milk ‘sour’. Sour milk is thick and yoghurt-like and safe to consume. It is a very popular drink throughout much of Europe, as well as having many uses in cooking.
Due to the strict regulations of raw milk in the UK, you can only buy raw milk products directly from the farmer, either at the farm or at farmers’ markets.
Find Hook & Son at these London markets;
Primrose Hill Market - Saturdays, 10-3pm at St Paul’s School, NW3 3DS
Chiswick Market - Sundays, 10-2pm, The Pavilion, Market Drive, W4 2RX
Alexandra Palace Market - Sundays, 10-3pm, Alexandra Palace Park, Muswell Hill Bottom Entrance, N10 3TG
Brockley Market - Saturdays, 10-2pm, Lewisham College Carpark, Lewisham Way, SE4 1UT
Crystal Palace Farmers' Market - Bottom of Haynes Lane/Top of Bedwardine Road, Upper Norwood, SE19 3AP
Bloomsbury Farmers' Market - Thursdays, 9-2pm, Torrington Square/Byng Place, behind SOAS, WC1E 7HY
Oval Farmers' Market - Saturdays, 10-3pm, St. Mark’s Church, The Oval, Kennington, SE11 4PW