I spent the day recently in Cornwall, NY – the home of Storm King, the extraordinary outdoor sculpture garden north of New York City. Population two, three thousand? No more. It felt good to get out of the throbbing city, to shock my lungs with country air and see a sky not pierced by tall buildings.
I often ask myself why I don’t live in the country. No answer. But for some reason, when I eat sheep’s cheese (above) and sheep’s yogurt (my latest indulgence), I have visions of fields and fences and a treasured red wool sweater I wore for thirty consecutive days when I was five. I don’t feel this way about cows, but sheep to a city girl – barnyard exotic.
For the lactose intolerant, there’s another reason to celebrate sheep. Sheep’s milk products are often better tolerated by the intolerant. It seems to be because the fat is quite a bit higher in sheep’s milk. Lactose is a water-soluble molecule, so the higher the fat content, the lower the lactose. (Butter, for example, has virtually no lactose and skim milk has more than whole milk). The protein is also nearly double in sheep’s cheese and yogurt (vs cow’s) and the calcium is about 50% higher. (Goat’s cheese also has somewhat less lactose than cow.)
In general – even in the case of cow’s milk- cheese and yogurt are usually easier to tolerate for the lactose intolerant, since the bacteria consumes much of the lactose. And the more aged the cheese, the less lactose it will have.
So I had just bought some sheep’s cheese at the market when I spotted some winter root-vegetable holdouts, that I was not able to keep my hands off because they looked so un-enticing (see below). There is nothing more satisfying than taking a filthy, homely vegetable and with the magic of knives and fire, transforming it.
The end result: Roasted parsnips (basically a taste-cross between a chestnut and a slightly sweet white potato), beets, sheep’s feta, and tarragon infused oil (with the wilted tarragon on top of the pile.)
The salty feta and tarragon balance the sweetness of the beets and parsnips. The herb oil infusion is super simple and can be done with any herb and drizzled over anything! – steamed vegs, a piece of fish, quinoa, brown rice… Simply heat the oil, add the herb sprigs, turn off heat and let sit (a few minutes or longer if you have time), then drizzle it all over whatever you’re serving, being sure not to leave the herbs themselves behind.
Dirty beets and parsnip tails. Country clouds.
You definitely pay a premium for the relative rarity of sheep’s products so they won’t be putting cows out of business anytime soon, but for a treat try it. You might start with the brand Old Chatham Sheepherding Company which is sold in many healthier food stores.
I personally am not lactose intolerant, so I’d be curious to hear if anyone who is, has found a higher tolerance with sheep or goat. Any sheep or goat connoisseurs who can weigh in?
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