By Lisa Green
Thorncrest Farm, home of Milk House Chocolates
in Goshen, Conn. is the Kripalu for cows.
It's hushed in the barn — no cranky mooing going on. A fiber diet consists of organic sweet hay. Sleeping conditions are cushy: beds of straw are lined with thick, rubber mats. The Thorn family — Kimberly and Clint, and their sons, Garret and Lyndon — are there to attend to each cow’s needs and wants, providing comfort and a stress-free zone. You can taste it in their milk and in the chocolate that comes from it.
Photos courtesy of Milk House Chocolates.
And those chocolates? Godiva pales in comparison. But then, Godiva doesn’t raise cows prized for their individual milk flavors. Kimberly, the chocolatier in the family, calls this "single origin cow chocolates." Under Kimberly’s alchemy, each cow’s subtle flavor is used to its fullest potential. When you choose a piece of chocolate at Milk House Chocolates, the farm’s store, you’re getting sweet on Karissma, Creed, Daydream, Mist, Viola or one of the many other contributors to the cause.
Back at the barn, the Holsteins are grouped by flavor: there is the dark chocolate group (they’re served a darker feed); there’s the caramel group, others are relied upon for their whole and vanilla milks (infused with Madagascar vanilla beans) or the unexpected varieties of bons bons Kimberly dreams up. As for the group of two-year-old heifers, Kimberly’s trying to figure out what flavors they will eventually be good for.
You or I might not be able to taste the difference in the milks, but Kimberly [photo, left] can. Each cow’s milk has a different flavor and smell, she says. She can even detect if a cow’s feeling stressed or unwell by the acidity in its milk. A happy cow makes better chocolates; that’s why cow comfort is paramount.
Once Kimberly has determined which milk complements a certain flavor or leads to a desired consistency, the fun really begins.
“I’m looking for balance and creaminess, combining the cow with the experience, so you taste the milk, not the sugar, like you do in most chocolates," she says. “I look at it like music. I play with the notes and want them to come out at different points in the tasting."
When I sampled a Madagsacar Vanilla, I tasted Creed. Daydream contributed to the Dark Sea Salt Caramel. Mist’s milk is what goes into the Dark Chocolate Ginger Cream; her milk is more tangy — on the acidic side, which comes out in the dark chocolate, Kimberly says. The Curry Ganache — my favorite — incorporates a blend of Viola and Mist.
“They’re two very different beasts," Kimberly explains (and interjects that she calls them beasts fondly). “It takes their two different flavors to balance the curry and chocolate."
The shop is small by design. Although Kimberly crafts her creative chocolates every day — there can be up to 72 unique chocolates in rotation throughout the year, depending on the cows in a milking phase — these are small-batch, all-natural chocolates, free of preservatives. She makes enough to fill the display case and mail orders. Everything stays fresh, and if she’s out of your favorite Dark Chocolate Tiramisu (made with Kimberly’s own mascarpone) or Milk Maid’s Irish Cream, don't worry, there’s probably a Cointreau or a Dark Chocolate Lavender supply coming out soon.
Although there is a thriving mail order business, and some of the milk is sold elsewhere, most of the family's business is from customers who come to the farm. Their following is obviously big enough,: they were recipients of the “Best Chocolates in Connecticut 2015" award by Connecticut Magazine
After my intense chocolate tasting, a plain glass of milk seemed in order. The farm sells its Whole Cream Line Milk right there, and it really is unlike any other milk I’ve ever had. When I met the cows earlier, Clint explained that the milk never goes through a pump; it’s expressed directly into individual ca.1920s pails, which allows the milk to remain whole. Then it's slowly pasteurized. And if he hadn’t told me that the cows are bred and fed for high-lactose milk, I would have thought there was sugar added to it.
In the runup to Valentine’s Day, Milk House Chocolates is filled with special gift packages. A trip to the farm would be a delicious treat for you and your sweetheart (at any time of the year, actually). There’s nothing quite like meeting a cow and savoring her signature gift.
To Karissma, Daydream, Victoria, Madison, Glory, Queen Anne, Kate and all the rest, I say "namaste."
Milk House Chocolates at Thorncrest Farm
Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
280 TownHill Road, Goshen, CT