During our roadtrip around Hokkaido, it was only fitting that we spend some time with the famous Hokkaido cows and related products – we found the Watanabetaiken Experience Farm where we got to try just that!
We were not having a great weather day (it was raining), but the farm had an all-weather-friendly course which we picked. It included: milking a cow, drinking fresh milk, making butter, and making ice cream – kinda like the general value chain of getting from cow to ice cream 🙂 We did not follow that same sequence, but I’ll share the experiences in that order for logic sake (+ drinking fresh milk is quite self-explanatory, so I will skip that):
Milking a cow
We were introduced to Nanami the cow, who was about 3-4 years old, and learnt about some general cow facts (there was a translator on hand who helped translate everything to English for us). The instructors did a demonstration on how to grip the cow teats properly, and also got us to greet Nanami, and thank her after our milking session with her:
Successfully milking a cow without getting kicked in the face! Thank you, Nanami!
I didn’t realize how butter was made until the workshop – it’s basically mostly churning of milk and cream to get the butter (and the by product is skim milk). You can imagine how this was an easy yet challenging exercise (5 minutes of hand churning the mixture haha)
The task involved very simple materials – a bottle filled with one part of milk and one part of cream
I started shaking the mixture with one hand, and swapped to the other hand; did that a few times until my arms got tired and I had to use both hands 😀
Magically, after 5 minutes, a lump of butter is formed! Sitting in the middle of a pool of skim milk – so cool!
We poured the butter and milk through a sieve, and enjoyed the fresh butter on biscuits, and drank the skim milk from the bowl. It was so amazingly yummy I never loved butter so much until that moment!
Making ice cream
Slightly more complex than making butter, but still a lot more basic than I would have imagined – we were presented with very basic ingredients for the ice cream making session:
Sugar, vanilla essence, egg (only yolk used), milk and cream
One of the two most difficult steps, separating the yolk from the white, was handled by my partner:
Very well done – he’s good husband material haha
I helped with the more straightforward tasks of dropping the yolk into the milk and cream mix, and adding in sugar and vanilla essence.
I did contribute to the other difficult part of this effort – churning the mixture in a cold manual ice cream maker contraption for about 10 minutes…
Started with a milky liquid mixture…
…then it got somewhat thick and clumpy almost like a dough…
…and finally into fluffy ice cream!
In the meantime, these were my various stages of enthusiasm in the churning process (was a great arm workout though):
Ta-dah! When churning is done, we pull the main churning piece out, and all the ice cream is stuck onto it – I wish there was more ice cream but then again the churning would probably have been much harder oops
I might not be the most objective person to say it, but this was one of the best tasting ice creams I’ve ever had in life ❤
Details of the workshop
Duration: ~45 minutes; I didn’t think we’d be able to accomplish so much in such a short time, but we did! It was also where I learnt how simple it was to make butter and ice cream (in very small quantities). We went directly to the farm and could start almost straightaway – did not have to book ahead of time (but the farm closes at 3:30 or 4pm, so we likely just made it for the last round)
Price: 2,500 JPY (~30 SGD), inclusive of all materials, and also a glass of fresh milk to drink
Level of fun: 4/5
Interacting with an animal i.e. milking a cow is something that most people would likely get excited with, at least I did! And I also LOVE ice cream, so I might a bit biased when evaluating how fun it is to make ice cream. The fact that the ingredients and tools were relatively basic, and you can watch the butter and ice cream transform in front of your eyes made it really fun
Level of difficulty: 1.5/5
This was a really simple workshop (except maybe having to separate yolk from egg white – if you haven’t done it before just using egg shells, I can foresee you needing help, which I am sure the staff will render), and just required a bit of effort (strength and stamina) to keep churning the ingredients. The staff were super friendly and helpful, and there was always someone on hand who could speak English to translate instructions and inputs to us, which was really helpful.