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Monday, May 6, 2013

Melkspruit Dairies Pure Honey, Ladybrand, South Africa

I was in Southern Africa for a short time recently and spent most of my time in Maseru, Lesotho. Maseru is on the boarder of South Africa. If you look at the map, Maseru is just south of the "E" in "Free State" across the border into Lesotho. For a change of pace, one Saturday I went to Ladybrand, a border town on the South African side for lunch (at Living Life- highly recommend it). A new acquaintance mentioned that the 'Milk store' near the Spar supermarket had fresh unpasteurized milk for sale. It is hard to get unpasteurized milk in the US because of milk regulations and I had never had unpasteurized milk, so on the way home I went to check it out.
Southern Africa

Countryside around Ladybrand, South Africa

The Milk Store is a store run by Melkspruit Dairies. As far as I can tell, Melkspruit Dairies is a farm near Teneriffe, in the Eastern Cape, a rural location on the border of Free State, where Ladybrand is. A search online suggests that Melkspruit is known for its elevation (4,380 feet above sea level), its periodic earthquakes, and its proclivity to drought.

In the store they have large, refrigerated stainless steel vats of milk. You can buy a plastic container, or bring your own, and fill it with fresh milk. I saw a few people come in with empty plastic liter soda bottles to fill. As soon as I was out of the store, I had a swig of my small plastic bottle. It is wonderful, creamy on the top, and oh so milky.  I can now see what all the fuss is about. It really is much more flavorful.

Southern African Landscape
Now apart from milk, cream, flavored milks, and cheese, they also have honey that they produce on the farm. It is called "Melkspruit Dairies Pure Honey." I get the feeling that South African diary farmers are a no-nonsense lot who call it like it is. I had been looking for locally produced honey and was having trouble finding any, so I was very happy to stumble on some in the milk store. The fellow manning the counter, a friendly fellow with a ready smile and a ruddy complexion, couldn't tell me much about it other than it was produced on the farm. From my limited experience of doing a few hikes and driving in the area, the terrain is mostly low brush and scrub with some herbs, grasses and eucalyptus. Crops are mostly maize and sorghum, but I did see a few sunflower fields.

The honey was runny when I first got it, but it has since crystallized, so it is a pretty fast crystallizer. It is now an opaque, deep yellow color with specks of pollen and other fragments in it. It resembles lemon curb but with a deeper yellow color, almost the color of egg yolks. It is now a solid mass of medium sized crystals with a slightly floral beginning taste, that is then overpowered by the fresh, spicy taste of menthol. The menthol is undoubtedly from a eucalyptus source. It is a very good, high quality, unprocessed honey.
Melkspruit Dairies Pure Honey

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