Exploring Orkney's larder - milk

Discover new products and recipes from Orkney's food and drink producers with our feature, Exploring Orkney's Larder.

Our regular food blogger Rosemary Moon has been sampling more of Orkney's finest produce. Keep reading to try her recipe for yourself.

Crantit Dairy and William Shearer, Kirkwall’s grocery-cum-everything-emporium, got together in late summer to launch a re-fillable glass milk bottle scheme for Orkney’s local milk. Shearers are certainly very busy, with people of all ages getting their bottles re-filled. I caught up with Graham Bichan, the third generation of Orkney’s family-owned dairy, to find out if the refill station has taken off as he hoped it would.

Publicity around the bottle re-filling seems to have fuelled added interest in local milk and Graham says that the scheme has actually grown demand for the Orkney white stuff. Being regarded as a go-ahead dairy has seen more Crantit milk flying off the shelves across the county and, as yet, no decrease in the amount of plastic going through the dairy. This is obviously good for Crantit, but it isn’t quite what Graham had in mind when Shearer’s approached him about the refill idea.

Graham has seen a few door-step delivery customers change to the glass bottle scheme which he is unable to service on the delivery rounds. “It has to be down to the customers to wash their bottles thoroughly and dry them before taking them back to the shop to be refilled,” he said. “We would have to install both a washing and a new filling line to be able to collect empty bottles and re-use them, which would obviously be very expensive for us.

“We worried initially that people would not clean their bottles properly and would come back to us to say that the milk wasn’t keeping so well, but that hasn’t yet happened. We are delighted that our refill customers are doing their bit to ensure that this works and our delicious Orkney milk is seeing ever increasing demand,” explained Graham.

Graham Bichan from Crantit Dairy

He would like to see more retailers install the refill stations. Shearer’s initially bought the bottles but Crantit could source them too. Also, the current government scheme to encourage island communities to use refillable containers to cut down on single-use plastics could help other shops with initial costs of buying bottles from Crantit.

“We supply the dispensers so it’s just the manpower to actually do the refilling if we get the bottles sorted,” explained Graham. “Our aim was to cut down on plastic as we have to bring those containers into Orkney and then there is the cost of exporting them to be disposed of, none of which makes sense.

“We’ve looked for more bio-degradable packaging as we know our customers would like it, but there is nothing available. The right way for the planet has to be the easy way for the customer. We are doing all we can to make that possible.”

Inevitably our conversation then turned to cooking with milk and whether changing food fashions affect how people use milk in their kitchens now. It was the mention of rice pudding that had us both licking our lips the most, so here is a quick stove-top rice pudding recipe, flavoured with cardamom and caramelised oranges. I created this for a Scandi-themed supper and served it with a dried fruit and orange salad and Norwegian Gjetost cheese. There’s no need to do that though - it is delicious by itself! Other top milk recipes in our house include homemade yogurt and cod or haddock with parsley sauce.

Orange and cardamom rice pudding

Ingredients (serves six)

  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • 600ml whole milk
  • 2 medium oranges
  • 60g short grain rice (paella rice works well if you don’t have pudding rice)
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 25g butter
  • 4-5 tbsp low fat creme fraiche


  • Crush the cardamoms lightly. Heat with the milk in a medium pan until almost boiling then remove from the heat and leave for 10 minutes or longer. Strain the milk and rinse the pan in cold water.
  • Grate the zest of the oranges onto the rice on a plate and add 25g of the sugar. Bring the strained milk to the boil in the same pan, shoot in the rice etc and stir. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally (to prevent a skin from forming) for 30 minutes, until thickened and the rice is cooked.
  • Meanwhile, cut away the pith from the oranges then cut the fruit in half lengthways and remove the cores and as many pips as you can. Roughly chop the fruit. Drain the juice off the chopping board and reserve it.
  • Heat a non-stick frying pan, add the butter, the remaining 50g sugar and the chopped oranges. Cook over a medium high heat for about 6 minutes, until the mixture is lightly golden, then carefully add the reserved orange juice to stop the caramelisation.
  • Stand the rice for 5 minutes then stir in the crème fraîche followed by the caramelised oranges. Spoon into individual dishes and serve with an orange-based fruit salad, or just as it is.

Rosemary Moon ‘retired’ to Orkney after a long association with the salmon industry in the islands. The author of 19 cookery books and countless more recipes, including writing for Waitrose and Lakeland, she has brought journalists and food writers to Orkney in the past to show off our diverse and delicious food and drink. After several holidays here Rosemary and her husband Nick have settled in South Ronaldsay but, once a cookery writer always a cookery writer, Rosemary is finding it impossible to stop jotting down the new recipes that she is creating with the island produce.

Rosemary also writes and vlogs about whisky and is particularly interested in whisky and food matching. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram and on her rosemarymoon.com.

The Promoting Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.

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