Tag Archives: goats

Aged goat cheese

You’d think I wouldn’t have enough milk to make cheese. But the little bit I get each day from Bebe adds up and then I have to make something. I’ll toss a tablespoon of yogurt into a quart of milk, warm it up–and voila! a quart of yogurt.

Or, the other day, my postal carrier told me about something called cajeta. He often drops off the mail and then we talk about food–spit-roasted rabbits, steamed pumpkin drizzled with honey and mashed up with goat milk. Cajeta was goat milk slowly cooked with sugar until it became a caramel-y goo. The way he was drooling, I knew it had to be good. I had two cups of milk, so I decided to go for it. I had to stir the milk and sugar for an hour. Luckily, Bill was in an expansive mood so we talked and I stirred. The result was a gloppy goo–dulce de leche, great straight out of the jar.

I also made an order through Caprine Supply. Got a hobble, udder wipes, an iodine dip, and cheese molds. I tried making my own out of plastic containers drilled with holes, but they kind of sucked. Armed with these new molds, I hoarded milk and made cheese.

The fresh, triangular stuff turned out nicely. Creamy and light.

Because I had hopes to make aged cheese, I ordered some penicillin culture too. After the cheese firmed up, I started spritzing it with the white mold culture. It formed a rind after a few days left out (but covered to prevent flies).

After 10 days, Bill and I had a tasting. I secretly hoped it would taste like boucheron. Um, no. It wasn’t creamy in the middle, just firm. It kind of reminded me of the cheeses I tried in Portugal. Sturdy, nothing fancy. Definitely edible.

Goat smells

At the edge of the room in our apartment that I call the mudroom, the room where we milk Bebe, store tools, keep seeds, make vinegar, house crusty jars of canned goods, right where the door opens onto the backyard, lingers an odor of Farm. Bill’s even noticed it. I’ve wondered where exactly it emanates because I harvest the goat turds and sawdusty clods of urine every morning before milking. Then I saw Bilbo pee on the back porch. Ah-a! Goat pee plus wooden deck plus sunlight.
It’s an unbearably delicious smell as far as I’m concerned. It means good things, to me. Maybe I’m remembering my parent’s farm in Idaho or an old goat barn visited in the 1970s. The odor to my mind speaks of good things–goat cheese, dirt dappled potatoes, thick slices of multi-grain bread. Promises of coffee ground with a handmill in the morning, and marijuana smoked in the evening. Of course those days are gone, and we’ve all gotten over those silly pleasures, right? I guess some of us have not.

This past weekend I took Orla and three rabbits to Berkeley Fun Fair. The Berkeley Farmer’s Market manager asked me to bring some baby animals for the kids to pet, to be a one woman band of urban farming.

When I arrived, I unfurled my ghetto fence made of chicken wire and wooden stakes, put Orla on a leash, and sat under a tree. So many kids and their parents came up and told me stories about having farm animals, some of them in the city! Of wanting their kids to grow up knowing animals. One little girl cradled a baby bunny, and I told her it was destined for someone’s plate.
“Oh,” she said. “When will he be ready?” Matter of fact, she was. It might be the parents and our culture that socializes us to think that cuddly creatures can’t be meat.
“What about the goat,” she said. Orla was curled up in my lap.
“She’s going to be a milker,” I said, “But if we have boys, well, we eat them.” A Berkeley vegetarian lady heard me say that.
“So you eat the boy goats?”
“Yeah, I mean, how many boys can we have if these are milk animals? Or how many boy pet goats?”
She nodded, handed me a benediction in the form of a Stop the Spray flier, and went on her way.
I only stayed for a little over an hour–the noise of the music freaked Orla out–but I felt like I had done my work for the day.

When I came home, the adult goats came running, as is their habit, along the concrete corridor that separates our house from our neighbor’s. Bebe sniffed Orla, let out a sighing Bah, and she was welcomed back into the fold. Where she can piss on a falling down backporch with a view of downtown Oakland. Ah, the life of urban goat!

Let the cheesemaking begin

In my squalid kitchen, cheesemaking has officially begun!

More than two years ago I ordered chevre culture from New England Cheesemaking Company, promptly stuck it in my freezer, and forgot all about it. I had just befriended a guy in Berkeley who had goats and I had delusions of getting milk from him. It didn’t happen. But now, oh now, I can finally make my own.

But it’s not like I have an excess of milk. I’ve resorted to milking Bebe only once a day (Fiasco Farm said she does this, with healthy results, for over 10 years). Just as I get less milk from my Nigerian Dwarf goats, who work great in small backyards, I don’t mind getting less milk if it means I don’t have to milk twice a day. It’s not like I’m in the cheese business! I let Orla, Bebe’s daughter have access to her mom during the day (she’s milking for me!) and pen her up at night so I get the morning milk.

So, it took me four days to stockpile half a gallon of Bebe’s sweet, creamy milk. The directions on the chevre package said to add one packet to a gallon of milk, so I just heated up the milk to 86 degrees, and sprinkled in what looked like half the package. It was hard to see four days worth of milk used in an experiment like this. What if it didn’t work?

For 12 hours, the cheese set up in an undisturbed area. I heard that the culture can be finicky, so I didn’t peek at all. That night, when I finally looked into the bowl, the milk had pulled away from the sides and had two distinct layers: there was just this creamy, yogurt-like substance, which I ladled into cheese cloth, and the clear liquid, the whey, which I put in a bottle for drinking later.

I hung the cheese to drain, above the sink, using (as you can see) the rope from our cheap blinds. For using only half a gallon of milk, this cheese ball seemed massive! Of course, it was mostly residual whey. The next morning, the ball was deflated and hard. I peeled off the cheesecloth and viola! A white cluster of something—cheese—in the shape of a deflated ball of cheese. I whipped it up, a bit, added a shake of salt, and then, like I saw at Dee Harley Goat Cheese, molded it into plastic wrap with a bunch of pepper sprinkled on it.

How’s it taste? Pretty good, but it’s a little dry, and not as creamy as I had hoped. Later I read that I’m supposed to put the curds into these plastic cups with holes in them, and let the cheese drain for two days. So what I made was fomage blanc. Now I need to buy–or make–some chevre cheese molds. Then I want to try making St. Maure–a penicillin infused goat cheese. And, with the right cultures, there’s some hope of making mozzarella.

Goodbye Georgina, hello bunnies

Took my goat to work yesterday. Georgina melted everyone’s heart and a few people offered to buy her. This bodes well for my future in Nigerian Dwarf goat trading.

I held her on my lap for most of the day, where she slept curled up in a cuddly ball. Then her new owner met me at the station and took her away, back to Lake County, where she had been conceived. She’ll get to be around her half-sisters and brothers, and I’m sure she’ll have a great life. I can’t wait to see photos of her in 4-H competitions, where I’m sure she’ll win all kinds of prizes.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Bebe doesn’t seem to miss her baby, though her sister seems a bit lonely. I plan on holding her a lot, and milking Bebe more often, to take the place of Georgina.

In other baby animal news, here are the newest batch of bunnies! Six of them.

Which goat?

I’ve been staring at the goatlings’ backsides lately. They have little tiny udders. I simply can’t believe it! They’re only two months old, but they’re becoming little ladies.

which goat has better milking potential?

Anyway, I had a bit of a Rumpelstiltskin moment when Bebe’s former owner emailed me, asking for photos of the doelings–front, side, and back. They were taking their doe from the buy-back agreement we had made when I bought Bebe, all preggers. I thought the family only wanted a doeling who was polled (without horns) but it turned out they wanted to take Orla or Georgina, dependent on their backsides, because the family wants to show the goats in 4H and other Nigerian Dwarf shows.

When I look at Orla and Georgina, I guess I know that Georgina is a better looking goat–she’s got a straight back and long legs. So it wasn’t a surprise when the family decided they wanted Georgina. The mom explained:

“She is a lot more level across her topline, her rump is less steep, she has more width accross her chest, and she has a wider escutchen.” The escutcheon is an index for milking–the wider the better milk production.

But Orla is (truth be told) my favorite because she’s so docile and sweet. So we are all happy! The mom said it was a hard choice because both of the girls turned out really nice. And she predicted that next year, after I breed Orla, I’ll have more milk that I can handle. She said Bebe’s offspring often milk out 3.5 pound of milk! That’s almost a gallon! And, Orla’s got a suitor with blue eyes just waiting for her.