Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Simple Homemade Goat Cheese

We've had two goats in milk for almost two day now. I'm getting over half a gallon a day. On paper it doesn't sound like much, but only two days in, I can see that I'm going to be swimming in goat milk by the end of the week. I drink a lot of milk, but not half a gallon per day! One thing I was looking forward to when getting mama goat in milk (aside from drinking the delicious milk) was making cheese. Good thing, too, cuz we have plenty of milk to spare for making various dairy products. And lemme tell ya, not only is goat milk delicious, but so is the cheese. This cheese tastes like mozzarella to me, so I can definitely see us using it on pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and anywhere else mozzarella would be tasty. Which to me is pretty much on anything. And best of all, it's ridiculously simple to make - only two ingredients required and can be made in twenty minutes!

First things first, you need to get yourself a really cute goat in milk. Or go with the less fun options - maybe a friend has some goats in milk, or you can even purchase goat milk from the store. I personally vote that you get a goat, but I'm biased.

Now, gather your ingredients, and supplies:

- 1/2 Gal. of goat milk (you can double the recipe if you have more milk, just be sure to double the vinegar)
- 1/4 C. White Wine Vinegar, White Vinegar, or Apple Cider Vinegar
....yes, just two ingredients!
- Optional, herbs to flavor

*Update: I've now used both white wine vinegar, and white distilled vinegar. White wine vinegar creates a firmer, more crumbly cheese (good for salads), while white distilled seems to create a softer, more spreadable cheese (excellent for toasted bread). Not sure why this is, if anyone has the answer, I'd be glad to hear it! :)

- Large Pot
- Wooden Spoon
- Colander
- Cheese Cloth
- Cooking Thermometer

Pour milk into the pot, and heat on medium heat until the milk reaches 185 degrees, stirring constantly to prevent burning. It took about ten minutes for mine to reach 185 degrees.

Stir in vinegar, and remove from heat. The milk will curdle within a few seconds. Allow curdled milk to rest for five minutes. Meanwhile, line your colander with the cheese cloth.

Pour the curds into the cheesecloth lined colander. You can place a bowl underneath the colander to catch the whey if you wish to save it to use in cooking.

Squeeze the excess moisture from the cheese - careful, it's hot! You can leave as little or as much liquid in your cheese as you like. I squeezed as much liquid out as I could, which resulted in a drier cheese.

Crumble cheese up in a bowl.

Add herbs. I used basil, and garlic salt.

I used a small bowl as a mold, but almost anything solid with four sides would work - be creative! I pressed the cheese down using my hands, then really packed it in using the bottom of a spice jar. The tighter you pack it, the more solid of a cheese you'll get.

Voila! This cheese is so wonderful, and easy to make. I have cheese making supplies, such as citric acid, and rennet tablets but something about just being able to use milk, and vinegar sounded awesome to me. It's so simple, and turned out beautifully. I will be making this cheese again, and again, and again. And the combinations of flavorings, and herbs are truly endless. Tomorrow I'll be making goat cheese with lavender and honey. Yum!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Mulberry Jam & Goat Milk

I need to get a move on things. I realized this morning that by this time last year, my canning adventures were well under way. I had already canned Blueberry Muffin Jam, Strawberry Jam, Strawberry Black Pepper Jam, Strawberry Mint Black Pepper Jam, and Peach Jam. I've pretty much had blinders on the last couple of weeks as we've been finishing up various projects here on the farm. We moved and expanded the goat yard (putting up fencing is really hard work in case anyone was wondering), converting one of our two barn overhangs into the new chicken coop, and gutting the old chicken coop to serve as the new goat house. It may not sound like much, but with just the two of us to do the work, my husband and I have been working our tails off. We had to get everything done by last Saturday night, as we were picking up three new dairy goats bright and early Sunday morning. I am SO pleased with these three new goats. They come from excellent milk lines, are stand trained (they're ever so patient with my newby milk maid hands), and well mannered. They are incredibly sweet, and snuggly.

Gingerbread (left), Butterscotch (Center), and Moon Pie (right).

Two of the new goats just freshened and are giving a quart to a quart and a half a day, and the third is a two month old doeling. We've never such a young doeling before, and I'm about to die of all the cute.

Two weeks ago, we drove two hours to pick up a goat in milk that we found on craigslist. We didn't find out until we got there that she had been running with several bucks, and may or may not be pregnant. Against my better judgement (and not wanting to waste such a long time on the road), we brought her home. She was almost impossible to milk. We didn't have a milk stand at the time (obviously a huge mistake that I'm laughing at myself for), and she wasn't familiar with the whole milking process (contrary to what we had been told by the previous owners, grrr). She kicked, and screamed, and kicked some more. After half an hour of struggling with her, we finally got about half a cup of milk out of her. Sigh. The milk was okay, but had a bit of a goaty taste to it. I can eat or drink just about anything, especially if its something I've worked so hard to obtain, so you better believe I used it!

Until we brought these girls home yesterday, I thought that was just how goat milk tasted; okay, but not up to snuff with cow milk. It turns out that goat milk sans buck scent is seriously incredible. I just polished off a pint of the stuff while writing this post. It's sweet, creamy heaven in a glass.

This morning as I was letting the chickens out of their new coop to free range around the farm, I looked over to see one of our many mulberry trees loaded with black, shiny berries. Oh my word. I grabbed a bucket, and began picking. While I was picking, the chickens discovered I had picked an entire bowlful of mulberries 'just for them'. 

I picked what I could reach, then laid down an old king sized sheet underneath the tree, and shook the branches like a mad woman! Good thing I don't have any neighbors... it looked a little like I was humping the air, and hanging onto the branches for balance.

The ducks got wind that there were mulberries to be had, and left their beloved pond to come get some.
Otis was very impressed with my harvest. He's pretty much the best cat ever. 

I ended up with five and a half cups of delicious berries destined for jam.

This recipe was adapted from the Ball Book of Home Preserving.

Mulberry Jam
makes 4 half pints

3 C. Crushed Mulberries (I leave the little stems on, but feel free to take them out)
2 C. Granulated Sugar
1/2 C. Lemon Juice
3 T. Ball Low Sugar Pectin
1/4 tsp. Butter (optional, it reduces foaming while the jam is cooking).

Prepare jars, and lids. Combine mulberries, lemon juice, and butter in a 6- or 8-quart saucepan. Whisk in pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can not be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly. Add entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Remove lid and let stand in canner for additional 5 minutes. Remove jars, cool, and store.