Posts Tagged ‘goat milk’

Spring Ricotta


This  time of year we are having some warm sunny days and the heavy meaty dishes of winter no longer feel quite right, but I still want something warming  and filling.

At the same time, my doe goat Magnolia is nearing the end of a lactation, getting ready to deliver kids in six or seven weeks. At this point she’s producing just a quart a day, but it’s still rich milk produced entirely on alfalfa and I’m not about to waste it.

So every evening, after filtering the milk, I make ricotta, and when I have a few days’ worth of ricotta saved up I make ricotta al forno. I stole the recipe from Sarah Raven many years ago, and I haven’t tweaked it very much over the years because it’s perfect as is. The main change is that I use egg yolks instead of whole eggs. Yum.

Ricotta, about 1 and a half cups, but a bit more or less won’t hurt.
Yolks of 5 eggs
Salt to taste
Half a cup of heavy cream
Half a cup of grated Parmesan
Half a cup of pine nuts
Cooked veggies as desired. Or none.

Kitchen note: homemade ricotta is drained until quite dry. If you are using store-bought ricotta, you might need to hang it in the sink in cheesecloth or a clean towel for a few hours and let it drain. Otherwise, the resulting dish can be watery.  Another alternative, if you don’t want to take time to drain, is to add one additional whole egg to help it firm up a bit, or leave out the cream.

Put the ricotta in the blender with the cream and add the egg yolks one at a time while blending.  Blend in the grated Parmesan just for a second or two. Add salt to taste.  Decide whether you want vegetables. This is an endlessly versatile way to use leftover but good cooked vegetables. The version shown above has a couple of cups of leftover grilled zucchini, red bell pepper, and eggplant.  In the early summer, fresh cooked peas are absolutely delicious in this dish.  A good handful of chopped fresh herbs may suit your taste.  Just be sure that the cheese mixture is already seasoned properly.  Pour it into a buttered 8 inch baking pan, adding any cooked vegetables or herbs that you wish as you go. Top with pinenuts and push them in a little bit so that they don’t burn. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until done.  Let it consolidate and settle down for 15 minutes, then serve in  generous wedges.    A topping of your best homemade tomato sauce adds pizzazz.  My husband likes it with a sprinkle of extra finally grated Parmesan on top and run under the broiler for a minute, which produces the brown spots you see above. Just keep an eye on it because it does burn very quickly.

In June this is absolutely glorious made with some chopped fresh herbs and topped with homemade pesto.  For those of us who eat low-carb, it is something to put pesto on.  This lactation will only last two or three more weeks, but by June I will have fresh glorious grass fed milk again and be back in the ricotta business.




The Urban Goat

Goats are a practical dairy animal to have in a small setting, and they are delightful company, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you run out and get some. If you have a job as well as an urban-farming impulse, pay close attention to the timesaving techniques listed here.
1. Goats require excellent fencing, because they prefer brush, shrubs, and trees to grass and will destroy your plantings if they get a chance. The fencing also has to be sturdy enough to protect them from other people’s dogs, as well as coyotes and other wildlings.
2. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t “eat anything,” and in fact are picky eaters who can be expensive to feed.
3. They are very productive. This doesn’t sound like a problem until your refrigerator is crammed with mason jars of milk and you have no time to do anything useful with it.
4. To have milk, they have to have babies, and you have to have a plan for what to do with the babies.
With that in mind, here’s how I manage my “yard goats.”
They have a long thin pen, about 8 feet by 50 feet, very well fenced. There is an inside fence and gate allowing the paddock to be subdivided 1/3 to 2/3rds.
Housing is a large old wooden doghouse. They go inside in wet weather, but most of the time they lounge and sleep on the roof.
The bulk of their diet is good alfalfa. During the green season I cut armloads of Siberian elm branches and various weeds for them. I take care to know all the toxic weeds in my area so that I can avoid them, and there are some perfectly wholesome plants that they won’t touch. In late pregnancy and when in milk, they get a daily grain ration. I would like to produce milk completely on green feed, but they get too thin, so I haven’t pushed it. All grain ration needs to be formulated specifically for goats, since they have exacting mineral requirements.
They get routine clostridium and tetanus vaccinations yearly, twice for kids.

I don’t invest in milking stands or other expensive equipment. I just chain the doe to her feeding post, kneel down on a pat of straw, and milk directly into a stainless steel milk strainer with filter in place; this is set in the mouth of a sanitized mason jar, and I have a second jar ready. The jar, filter in place, is set in a clean food-grade plastic bucket to prevent kicking and to avoid any contact with the ground. Each jar is capped as soon as it’s full, and I put them in the refrigerator as soon as I’m done. This only works with quart jars, because they are small enough to cool rapidly in the refrigerator. If you use bigger containers, you would need to chill the containers quickly in an ice bath. This adds up to more hassle and expense. I prefer to keep it simple. I use standard udder wipes to clean the udder before milking, but I don’t dip the teats afterwards because the babies are going to be nursing.

Now here’s the part that is a little unusual compared to standard practices. I only milk once a day. This is because my career doesn’t allow me the luxury of milking twice daily and bottle-raising the kids. So I let the kids grow as nature intended. After the does freshen (give birth,) I leave the kids with mama full-time and milk out any excess milk once a day. For the first two weeks, I feed the milk to the chickens because it contains colostrum. There isn’t a lot of milk these first two weeks anyway. After that the milk supply will gradually increase, reaching full production after two months. I continue to milk once a day, and about a month after the birth, when the kids are growing fast and drinking nearly all the milk, I start to shut the kids in the small end of the pen for about 12 hours a day. I do this in the morning before going to work, and in the evening I milk and then let mom and kids back together overnight. Both doe and kids have access to all the alfalfa they can eat, and the doe gets a grain ration while being milked.

By the time the kids are two months old, I can take a day off milking here and there if I want to, just by not separating them in the morning. If I have to go out of town, doe and kids stay together and, as long as a reliable person feeds them, they do fine until I get back. Managed in this way, my Saanan doe Magnolia gives two quarts of milk a day plus what her offspring drink, and the kids are raised with no trouble to me, which seems like a good deal. After about 8 months the doe will start kicking the kids away when they try to nurse, but at this point I’m ready to quit for the year anyway, so I let her dry up. Along the way she’s been bred, and we can all wait quietly through the winter for the next batch of kids. It wouldn’t work commercially, when a steady supply is crucial, but it suits me fine to be free of milking chores during the short days of winter.

If you are thinking of getting goats, keep those kids in mind, because you have to do something with them. You may be able to place the females as “yard goats” for others, but about half your kids will be male and the only real market for them is for meat. If you don’t eat them yourself, someone else is likely to. Goat is one of the most widely eaten meats on the planet, and the meat of young goats is delicious, so do consider having your excess kids butchered for your own use. It’s a good healthy meat source

To get milk you need babies, and to get babies you need access to a buck. In my opinion, it is unwise even to think of keeping a buck in an urban or suburban setting. They smell terrible in breeding season, and your family and neighbors will not appreciate it. This is the sort of thing that gives urban homesteading a bad name. Find a breeder with a buck, or pair up with a rural pal who is willing to keep a buck.

Set a firm limit on how many goats you are going to keep, and stick to it. For me, that limit is two adult does, with kids in season, but no additional goats kept over the winter. And get the wonderful cookbook Goat, to help you stick to your limit.

Goat milk in the morning, and a great goaty book

My goat does Magnolia and Cocoa are out being bred right now, and the back of my property is depressingly silent, with none of the constant cross-talk that occurs as they stand on the roof of their goathouse observing the antics of the rest of us. It makes me realize how much they’ve become part of our daily lives. In their absence, I’ll talk about some things that I do with goat milk.
Of course I make cheese, mostly soft cheese and halloumi. I plan to discuss cheesemaking in some later post, but for now let’s get on to the fresh milk. You will hear it said that goat milk tastes just like cows’ milk, to which I say “Not so fast.” On day 1, goat milk tastes much like cows’ milk but even when impeccably fresh it has a tangier flavor profile. However, it contains lipase that works on the lipids and changes the flavor. On day 2, it’s good but you will know that you’re drinking goat’s milk. On day 3 it’s quite strong and only good for making stronger cheeses, and on day 4, as far as I’m concerned, it’s chicken food (they love it, by the way.) So the goal is to use it up by the end of day 2.

I’m always looking for nutritious, tasty, and interesting things to eat for breakfast. They have to be very quick, because getting to work in the morning is not optional. And they have to hold me for hours so that I’m not tempted to snack.
One of my favorite breakfasts is a sort of warm pudding of goat’s milk and rice. The flavors are based on an Indian drink of warm milk sweetened and flavored with saffron that I read about in my early twenties. I recommend cooking this in an unglazed clay pot for the ineffable earthiness it confers, but do use a flame-tamer device or a simmer burner, because scorched milk adheres to clay like stucco. You can make several days’ worth at once and it will keep in a good cold refrigerator for up to a week.
Start with eight cups of fresh goat milk. Add half a cup of unwashed uncooked basmati rice or jasmine rice. Start the burner on low, and as your clay pot warms up, increase the heat gradually to medium. Add half a cup of agave nectar (important for its low glycemic index), a half teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of saffron crumbled between your fingers, and a half teaspoon of cardamom crushed finely in a mortar and pestle (please don’t use the preground stuff.) For the first half hour you will need to stir frequently, scraping the bottom of the pot well all over with a wooden spoon so that the grains of rice don’t stick and scorch. Once the milk comes to a good simmer, turn the burner down as low as possible and add the flame-tamer under the pot. Add a large handful of raw shelled pistachios or slivered almonds. Let simmer, uncovered, for 4-5 hours. Stir occasionally. When a milk-skin forms on the top, stir it in. The rice will swell and the milk will cook down. You are aiming for something about the consistency of half-and-half, although naturally it will be lumpy with softened rice grains. It will thicken as it cools. Eventually you will have what looks like a cream-soup of a beautiful creamy-gold color. Turn off the burner and let it cool. Taste when cool, and add a little more sweetening if needed, but keep in mind that this is a breakfast, not a dessert. Store in a container in the refrigerator and ladle out into pretty little bowls, heat gently in the microwave (I use two minutes at the defrost setting for two bowls) and eat. I like to pour a tablespoon or so of extra fresh milk across the top for extra gleam and “juice.” It turns breakfast into a little ten-minute island of luxury, and the boost from my own chemical-free hormone-free alfalfa-fed goat milk is considerable.

Goats are compact, hardy, and economical, and the amount of milk they produce relative to body size is prodigious. It’s no surprise that they were among the earliest domesticated animals (although well after dogs) and that they still help people eke out a living in marginal circumstances all over the world. They are the ideal dairy/meat animal for small properties. And yet, rarely are the meat or milk seen in American cookbooks. This book changes all that, with scores of carefully composed recipes for the meat, milk, and cheese that goats produce. Buy it if you have goats or access to goat products. If you don’t, it’s still a great read, full of stories about the authors’ interactions with these highly interactive animals.
Also, checl out Mark and Bruce’s marvelous blog about making and eating real food, Real Food Has Curves.