Welcome back to Magnetic North and one happy goat milker. I have just turned out my first successful batch of chevre. Chevre, that’s French for creamy, sweet, almost-better-than-dark chocolate, cheese!
My first batch, made soon after I acquired my Alpine milk goat, turned out - well.....yucky. Think Silly Putty and you’ll pretty much get the picture. Well, that was over a year ago and since then, I’ve gotten more and more milk from the goat and learned a thing or two about cheese making.
First, read the cheese-making book. Second, follow the directions for processing the milk. Third, read the recipe and don’t improvise like you usually do. One would think that having arrived at the venerable age I have, I’d have learned to do all of the above. But no.
Lucky for me, I’m stubborn. I come from a long line of Brits and defeat is not in my genetic profile.
And so, on the eve of our last wave of summer guest invasion, I began collecting quart jars of goat’s milk and readied my cheese-making supplies.
I should tell you that my goat, Harte, named not for the organ, but the writer, Brett Harte, is too much fun to milk to consider the task work. Once or twice a day I take a big old blue zippered carryall bag and stuff it with the following:
* two coffee cans half full of scrumptious feed, a blend specially made for lactating goats,
* A tall plastic pitcher with a twist-on top,
* A washcloth that’s just been soaked in hot, soapy water packed into a plastic bag,
* antibiotic spray, udder balm - like the richest hand cream you’ve ever known, and a few slices of gala organic apple.
Once inside the corral I am surrounded by six anxious goats and one very polite, but hungry, llama. To their credit, no one lays a hoof on me as I distribute the contents of one coffee can between two feeding stations. Then, as the rest snarf down their chow, I take Harte by her collar into the barn and shut the door. She is already up on the metal milking stand by the time I get all my supplies ready. Then, it’s give her the other can of feed - she gets as much as all the rest combined because she is making milk - thread the milk stand chain through her collar and prepare her udder. A spray of antiseptic, a rubdown with that warm washcloth and a couple of clean-the-jets squirts of milk and we are into the routine.
Harte finishes the grain before I have even an inch of milk in the pitcher. So keeping her content for the next 15 or 20 minutes is a challenge. Massage, scratching and my pathetic attempt at singing gets the job done. And no, I WILL NOT be sharing Harte’s top 10 milking songs. That’s between me and my goat!
Each milking nets anywhere from two to four cups of milk, all of which has to be cooled within a half hour to a certain temperature to qualify for the two top grades of milk. Sloppy cooling results in off tasting milk or cheese. And who wants that? Well, besides my Lab, Scout?
After cooling the milk in a sink full of cold water and ice cubes, I pasteurize it in a double boiler. Bringing the milk to 160 degrees for three minutes, then pouring it into sterilized glass jars which I store in the fridge until cheese-making time. I need 16 cups of milk to make two pounds of chevre. That, and some rennet tablets, yards and yards of cheesecloth, about a day to set and drain the curds and that’s it.
Simple? Yes. Easy? No. But then if I wanted easy I wouldn’t be living up here. Wouldn’t be keeping chickens for their eggs or angora rabbits for their fabulous fuzz. And, need I say, I wouldn’t be having nearly as much fun or stuff to write about!
Airdate: August 28, 2010