Saturday, February 27, 2010

Warm Goat Cheese Salad

Goat cheese is pretty amazing at all times. But, it is especially amazing served warm.

Warm Goat Cheese Salad
  • spring greens (rinsed and dried)
  • lemon mustard vinaigrette
  • 6 oz goat cheese (herbed or plain)
  • 3 tbsp toasted pine nuts pulverized
  • 2 tbsp bread crumbs (plain)
Toss the springs greens with the vinaigrette and set aside. Mix the pine nuts and bread crumbs in a small bowl.  Divide and form the goat cheese into four balls. Roll each ball in the bowl with the pine nut/bread crumb mixture. Slightly press the top and bottom of the balls to form small disks. Roll each disk again in the nut mixture. Place the four disks on a baking sheet and broil for 2-5 minutes.

Remove the cheese from the oven and place over spring greens. Serve immediately. Enjoy with pain complet and a glass of white wine.

Step 1: Build Goat Pen

If you have a large cleared area of land (at least 10' x 20' per goat) you're ready to build your pen.  However, if your area is not already cleared then obviously you need to clear it before you build. And, if your future goat pen area has an abandoned pig pen in it, you must remove that first.

So, for me, it was Step 0: Remove abandoned Pig Pen.

At first glance I thought, "okay, a good 2 hours should have that chain-link fence up and out of there."  After digging down a few inches and noticing that the bottom of the fence was no where in sight, I re-thought the projected completion time. Then, after digging down 3 feet I thought, "who the hell buries a chain-link fence by more than 3 feet?"

Apparently, pigs are notorious diggers so you must bury their fence so that they can't dig under the pen and wander away.  However, I can guarantee you that there is no pig in the world that can dig down more than 2 feet and thus, to be overly cautious, no fence should EVER need to be buried more than 30".

My first battle with the pig pen ended in frustration and a very sore lower back. I dug and dug and then pulled and pulled and still that pesky fence wouldn't budge. I'm rested and recovered and today I'm bringing in the artillery. A tractor. Instead of fighting with a shovel and desperately hoping that I can unearth the end of the fence, I've enlisted the help of a tractor.  I'm just going to rip that thing from the ground. Best outcome; the fence comes up clean and intact. Less desirable outcome; the tractor pulls up most of the fence and I bury whatever is left. Either way, this fight is already won.

The future site of the goat pen

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Birthday Fairy

The Birthday Fairy arrived three days early this year. She arrived in the form of a brown cardboard box from After initially pondering "did I order something?"and then, "I thought I canceled the items in my shopping cart?" and having my husband look at me in disbelief as if he was thinking, "how in the world can you not know if you ordered something," I realized it must be instead a birthday gift.  Of course that was it, and it wasn't me suffering from the onset of early Alzheimer's.

My fabulous sister sent me these books to highlight her support of my new adventure. She also sent them to show her awareness of my absolute ignorance about goats, and the craziness of this quest. I love her.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Early Spring

Spring arrives early in the desert. Especially when you consider that the last frost is the first week in March.  In light of this, I planted my seedlings on Valentine's Day with the hope that in a few short months I'll have my own vegetables and herbs for the dinner table.

The crop this year includes:
Purple Basil
Sweet Basil
Roma Tomatoes
Big Boy Tomatoes
Italian Parsley
Sweet Peppers

Maybe by July I'll be able to enjoy a nice tomato and goat cheese sandwich with goat cheese from fresh milk from my own goats and tomatoes from my garden ;)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tangy Victory

I am writing this post while happily munching on a goat cheese tartine. (A slice of toasted bread with fresh chevre smothered on it). And yes, I made it. With the help from those splendid people at Summerhill Dairy and the fantastic folks at The New England Cheesemaking Supply Company I was able to successfully produce my first batch of chevre.

After the curds had set and the whey had over 12 hours to drain, I divided the cheese into three batches. One was mixed with herbs de provence, the other was mixed with black pepper, and the third was untouched. I then rolled them in plastic wrap and squeezed them through a cylindrical mold. Now I have three happy cheese logs sitting on the top shelf of my refrigerator.

Basic Chevre:
1 gallon goat milk (I use Summerhill Dairy since it tastes fresh, isn't goaty  and the milk is not ultrapasteurized)
1 packet "Chevre" (you can get them here from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company)
Stainless Steel pot
Stainless Steel slotted spoon
dried herbs
non-iodized salt

  • Gently heat the milk to 86ºF
  • Pour in the Chevre packet and let sit for 2-3 minutes
  • Stir the milk to ensure even distribution of the cultures
  • Cover and let sit at room temperature (roughly 72-75º) for 12 hours
  • With a slotted spoon, gently place the curds in a colander lined with cheesecloth
  • Tie the cheesecloth and let the curds hang over the sink or a bowl for 3 hours at room temperature. 
  • Transfer the hanging curds to the refrigerator to continue to drip for another 9 hours
  • Put the curds in a bowl and sprinkle with 1.5-3 teaspoons of salt, mix thoroughly
  • Mold the curds or place in an airtight container for storage. 
The cheese should last about a week and a half in the refrigerator.  However, I cannot imagine that there will still be cheese left after a couple of days.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nubian v. Nigerian Dwarf

My father and I came to the conclusion that it would be better to get the dairy goat(s) before the brutal temperatures of the summer here in the Southern California desert. However, that means I only have a few months to 1) figure out which breed I'm going to get, 2) build her (their) pen on my parents' ranch and 3) find the goat(s).

Presently I'm torn between two different breeds of dairy goats. Nubians v. Nigerian Dwarfs. Nubians are regular sized with charastically adorable floppy ears. Nigerian Dwarfs are hardy, pocket-sized healthy milkers who have a reputation for being incredibly loving and sweet with humans. Some of the issues I'm mulling over are:
  • milk production
  • butterfat content
  • tolerance for extreme heat
  • gentleness to humans and children
  • fencing requirements

Apparently both breeds similarly satisfy the conditions above, but in different ways.

Another consideration is the availability of bucks for breeding purposes. Nigerian Dwarfs are not as popular and are actually considered an endangered breed in some areas of the United States. They are also not as revered by the dairy community are are frequently ignored in essays and articles regarding dairy goat breeds.  (This actually makes me want them more.) However, although Nubians are much more well-known there aren't that many that actually live in close promixity to me.  I don't mind driving a long distance, to pick up my doe kid or junior doe, but it may be problematic during breeding time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Simple Pleasures

Sometimes being a lawyer is hard. Sometimes the hours are long. Sometimes I dream of being a full-time cheesemaker.

Today was one of those days.

Today was also a day when I remembered the batch of herbed goat milk mozzarella sitting in my refrigerator.  What a wonderful way to end a rather tedious day.

Over the weekend I attempted a rendition of Ricki Carroll's "30 Minute Mozzarella" recipe with goat milk.  It didn't exactly go smoothly but the end result, after lots of herb de provence and 2 days of resting, was quite tasty.

I sliced a baguette and placed the cheese on the little slices and then melted them in the oven.  Oh how delicious it was.  At that moment I forgot the trial from this morning, I forgot all the client emails I didn't return and I forgot that long list of tasks waiting for me tomorrow morning.  Such a simple pleasure but it quickly lightened my mood and brought a smile to my face.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Milk Rantings-Pasteurization Gone Wrong

Not that I'm a cynic (okay perhaps I am a bit of a cynic) but apparently the capitalist model has proven a detriment to my health and my milk enjoyment.

The trend among large dairy producers is to over pasteurize milk.  Why do this you ask? For the one and only reason that it increases shelf life. It doesn't provide any enhanced protection from pathogens, it just allows grocers to keep it longer before spoiling.

The problem with over pasteurization (known as ultrapasteurization) is that the process and the excessive heat kills the milk. Dead milk won't produce cheese. All organisms in the milk are destroyed leaving the protein structures damaged. Damage proteins mean failed cheese attempts.

Another problem with over pasteurization is that there is no law that mandates labeling milk as so. Most milk is merely labeled "pasteurized" with the prefix "ultra" deceitfully missing.  You will not realize that the milk has been damaged until you attempt a cheese recipe.  This can result in costly and frustrating receipe testing.

Avoid over pasteurized milk like the plague. Ask your local supermarket to provide an alternative to such a nasty creation. Buy locally. Call dairy farms and ask about their pasteurization processes.  I just contacted a regional producer of goat's milk and they informed me that they do not over pasteurize but the milk is just pasteurized. Guess who's going out and buying a few gallons of their milk? Absolutely, me.

In the words of the lovely Ricki Carroll on over pasteurized milk, "It doesn't even taste good...If all else fails, buy a cow, a few sheep, some goats."  Thank you Ricki, I intend to.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Goat Cheese Pizza

Over the weekend I attempted the simplest of goat cheese recipes. Herbed goat cheese spread. Essentially it is just goat milk curds mixed with basil, pepper and salt. The result was light and delicious. My favorite recipe to use up this herbed spread was vegetarian pizza. Trader Joe's pizza dough, homemade tomato sauce, herbed goat cheese spread, sliced tomatoes, and grated romano cheese. Yummm, I'm salivating again just thinking about it. Needless to say it was fantastic.