Cheesemaking (How to Homestead Day 5)

It only takes one moment to change and swirl views and to clarify answers.  One moment.  I have been near out of my mind trying to make a decision over the last nine months or so.  Should I go back to school?  For what?  Do I want a career?  School is upwards of (an additional from last time) fifty grand.  Should I focus on paying off debt instead?  Am I meant to be a teacher, anthropologist, or chef?  A conversation between Emily, Reed, Doug and I and we were pricing out land.  Even though it turns out we will have to wait another one to three years to move forward with that idea, it snapped me into the present.  My confusion should have been the key that I was not on the right path pursuing school.  My career is homesteading.

You can save a lot of money by homesteading, and you can make money if you choose as well, making it a viable career, particularly for a housewife.  There is great serenity to be found slowly stirring a pot of curdling milk and turning it into sharp cheddar.  Or sitting before a fire while crocheting a blanket.  Carefully pulling tiny weeds among the lettuces.  Gathering eggs and throwing scratch.  Hanging clothes on the line.  Piecing a quilt.  The smell of baking bread filling the house.  Serving delicious farmstead fresh food to your family and loved ones.  Yes, this is the life for me and mine.

If you are like me and are homesteading in a city that does not allow goats, then you will need to find a milk share.  I had a choice between goat milk and cow’s milk.  Goat’s milk contains identical enzymes to ours so is easier to digest.  It tastes delicious to us, but some folks prefer the super creamy cow’s milk.  You can use pasteurized milk (not ultra-pasteurized) for making cheese, but I am a raw milk gal myself.  Why kill all the nutrients?  That seems silly.

For soft cheeses, you will need nothing more than a pot, a thermometer, and cheesecloth.  Soft cheese is rather forgiving and you can use lemon juice or specific enzymes for making soft white cheese, like chevre.  (You can get these at Cheesemaking.com)

Simply heat a gallon of goat’s milk on the stove slowly until it reaches 86 degrees.  Pour in a packet of enzymes for chevre.  Let sit for 2 minutes.  Stir well and cover for 12 hours.  (I forgot to take a picture.  I also forgot after 12 hours and it ended up sitting for 24 hours!)

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Strain through a cheesecloth, reserving whey.  Whey is highly nutritious.  I gave some to my old cats and my dog.  I reserved some for the cheese to make it the consistency I want.  And some can be saved for bread making as well.  I use a strainer and clothes line clips to secure.  Let sit for 4-8 hours.  (Now, I had to go to bed two hours later so I put the whole thing in the fridge so it ended up sitting for 11 hours.  See!  Very forgiving.)

I only had 1/2 a gallon of milk this time so I used 1/2 packet of enzymes.  I will add lots of fresh herbs from the garden to this and make a lovely cheese for homemade pizza tonight.

If you make a lot more than you need you can roll a small log into plastic wrap, then foil, then pile the logs into a gallon bag and freeze.

To go further, purchase a cheese press, mesophilic and thermophilic starters along with rennet (vegetable or animal), and a great book.  That will get you started.  Cheese making is not as hard as it sounds and you may find yourself coming up with all sorts of delicious creations to serve with a glass of homemade wine!

Here are just a few of my posts with exact instructions.  Easy Homemade Goat Cheese and How to Make Hard Cheese 

The FSA (Family Supported Agriculture)

veggie 2“Do you know what you want in your FSA this week?” I asked Emily.  Eggs, goat cheese, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, sage, and pumpkin piled into the cooler.

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I have always been on that in-between-sized farm.  I can grow a lot of produce, but I have run into a few problems with a small farm.  When I take produce to the farmer’s market, most folks will pass up my small display to go to the big farm tables.  You have to have a big, vibrant display to get folks to stop.  I tried to do a CSA (community supported agriculture) one year and some weeks my customers got a lot, and sometimes barely a shoe box.  We used to pick the best to go to the market and for the CSA’s and then ended up with the garden dredges ourselves, or worse, out to eat because we didn’t have enough!

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This year I took produce to the market early on and ran into the very same problems so I stopped.  Our kale is still four feet high out there and vibrant ruby beets line the row.  We have eaten more of our own produce then we ever have before.  We put up quite a bit as well.  I still have Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and cabbage to harvest but the garden is sleepily falling into slumber.

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I have found more joy in delivering large bundles of produce to my grown children then I ever did going to market.  Knowing that they are eating delicious, organically grown produce, cheese, and eggs makes this mama’s heart happy.  I always throw in some meat from my friends’ ranches.  It is my way of giving gifts to my kids.  I can’t always help them repair their cars or pay their bills, but I can feed them.  It’s what I do best.

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FSA stands for Family Supported Agriculture.  Payment comes in the form of a hug, and that is just right for me.

The Happy Cheese Maker

IMG_20170917_102206We made arrangements to go see Sherry’s farm to pick up our first share of fresh, raw goat’s milk.  Roughly twelve minutes of driving and we were there.  I had no idea that we were so close to the farms in this area.  Goats frolicked here and there as her livestock dog barked.  Our new goat girl’s granddaughter skipped among the Alpines and La Manchas.  Piglets ran around in an enclosure in the back.  Chickens and ducks freely marched about.  Their wild vegetable garden looked prolific and baby goats looked for someone to give them a bottle.  We went home with two and a half gallons of delicious, frothy milk after lots of goat hugs.

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20170920_160636It has been two and a half years since I have made cheese.  I used to turn our own goat’s milk into a rich Gouda,  sharp cheddar, creamy chevre, and many other wheels of wonderful cheese.  I was surprised how quickly it all came back to me as I slowly stirred the curds.  A two pound wheel of cheddar is drying on the counter.

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We may not be able to have goats in the city but we can certainly help out another Farmgirl and get all the cheese we want in the process!

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Here are a few links to my blog posts about making cheese;

Soft cheese and Hard Cheese

Thanks for reading and helping me keep this blog alive and thriving.  Happy Autumn!

Growing Your Own Food (comfort, joy, and mushrooms on the counter)

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One of my favorite things about homesteading is being able to provide our own food.  To watch it grow, to prepare it, to preserve it, to savor it later.  To watch the milk hit the pail, turn it into cheese, or pour the delicious cream straight into dishes.  Fresh eggs, which taste nothing like store bought, being broken into a bowl.  Such comfort comes when combining foods that have traveled a very short distance into the kitchen.

The other day I looked over at the counter and there were oyster mushrooms sticking up!  Mind you, I have failed at every mushroom log venture and the like and I sure didn’t expect this one to be any different.  I took a mushroom class and it was fascinating watching the inoculated wheat be added the warmed straw and stuffed into a bread bag with promises of culinary treats.  Our house is so cold that I doubted that it was warm enough for the mushrooms to fruit.  They needed to be kept at 70 degrees for three weeks.  I couldn’t find a place over fifty-five degrees anywhere in the house except by the ducklings.  Their heat lamp helped raise the temperature just right.  A few holes were punched in the bag and after awhile these beauties popped out.  Now, one would take this bag after it was done fruiting and plant it.  So to speak.  Create a simple raised bed and fill with used coffee grounds.  Sprinkle the inoculated straw all over it and let nature do the rest.

Buckley’s Homesteading Supply has regular classes and Manitou Mushroom is the teacher’s site.  Fun stuff.

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So fresh eggs cracked into the bowl, whisked with creamy milk.  Add homemade goat cheese and chives.  Add chopped oyster mushrooms from the counter.  A bit of salt and pepper and there you have it.  Homegrown, homemade, homesteading scrambled eggs.  What a blessing to grow a bit of our own food!

How to Make Hard Cheese (step by step and sooo worth it!)

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My first batch of cheese this year was started with Miss Isabelle’s delicious, frothy, rich milk.  I am going to show you how to make a variation of Guido’s Cheese from the book “Home Cheese Making” by Rikki Carroll.  I chose this one to demonstrate because it is forgiving and versatile, a perfect first hard cheese.  I gleefully fed my friends it last summer along with red wine and homemade pickles.  It is truly delightful to make your own cheese.  All winter, after I had run out I begrudgingly bought cheese.  Oh, the horror! (expensive stuff) This year I will produce enough to put up for winter and include it in our milk share from our farm so others can try it too.

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First put 1/2 teaspoon of rennet in a 1/2 cup of un-chlorinated water and set aside.

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Pour 16 cups of milk (2 gallons of cow’s, goat’s, raw, or store-bought) into a large pot and bring temperature to 90 degrees over medium heat, stirring often.

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Add one package of Thermophilic starter (I get mine from Buckley’s Homestead Supply in Colorado Springs or Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora or you can order online.) and stir well. Put lid on and let sit for 25-30 minutes.

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Stir in diluted rennet and let sit for another 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes cut the curds in a checkerboard pattern with a long knife.  It is not an exact science, just slice through the yogurt-like mass every inch or so in one direction, then in the other direction, then kind of sideways.

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Now here comes the part about patience and the reason I didn’t think I would enjoy cheese making, but I do love it and I do love cheese, so this here is a labor of love (for cheese).  Stirring near constantly we have to finagle the stove so that we can raise the temperature one degree every minute for thirty minutes.  Most other cheeses we have to do this in a sink of water and add copious amounts of hot water to achieve this effect, but this one allows us to use the stove and cheat a little.

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Now I am at 120 degrees.

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I prepared a mold with cheesecloth and secured it with clothes pins.

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I place a strainer over another pot (to catch the whey) and pour the cheese into the strainer.

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Pack the cheese into the mold.

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Fold over the top of the cheesecloth and place a 3-4 pound weight on top.  If you are using a cheese press this can just be three inches of water in an empty milk carton hanging from the end of the handle.  You may as well get a cheese press, this activity is rather addicting!  You could use a cantaloupe or something, I suppose, as the weight.  The mold just needs to be a cylinder with holes in it.

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Now, we unwrap the cheese after fifteen minutes or so, turn it over, rewrap, and reset the weight.  The book tells us to do this several times at the beginning then a few more times over 4-6 hours.  The first time I made this I had just gotten the thing wrapped when I heard I needed to be at my son’s wedding three hours earlier than I thought.  So, left it and came back, turned it a few times, it was fine.  This time I had to go to Elizabeth to drop the baby off to her daddy so the cheese got turned three times over 4 hours.  It wasn’t as compact and sharp looking as store cheese, but it would do.  It was pretty tall so I actually cut it in half.  We’ll find out in a few weeks if that was alright to do.  After the four to six hours let sit under the weight for 24 hours.

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Make a brine using one pound of sea salt to one gallon of near boiling water.  Let cool down.  Maybe plan ahead and make it the night before.  I ought to do this.

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Place cheese in brine and turn every so often for 24 hours.

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Place on paper towels and keep in cool, dry place (like the cheese fridge) for 3 weeks, turning a few times a day at first (if you remember!) and then once a day or so after.  After two days you could soak the cheese in red wine for 24 hours then continue the drying process.  After three weeks, it is ready.  Just in time to celebrate summer!

The Kitchen Counter Cheese Cave

I was pleasantly surprised last year that not only did I enjoy making cheese, it also turned out amazing.  I usually do not enjoy tedious tasks that take a long time, but I rather enjoyed the process and definitely the result!  The problem is finding a place to store the wheels of cheese where they can properly age and develop flavors without being eaten by mice or molding.

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The proper temperature for aging cheese is 55 degrees with a bit of humidity.  I thought our old coal chute in the basement in the last house would be good but it was very dusty, had mice, and was sixty-five degrees all summer. I read that one could use a mini-fridge and I borrowed my friend’s.  The problem was that by keeping it on the highest setting to attain fifty-five degrees, the small freezer part kept leaking on the cheese.

I found a refrigerator on Craigslist that was cheap because it didn’t cool any lower than fifty degrees.  Jack pot!  After placing a bowl of water in there with the cheese I created quite a nice environment.  Then we moved.  The jostling of the fridge on the trailer made it begin to work!  It froze the cheese.  When it defrosted,  it began to mold something awful and the chickens were gifted wheels of really stinky cheese.

We tried a cooler with an ice pack.  We tried the back guest room.  No where was quite right.

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I thought about it all winter.  Fifty-five degrees.  What keeps its temperature at fifty-five degrees?  And then I recalled the wine fridge that sat atop the counter at our friends’ house.  Fifty-five degrees for good red wine.  Holy smokes, I was excited.  Wine and cheese at the ready all summer.

We found one at the hardware store on sale, no less.  I am borrowing another cheese press this summer to make more cheese.  I’ll have two going at a at time.  Manchego, a light Italian cheese, Parmesan, sharp Cheddar….oh my.  I’ve missed my own cheese.  Purchasing it in the store is sadly lacking.  The girls are due in four weeks!  Fresh milk is on the way!

Goats 101 (becoming a goat herder)

Our alpaca venture failed miserably, with a great financial loss, and two stubborn alpacas now working as lawn mowers somewhere in Limon.  I had to give them away.  I do love our chickens.  I adore the ducks.  I love goats.  I am smitten.

Our adventure started badly enough, a doe that wouldn’t come near us, would sit in the milk bucket, and give us dirty looks.  Katrina is so happy in her new home though, surrounded by baby goats, chickens, little kids, and even lets her new mom milk her without a stanchion!

Our other doe loved us tremendously, following us like a lost puppy, always wanting to help and snuggle.  She died in March giving birth.  Yet, our hearts were still in the game.  We were ready to be goat herders.

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Elsa was a gift from my goat guru, Jill, after Loretta’s death.  Jill had to move shortly after and also offered me Elsa’s mom, who is our milker around here.  Gentle and sweet, she is the perfect goat.  Amy and Rob adopted Katrina’s doeling that was born on the farm and adopted three others from Jill and have been boarding them here.  Six caprine comedians taking up residence.  They are a delight.  I highly recommend getting goats.

Here are some things you may want to know when contemplating becoming a goat herder.

1.  What kind of goat?

Fainting goats and pigmy goats are very good companions for horses and other pack animals that may get lonely in a large pasture.  They are fun to watch and are incredibly, ridiculously cute.  However, they are not really great as milkers and pigmies have issues giving birth.  They are more pet status then anything else.

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Nigerian Dwarves make really great goats in the city.  Denver and Colorado Springs now allow small goats, which Dwarves qualify as.  They are a sturdy, fun-loving breed.  They can give a quart or two a day of fresh, raw goat’s milk, perfect for a family homestead.

Twila giving Isabelle ideas of things they probably oughtn't be doing.

Alpines, Saanens, Oberhasli, and Nubians are great milkers.  Large in stature (Isabelle is bigger than our greyhound), they have large udders and drop twins and triplets often.  Nubians have higher milk fat in their milk which makes very creamy cheese.  Turns out Dwarves have the highest milk fat but you would need four days of milk to get enough to make a good block of cheddar!

We started with Dwarves because they were easier to handle in my mind.  We ended up with a purebred Saanen and her daughter who is half Saanen and half Alpine.  They are very easy to handle.  I am coveting Amy and Rob’s Alpine that lives here.  She looks like a Siberian Husky and is gorgeous and adorably sweet.  I may be adopting one of my friend, Nancy’s goats.  When she passed away her goats were quickly dispersed but one has come around to needing a new home again.  She is an older girl but still a great milker and now that I am obsessed with making hard cheeses, I would like a Nubian.

Expect to pay anywhere from free (if someone is desperate because they are moving) to $200 for a non-registered goat and between $200 to upwards of $800 for papered, purebred kids.

Always get two.  They are pack animals and cannot live in singles.

2. What About Disbudding? 

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Remember my story about the bad goats at our friends’ house that were babysitting?  Made me not want large goats at all.  Or goats with horns.  One thing that Jill and Nancy did the same in their goat raisings was disbudding.  Seems mean, hold down a two week old goat kid while they scream bloody murder and set a hot curling iron looking thing to their horn nubs and burn it off!  But, on closer inspection, it is actually not what it seems.  Jill’s goat guru (do you think I will ever be called that?), Brittney, disbuds all of ours.  She showed us how they are screaming because they are prey animals and being held down means they are about to be eaten.  You’d be screaming bloody murder too.  The burning is only on the hard, nerveless horn endings and takes about ten seconds.  Done.  It doesn’t touch the skin and two seconds later the goat kids are running around playing again.  I appreciate not having horns stabbed into my hip if someone wants to play, or having them stuck in the fence.

3. What Do They Eat?

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Goats like a diet of pure alfalfa flakes supplemented with pastures of weeds.  Actually their favorite is trees.  They love giant, green, taunting limbs of leaves.  And tree bark.  After the trees are gone, they will reluctantly munch on weeds.  It is a fallacy that goats eat everything.  One would be surprised to know that they are rather finicky eaters actually.  They will eat about three quarters of the hay you set before them, sigh, and wander off to find a nice bush sticking through the fence from the neighbors yard.  They do not eat tin cans, or odds and ends.

They should also be supplemented (this can be set out in small bowls to free feed) minerals and baking soda.  Minerals they are missing and baking soda to get rid of bloat.  They will help themselves as needed.

Lots of fresh water is imperative, of course.

4. Playtime

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Goats love a good time.  We have several discarded tires that are stacked up along with an old, rusty keg.  Doug calls it Mount Kegel.  It is a playground of fun (and used to reach the higher branches of trees).  Goats are really fun to watch play.  They head-butt (good thing they are disbudded) and jump 360’s off of wood piles and feeding troughs.  One night Doug was in the pasture with them at dusk.  Goats are particularly silly at dusk.  He would run across the yard then stop and turn to look at them.  All at once they would all rear up and start hopping on all fours like giant bunny rabbits….sideways towards him!  It was the funniest thing I have seen in a good minute.

5. Pasture Rotation

We are in a fine, old fashioned back yard so how we do pasture rotation is by fencing off half the yard.  They stay on one side for three weeks, then move to the other.  This allows them the grass to start growing back.

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6. Housing

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I bought a simple igloo for the goats as their house on one side of the yard.  The old alpaca shelter consists of a covering between the chicken coop and the garage.  It keeps the rain out and there is a gate on one side.  Goats do not need an entire barn.  The igloo is weather proof and kept rather warm even on our below zero days and nights last winter.  They enjoy sleeping outdoors when the weather is nice.

7. Breeding

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This one I have not experienced yet.  This is what I know.  Boys are smelly when they get older.  When they want to get it on they pee on their faces and let loose an oily substance on their skin that makes them irresistible to the opposite sex (of goat).  Lord, they are maniacs.  So, we will rent a man.  Jill knows of the perfect date for Elsa and Isabelle come late fall and either they will visit him or he shall come here and we will have a rendezvous and come spring will hopefully have adorable new babies around.  Dwarves should not be bred their first year.  That is what happened with Loretta (on accident).  Only the large breeds can have sex as teenagers.  The Dwarves need to wait a year.

8. Births, Milking, and Bottle Feeding.

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I have only had one birth here at the farm and it was while I was at the coffee shop so I missed it.  I did a post on milking. Click on any of the highlighted words in this post to read the relating post.  I highly recommend bottle feeding.

9. Fencing and Keeping Them In.

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Remember last year’s babies were out running down the street, eating the neighbor’s grass, and running through the fairgrounds during a rodeo?  We had the fence reinforced with smaller field fencing before this new bunch arrived.  Twila was being terrible to the little ones, as she usually is, so we put her in the other yard.  A split second later she cleared a four foot fence and was back with the little ones.

“How do you keep a goat in?” I asked Jill before this whole goat herding thing started.  She replied that if a goat wants out, there is no stopping it.  If they are happy, they will stay put.  I have friends that use six foot fences, some electrified, watch for holes, and things that they can use as spring boards.  We have a three and a half, some places four foot, fence of field fencing.  The kids stay put.  There was a new hole in one though the other day and Doug asked real casual like, “Why is Tank in your potatoes?”  He didn’t wait around to see if anyone was coming to fix the fence, he just wanted those potatoes!  Be vigilant but also know that they will and can outsmart you if they wish.  Just give them more tires and a lot of hugs.

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I am by no means an expert yet.  I am learning by trial and error, from my goat gurus, and from lots of books.  The goats teach me most of all.  Goats, as with every other creature on earth, are all very different.  Each one has a unique personality.  We have found a whole new layer of joy by becoming goat folks.

 

Easy Homemade Goat Cheese

I love the tangy, delicious flavor of soft goat cheese, often called Chevre, which is French for “goat”.  It is so easy to make and yields a lot more than one would get from the store.  It is versatile enough that it can virtually match any dish.  Herbs can be added, thick ribbons of basil, clips of chives, oregano, and green onion, a dash of red wine vinegar or lemon juice, and a good pinch of salt makes an amazing cheese to spread on crackers or fresh baked bread.

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Adding a little more of the whey to create a creamier cheese allows it to be dressed up in Italian seasonings, a splash of lemon juice, and salt, and used in place of ricotta which creates an amazing flavor profile when added to pasta and rich tomato sauce.  I added red wine, Italian seasonings, and garlic to my creamy cheese and baked it with ziti and spaghetti sauce.  Amazing.

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In this one I made it a bit sweeter than I typically do.  It is fantastic with its sweet and slightly sour flavor.  It is wonderful spread on breakfast toast or sprinkled on fresh salad greens.  I added a teaspoon of vanilla salt and poured ginger peach syrup (a failed jam attempt) over the top.  Very good.

You can make this with store bought goat’s milk, or indeed substitute cow’s milk, but we prefer fresh from the goat, raw milk.  Nothing tastes so good as really fresh cheese.

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Pour one gallon of milk into a stainless steel pot.  Heat, stirring often, to 86 degrees.

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Sprinkle on a packet of cultures.  These are the ready made cultures that we need to make a variety of cheeses.  They are available at cheese supply websites but I get ours from the local homesteading store (Buckley’s in Colorado Springs) or the local brew hut (Dry Dock in Aurora) that sells beer and wine making supplies.  Graciously, they sell cheese making supplies as well.

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Let sit for 2 minutes to rehydrate then stir into milk.

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Place a cover on the pot and let it set for 12 hours.  I do this so that it can sit overnight.

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In the morning line a colander with cheesecloth.  To help keep me from cussing I use clothes pins to secure it to the sides of the colander as I pour.  I have a pot beneath the colander to catch the whey.  This will be used in bread baking or to add a bit more liquid to my finished cheese if desired.

Pour the contents of the pot through the cheesecloth and catch all that fabulous cheese.  Tie the cheesecloth (I use clothespins to secure) and either attach it to the side of the pot to drain (as shown here) or tie it and hang it from somewhere to drain for 4-8 hours depending on how dry you want your cheese.  I like 4 hours.

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At that point, I refrigerate the whey, place the cheese in a container and start seasoning.  Enjoy!  There are beneficial enzymes in goat cheese that are important to our digestive health.  Goat cheese spread on crackers or fresh bread, a glass of wine, and a book beneath a tree.  One of the great pleasures of summer!

Farmgirl Cocktail

Everywhere I look, people are presently changing jobs, or moving (or trying to), ending relationships, or having babies, or other really big life changes.  It’s like the earth shifted some and our realities and plans with it!  What everyone seems to have in common though is that we are all working really hard and pinching pennies!  I am exhausted just thinking about all of the farmer’s markets, shows, last few months of running the shop, preserving enough food to get us through the winter, saving enough money to get us through the winter, and keeping up with regular farmgirl chores.  I could use a cocktail.  But I can’t be running around to wine bars with my friends anymore.  Time to settle in.  Invite some folks over and sit on the back deck and take a break!  And pull out my friend Rodney’s easy margarita recipe.
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Rodney’s Excellent Easy Margarita

1 tube of limeade frozen concentrate

Stick in fridge until it is about half thawed then pour contents into blender.

Fill tube twice with water and pour in, once with tequila and pour in then fill tube 1/3 with triple sec.  Blend, serve, mmmm……

(Now mind you, Rodney makes these a tad stronger but this is my variation so that I do not get too tipsy.  Not pretty.)

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Combine plain goat cheese with chopped green chilies and serve with crackers or chips.  Chop up tomatoes, cilantro, onion, and garlic for easy salsa.  Take one container of sour cream and add tons of garlic powder, onion powder, nutritional yeast, taco seasoning, anything really, and blend well for a fantastic easy dip.  Fresh fruit or grilled corn are easy accompaniments.  Enjoy your summer and friends!

Goats in the Kitchen (and homemade chevre)

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Not in my kitchen, though that would be fun!  My cats would wonder what kind of odd dog I had brought home this time, and Bumble, the greyhound, would have thought he had a new playmate.

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I went to Nancy’s house for an impromptu lesson on cheese and butter making.  The snow was falling softly and thickly outdoors, creating a mood more like Christmas than Spring, but the effect was nonetheless calming and beautiful.  Her little farm lay softly beneath the quiet snow and inside the kitchen things were hopping.

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Faleena brought the infants in to play for a few minutes and as they skittered about the floor, and took to us snuggling them, all was right with the world.  Goats in the kitchen seemed a perfectly normal activity and fueled my desire to have a proper homestead, complete with goats.

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The kids are still nursing so there is less milk to be had then if Nancy chose to run her mini-dairy as a commercial operation.  Which suits us fine as we don’t do anything to maximum production, just enough is fine with us.  We still had several half gallon canning jars filled with fresh milk at our fingertips to turn into delicious chevre.

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These little packages sure make life easier.  If don’t happen to have a young calf or goat to slaughter and retrieve the stomach lining from (traditional rennet), you can use one of these packets that have the proper cultures already made up for you to make your cheese.  You can also use vegetable rennet.  All we had to do was sprinkle this packet onto a gallon of raw, fresh milk and wait for 12 hours.  Nancy set up a bit of a television test kitchen by preparing half the batch the night before and letting me prepare the second half.  The first half was ready for me to finish and take home.

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At the end of the 12 hours, the milk has coagulated into something resembling panna cotta which made me start craving caramel sauce.  I then strained the mixture through a thick cheesecloth lined colander saving the whey for soups or dressings.  I was instructed to gather up the ends of the cheesecloth and hang it over the bowl to drain for 4-12 hours depending on desired consistency.  Promptly at 4 hours I unwrapped it.  Forget desired consistency, it depends on one’s patience!

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I made a delicious dinner of chevre filled manicotti covered in rich sauce of tomato, spaghetti sauce, peppers, wine, and spices, all from the root cellar.  Topped it with parmesan and breadcrumbs and baked it for 25 minutes.  I still have more chevre in the fridge waiting for the addition of green chilies to be spread on crackers for lunch.  Self reliance never tasted so good!

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Feeling rather pioneer woman-like, we moved on to butter.  We set up an elaborate hand cranked cream separator (goat’s milk has to be separated manually) and went to work separating rich cream from sweet milk rendering it skim and still quite good.  We placed the cream in pint jars and each took one.  We shook, and shook, watched homesteading films, and shook…..then moved it to an old butter churner and cranked…and cranked.  Doug has delicious cream for his coffee but alas, we did not succeed at making butter.  Next time!