Farmgirl’s Eggnog Revisited

I wrote this post a few years ago to use up all the fresh milk and eggs from my farmer girlfriends.  Now with my own, I felt it was certainly worth repeating.  You can use store bought milk and eggs if you trust your eggs.  A nice addition to this recipe is 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of peppermint, orange, or almond extract.  Enjoy!

eggnog

Farmgirl’s Eggnog

In a blender combine:

3 eggs (We use farm fresh eggs from the coop.  They are raw in this recipe so use eggs you trust!)

2 1/2 cups of milk (You can use any milk but I sure love my goat’s milk.)

1/2 cup of organic raw sugar (Yup, half a cup, this is the holidays.)

2 Tablespoons of homemade vanilla extract (Or 2 teaspoons of store bought. Click here for homemade vanilla extract recipe.)

1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

Turn blender on and in a minute you will have a delicious way to start the holiday season.

Add spirits if desired but I like mine fresh and cold as is.  Cheers!

How to Make Easy Farmer Cheese (and supporting your local farmer)

cow

A ex dairy farmer who then has to begin purchasing from other farmers has a small heart attack when billed.  Never mind the cost of sweet feed, alfalfa, minerals, milking implements, and boyfriends, we don’t see all that, we just hear $8 for a half a gallon of fresh, frothy, raw milk.  $6 for free roaming delicious eggs.  “Oy, I used to get that for free!” I yelp. (Of course it wasn’t free…)

Okay, so yes, for a buck fifty you can get subpar, pasteurized, feed lot cow’s milk.  Some cheap eggs from chickens that don’t move…ever.

Now, relooking at costs.  I made 3 cups of fresh farmer cheese last night for the cost of the milk.  $8.  If we consider how much 4 ounces of goat cheese or farmer cheese costs in the store (around $5) we can easily see the deal we are getting.  This constitutes the protein in a meal, so replaces meat.  Eggs make several meals and additions to recipes, making it a very economical meal, even at $6.

The key is changing one’s perspective that farm food is the same as supermarket food.  It is much higher nutritionally and much more delicious.  It provides more meals at home around the table.  And helps a farmer.  We are a dying breed.  Women farmers represent 20% of all farmers.  But with up to 5000 farmers calling it quits (or losing, like we did) we need to support local agriculture.  We just have to.  I’ll be joining the ranks of women farmers again but I cannot have goats in the city we are moving to so no milking…yet.  In the meantime, I will support a farmer.  It is well worth the extra few bucks.

Here is an easy recipe for farmer cheese.  You can use store bought milk but if you can get a half gallon of raw, please do so.

Jpeg

Pour 1/2 gallon of milk into pot and heat over medium heat stirring often until just boiling.  Turn off heat.

Jpeg

Pour in 1/4 cup of homemade red wine vinegar (click here for the recipe), other vinegar, or lemon juice.  Watch the curds separate from the whey.  If needed add another 1/4 cup.  The red wine vinegar makes a pretty color.

JpegJpeg

Once separated, pour into a colander lined with good cheesecloth.  I mean it, spring for the good cheesecloth.  (Geez, I don’t even have clothes pins anymore.  I am starting my homesteading journey again from scratch!  I used a headband to secure the cheesecloth to the colander.)  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sea salt over cheese.

Jpeg

Fold sides together and hang off the side of the pot for 2-12 hours.

Jpeg

When finished, remove cheesecloth while placing cheese in bowl.  From here you have a very plain tasting cheese.

Jpeg

Here I added 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning.  1 teaspoon of truffle salt.  A drizzle of garlic oil.  1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  A dash of sugar.  Use hands to combine and crumble.

Other ideas would be sugar and cranberries, and orange zest.  Or minced garlic and chives.  Use your imagination!  Put in enchiladas, lasagna, in salad, on crackers topped with jam.  Homemade cheese is an easy homesteading staple!

The Little Dairy (a homesteader’s necessity!)

IMG_1132

Every homestead would benefit from a goat.  These dog-sized animals come with mega personality and fun while giving delicious milk for the homestead dairy cupboard along with chocolate milk, cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, and ice cream!  Goats don’t cost much more than a dog does and the investment is paid back in crazy antics (like jumping 360’s off of a pile of tires), snuggles, and food.

image8

Goats are great with kids and teach them about farming.  There are many cities and counties that allow goats now.  There are many types of goats to choose from ranging from Nigerian Dwarves to Saanens.  Dwarves give one to two quarts a day of rich milk while Saanens and Nubians can give one to two gallons a day!  Not too shabby.

image7

I love cows but they are hard to sneak into the city and they eat a lot.  Our Isabelle gives more than a gallon a day.  It is illegal to sell raw, nutrient rich, frothy, delicious milk.  However, a share is a good way to help other families receive a bit of milk for themselves. Our shareholders pay a small buy-in fee and a weekly boarding fee which entitles them to a set amount of milk.  So, Isabelle essentially belongs to four families!

IMG_1019

Our household still has plenty for cooking, drinking, and putting into vast amounts of coffee before farm chores.  I also make two pounds of cheese a week.  Today I will make Manchego aged in truffle oil.  I expected to have Elsa in milk too (she is doing great at her new home, by the way) so I was going to use Elsa’s milk for our needs and cheesemaking and Isabelle could supply shares.  But our plans never work out quite like we think!  Isabelle is still giving us all we need and lots of kisses as bonus.

image6

Goats are one of the only things that pay for themselves on this farm!  They do better in pairs.  Isabelle is a little tired of being followed around by her two month old sheep brothers, adorable as they are.  We traded Isabelle’s doeling for a doeling from Poppy, our friend Jenet’s goat, who is due in a few weeks.  We are hoping for a girl!  Then a little two day old Nubian will join our humble homestead.  If not, then we will be on the lookout for a companion for Isabelle and future milker.

IMG_3396

The other side of having a delightful goat that gives sustenance to a farm is the time involved.  Every day, rain or shine, or blizzard, Isabelle is milked at 8:00 in the morning and 8:00 in the evening.  Every.  Single.  Day.  This halts one’s spur-of-the-moment plans, but it is worth it.

IMG_1144

This year, I have been cutting the rounds of cheese in half so that I have one pound wheels.  One to keep, one to give fine folks that donate to our farm.  I blended white wax with red wax and found it created a lovely pink patina to cover my cheeses with.  I love it.  My favorite color. I think it will be my new thing.

IMG_1063

I simply cannot imagine a homestead without a goat.  A homestead necessity!

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.

DSCF2002

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.

IMG_2084

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.

IMG_0173

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

IMG_0177

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.

IMG_0180

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

IMG_0181

IMG_0182

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

IMG_0185

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.

IMG_0186

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!

Milking 101 (and the benefits of raw milk)

IMG_2084

I had milked a goat when I was nineteen working at an animal shelter that happened to have taken in a goat.  Looking back it seemed very easy and I don’t remember any issues.  So when we got Katrina I thought it would come back to me.  Of course Katrina wouldn’t let her milk down and I had no idea where to squeeze on her giant Dwarf udder.  A friend came to our rescue and showed us how to milk her.  We were so thrilled with our half a cup of milk each day, that is if we could keep her from kicking the pail and making us lose all the precious coffee creamer.  She supposedly had perfect udders but it didn’t help me because I left the baby on and she really had no desire to share with me.  I sold her and her new mama milks her without a milk stanchion and gets a quart a day!  She just wasn’t meant to be mine.

Jill gave us Isabella Noni, our giant Saanen who gives a gallon a day of delicious, creamy milk.  Jill warned us that her udders were not great.  They seemed like heaven to us after trying to milk Katrina.  I did soon figure out why I couldn’t milk very well after watching another gal milk her Nubians.  She continued a conversation with us, not even looking at the bucket as she milked these goats so fast that I thought we were in a contest at the fair.  She has smaller hands than I do….and then it hit me.  Once Doug gets part of the milk out of the udder on Isabella it is then small enough for me to wrap my hand around.  So, Elsa may be even easier to milk next year!  I am glad we start out with the hardest animals and work our way to the easiest.  If we don’t give up, we are in for rewards!

I would have loved a tutorial before I started milking, so I am demonstrating one here just in case a homesteader out there gets a goat that needs to be milked and thinks they can just wing it like we did!

IMG_2076

First wash the udders lightly with a mixture of mild soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) and water.  I use a slip of paper towel because that is what I saw another girl do.

IMG_2078

Oh, before that make sure she is locked into the stanchion happily munching away on sweet feed.  Sweet feed looks like it was dipped in molasses and smells great.  It provides mama with minerals and nutrients she needs while she is making all that milk.  We had asked the people we used to get feed from for sweet feed and brought home regular goat feed.  No wonder Katrina hated us.  Make sure you have sweet feed!

IMG_2077

The washing of her udders also gives her the hint that she needs to let the milk down.  Wrap your hand around the upper part of the udder.  Do not pull!  Squeeze your hand, letting your fingers come into a fist.  Your hand doesn’t move up or down.  Then keep squeezing all that good milk out until not much is coming out and she is looking pretty shriveled.  If she seems to be getting chapped, add a little skin salve or a touch of olive oil.  Give her a kiss and a good pat on the head and repeat the whole thing twelve hours later.

IMG_2079

IMG_2082

Bring the milk in to the kitchen.  I like the two quart canning jars to put milk in because they are pretty but you could certainly refill old milk jugs, juice containers, or whatever.  Put a funnel on top of the jar, then a strainer, then a square of tightly woven cheese cloth and strain the milk through.  We were using coffee filters and they took the whole morning to strain through (I might be exaggerating but honestly, I haven’t the patience for it that early).  Then we tried just the sieve.  It let a bit of hay through.  Then the cheese cloth, and it works just right.

IMG_2086

Label the lid with the date because in the fridge they all look the same.  Goat’s milk stays good for about two weeks.  If it starts smelling sour use it to make soap, cheese, or take a bath in it.  Chickens love it too.  Goat’s milk is homogenized, meaning it doesn’t separate like cow’s milk.  This means it is a pain to make butter out of but a beauty to drink because it is super creamy and delicious.  We recommend chocolate syrup.  Cold chocolate milk is amazingly delicious.

A word on raw verses pasteurized.  Louis Pasteur at the end of his life even questioned his theory.  Once you pasteurize it, you kill it.  There are no enzymes left to digest it leaving many folks with lactose intolerance issues and many others with gas and mucous problems.  Raw milk has all the enzymes and nutrients in tact.  It helps the body to better absorb calcium, whereas pasteurized leaches calcium from the bones.  E coli worry?  Wash the udders.  Do you know what the goat is eating?  We use fresh hay and alfalfa, organic sweet feed.  Clean water, lots of fresh air, and places to play.  These are happy goats.  My goats don’t have parasites, your local farmer’s pry don’t either.  I am not sure why the news is jumping on all things natural lately, I guess the organic, natural, farm movement is taking money from the big corporations, but I will keep on drinking raw milk because I know how I feel when I drink it.  I know that it is good for Maryjane to supplement her breast milk.  Goat’s milk is what our grandmas fed to infants if they couldn’t breast feed.  Have you read the ingredients for baby formula?

For the love of goats!  I will get off my podium and encourage you to go get your milking goat.  There is chocolate milk and hilarious goat antics waiting for your enjoyment.

Who Knows How To Milk A Goat?!

Uh, I probably should have inquired about milking lessons prior to this.  I have read many homesteading books which outline how to milk a goat.  I milked a goat at the animal shelter I worked at.  A large goat.  Every morning.  Twenty years ago.

SAM_0386

Yesterday we moved the milking station into the goat yard.  We put sweet feed in the tray and enticed Katrina to get up on the wooden structure, stick her head through, and enjoy the treats.  We didn’t touch her,  just let her get used to the station.  It became a fabulous game and playground the remainder of the day with goats jumping in high twirls off of the platform.

We locked the baby goat into a kennel in the igloo late last night.  We cleaned a shiny metal bucket and the two quart canning jar we would use to store our delicious goat’s milk. Chocolate milk on my mind, I placed a funnel, topped with a sieve, topped with a coffee filter on top of the jar.  We were ready!

This morning we got up with the sun.  We distracted Loretta out of the goat yard.  Enticed with some help (me trying in vain to lift her back end onto the stanchion) and sweet feed we got Katrina into place, latched the short leash to her collar, and set the bucket beneath her.  It barely fit under her large belly.  I never thought to bring out the bucket and see if it was too big!  I could barely fit it under her, but I tried to grab a hold of her very swollen teats and milk.  I tried to close my fingers around her, but she was too swollen, and I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing, I realized.  She placed her foot in the bucket.  A few very cold, frustrated minutes later, we let the baby out of the kennel to nurse.

Emergency early morning texts were sent to our farming friends.  Today I need a milking lesson!

Farm Fresh Food

eat real food

I wanted to be a vegetarian when I was six and first found out where meat came from, but it seemed that there was no such thing as vegetarianism in my family.  I read a teen magazine at the age of twelve that indicated that there was such a thing as vegetarianism.  I was so excited.  I ran up and told my mother!  She wasn’t thrilled and I think she thought it was a phase.  That was twenty-seven years ago.  It’s not that I think it is evil (though I think factory farms are), I just can’t eat meat.  The consistency and smell and origin holds no appeal to me.  Doug went vegetarian about eight years ago for health reasons and then for compassion reasons.  We started reading books.  We became Raw Foodies for a very tumultuous year (cold food 24 hours a day anyone?).  We watched Food Inc.  We instantly became vegans.  Doug lost much needed weight and we were full of energy.  We were vegan for three years until recently when we gleefully fell off the wagon and into baked brie.

The way we are eating now feels right but we need more vegetables (come on summer!).  We likely eat too much fish and our mercury levels are probably causing us to glow.  Our cholesterol may not be so hot either.  Plants bring down cholesterol.  We are comfortably pescetarian.  We just don’t have any desire to eat our chickens.  Though if people are going to eat meat, doesn’t  it make sense to snub factory farms and their cruelty and unhealthy meat?  A chicken with his head cut off in two seconds flat and supports a local farmer makes a whole lot more sense to me than the stash of unknown meat from the grocery store.  A cow roaming happily about a pasture of green grass and doesn’t know what hit him when he becomes a side of beef is a lot nicer than the feed lots of horror.

There are so many factors for people to decide from each day.  Is a pesticide filled salad better than a factory farmed McDonald’s hamburger?  Probably.  Is an organic salad better than a pesticide filled one?  Absolutely.  Is whole grain bread better than white?  Yes.  Are organic whole grains better than non-organic, possibly genetically modified wheat?  Sure thing.  Would my cousin argue that grains are toxic and meat and vegetables are the only way to go?  Yes.

Wouldn’t our farming forefathers give us a look of absolute pity and awe at our wild confusion?

grow food

Eat from a farm.  One that doesn’t grow GMO’s.  Where the ground was fed with manure and scraps from the farm (a full circle).  Where the animals eat grass and the chickens eat grasshoppers, where the seeds are watered and grow up to be nutritious vegetables.  Where fruit is luscious and sweet, and not trucked from Peru.  Where eggs are warm from the coop and the milk is rich and sweet and raw from the goat or cow.  Where one can recognize each and every ingredient.  Corn.  Butter.  Eggs.  Cheese.  Lettuce.  Buckwheat.  Tomato.  Basil.

Part of the reason we started using Nancy’s goat’s milk and cheese was because I started reading ingredients.  What the heck are natural flavors?  From what?  Worms?  Bark?  Rum?  How do you make soy lecithin?  I haven’t seen a recipe for this.  I don’t want any more lab created ingredients.  No more boxes in my house.

Organic if possible.  Tons of vegetables and fruits, preferably from my garden, or my friend’s, the farmer’s market, or if all else fails, the health food store.  Eggs from my coop.  Milk from the goats down the street.  Cheese and butter made by me.  Bread made from grains that I ground, preferably grown locally, and baked into four ingredient loaves of steaming hot goodness.  Corn that is actually corn.  The kind great-great grandma used to eat.

This is a “diet” I can stand behind.  Real food all the time!  Food that nourishes us.  Food that supports the community.

This year Nancy and I start out on a new venture.  Growing for market.  I hope you will support your farmers this year.  Support those that don’t use pesticides and that have dirt on their hands.  Support the right to eat real food.  The government will be happy to subsidize fake food for you but if we will open our eyes and see the environmental and physical damage we are causing and start eating real food from the ground, from a farm, from our neighbor imagine the difference that would make.

eat local greens

(All artwork is from Victory Garden of Tomorrow by Joe Wirthheim. http://victorygardenoftomorrow.com/growfood2.html I have his posters hanging in my dining room as a visual inspiration.  I love them!)

Our Future Goat

IMG_0593

Well, we found them.  The cutest goats in the world.  It’s been a long journey.  We pulled into the driveway and could hear them.  The incessant bleating of babies wanting to be picked up and given a bottle!  What we encountered was a large pen of Pomeranian-sized infants with little round feet, big eyes, and heartwarming antics.  Running on top of each other to get our attention, they would stop to wrestle, then settle down to the business of winning us over.  They were so tiny, how could we not fall for them?

IMG_0588

You remember my story about the bruiser Nubians?  And then I was pondering Angoras and Alpines?   But then we met Nigerian Dwarves.  And our future is set.  We are getting goats next spring if all goes well.  Right now I bought a double share of milk from the family we visited so that we will have plenty of cheese and butter throughout the winter if I freeze the milk.  What a treat!  And we now have a source to adopt adorable goats from come next year.

IMG_0592

Nigerian Dwarves are good, little milkers; enough for a family.  They are compact creatures with puppy-like behavior that want to live in the house and follow you everywhere.  Our kind of animal.  Their babies melt hearts instantly.  Our future is sealed.