Most of us think of cows when we think of dairy products, but for much of the world, goats are the source of a family’s milk and cheese. Goats are generally easier to keep than cattle – they thrive in mountainous, hilly, and dry environments and they graze on grass and brush. Plus, goats’ milk has, on average, less sugar, more calcium, and more protein than cows’ milk, and it also has less lactose, which makes it easier to digest for those who are lactose-sensitive. Goats’ milk and goats’ milk products are often seen as a vanguard of the local food and sustainability movement. So why don’t we know more about goat dairy products? The Jolly Tomato team took a field trip to a goat farm to learn more.
Rawson Brook Farm, of Monterey, MA, is a picturesque small goat farm tucked away on an off-the-beaten path road in the Berkshire mountains (Western Massachusetts). Owner Susan Sellew runs the farm and produces Monterey Chevre, a delicious and mild goat cheese.
When you get to the farm, the first thing you’ll notice are the kids – the super-friendly baby goats who hang out in a large grassy pen. Once you get close and you read their nametags, you start to get the sense that they each have distinctive faces and personalities. Most of them love to be petted and scratched, but a few are possibly more interested in chewing your shirt (!). Out of the 100-plus kids that are born on the farm each year, the farm keeps about 10 of the kids to use as milkers.
There are approximately 40 to 45 (adult female) milking goats on the farm. Most of the goats are French and American Alpines; the white ones are part Saanan. The goats are each milked twice per day, and each goat averages about one gallon of milk per day. It takes about a gallon of milk to make a pound of chevre (goat cheese) and the farm makes about 500 pounds of cheese per week. The milking and cheese-making season runs from March (when most of the kids are born) through December (when the adult females are halfway through their next pregnancy and they stop producing milk.)
The goat milk is pasteurized in large vat pasteurizers using the “low temperature, long time” method. The milk is heated to 150 degrees for 30 minutes and then cooled as quickly as possible. Then a commercial cheese-making bacteria and animal rennet are added to make the cheese.
And the cheese is…Whoa. It is amazingly smooth and creamy, with just the slightest tang. Our kids loved it. Apparently the most popular flavor of Monterey chevre is garlic and chive, but the plain is heavenly too.
What can you and your “kids” do with goat cheese? Try it out first like you would cream cheese – Spread a little bit of goat cheese on a cracker or a bagel, or smear a little on a tortilla roll-up. Use goat cheese instead of ricotta cheese on a white pizza. Use goat cheese as a dip for crunchy fresh vegetables. Add some goat cheese to your omelet. Top off a baked potato with goat cheese. Slice a chicken breast in half and stuff it with goat cheese before sauteeing the chicken. Spread goat cheese on an English muffin and top with fresh berries.
Looking for even more ideas? Check out our Favorite Goat Cheese Recipes board on Pinterest – and let us know if you have any favorites of your own.