We have started weaning Tuscan, the baby buckling goat. Last week, we began feeding him his milk out of a bucket, which was actually a lot easier and less messy than I had anticipated…I got him sucking on the nipple (without attaching it to his bottle), and slowly lowered it into the milk in the bucket, until he was sucking up milk, rather than sucking on the nipple. It only took about three tries before he caught on. If I had realized it was going to be that easy, I would have gotten him on the bucket a long time ago, as it is much easier to fill and clean than the bottle was.
This week, I am substituting water for milk at the morning feeding, and offering him a larger portion of goat ration. Goat ration is mysterious stuff that comes from the Co-op in bags, looks like little pellets, and presumably involves grain at some point in its manufacture. I actually intend to blend my own goat feed at some point, but for now, the Co-op feed is easy and it is cheap enough, and we know it provides appropriate nutrition to Saffron (the milker) and the growing babies.
We have been using Saffron’s milk to feed the little guy, as she has plenty for him, plus a bit left over for us. We pasteurize it before feeding it to Tuscan, as there are some nasty goat diseases that are passed through milk, and they are sort of like goat AIDS – hard to test conclusively for. Most breeders take the babies from their mothers immediately, and only feed pasteurized milk, which is the only known effective prevention tactic. Our breeder had Tuscan on this CAE prevention program, so we continued it here.
Anyhow, with Tuscan being given half as much milk as before, suddenly we have LOTS in the fridge. Lots and lots of nice rich milk, that really should be used up, instead of allowed to go sour. We’ve been experimenting with making yogurt, but the results have been…goaty. I have been quite disappointed with this, as I have eaten a lot of truly delightful goat milk yogurt, and I can’t figure out what I am doing wrong. I have narrowed it down to three possibilities: wrong kind of goat (apparently they have different levels of goaty-ness in the milk), wrong starter culture (I have just been using yogurt from the store), or improper handling (too warm, or for too long). In the meantime, the dogs have been eating lots of yogurt, which is lucky for them, but sucks for us.
Being somewhat sick of failed yogurt experiments, I decided to try a simple soft cheese. Most cheese making requires some fairly specialized stuff – in particular, rennet (to make the milk coagulate), and bacterial starters (to give it real flavor). With our crazy fridge full of milk, I went online and ordered a bunch of cheese making supplies, but they won’t arrive for another week or two. In the meantime, I pulled the cheese making book down from the bookshelf, and was flipping idly through the pages, and discovered that not all cheese requires starters or rennet – some just need a gallon or two of milk and some lemon juice or vinegar. Ricotta is traditionally made from the whey left over from making other cheeses, but can be made with whole milk…Yay!
I got out the stock pot, and got going. Here is the recipe I used:
Whole Goat Milk Ricotta:
1 gallon of fresh goat milk
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp kosher (or pickling) salt
Bring the milk to 206 degrees (Fahrenheit). It is not supposed to boil, but mine did, and although the cheese is a bit firmer (rubberier) than I would have expected, I still got cheese, so I am not too worried about it. Add the apple cider vinegar, and stir it in. In a few seconds, you will begin to see the milk curdle (form lumps) and settle out of the whey (leftover liquid). keep stirring until the whey is quite clear. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes (five or so), then pour it through a strainer lined with cheesecloth (or a clean dish towel…whatever works). Let drain for 20 minutes (give or take. I forgot about mine and left it for longer than that). Stir in the salt when breaking up the curds for storage. Keep refrigerated.
I additionally split the curds into two different piles – one for keeping plain, and a second bunch that I sprinkled about a teaspoon of Italian seasoning over. The herbed ricotta is fantastic on crackers, and has been my dinner two nights in a row!