Six or seven years ago, We got Nubian dairy goats from a friend who had a doe and a wether, 6-month-old siblings, that she was offering for free. This was a huge blessing.
We had been wanting to get goats for milk since our son, James, was diagnosed with allergies to cow milk, and many other foods, a few years prior. I was so clueless about goat care when I replied to her offer, that I didn’t even know what I didn’t know.
We didn’t (and still don’t) have a livestock trailer, so we took seats out of our 15-passenger van and hauled the goats home in that. They were bellowing all the way home. We felt very “country”, which was pretty unusual for this city raised girl. We put them in a dog run that our dog was no longer using, cobbled together a feeder, and bought a water bowl.
Things have improved since then.
I asked questions at the feed store. Got myself a good basic goat book and climbed right up that steep learning curve. And talked to other “goat people”. We didn’t breed that first year, mostly because I didn’t know anyone who had a buck.
The next year we were ready. I’d met a friend who also had dairy goats, and who offered free “stud service” for our doe, Azalea. Five months later we welcomed a single kid, a doe we named “Daisy”, to our herd. A few weeks after Daisy was born, the friend who had given us Azalea, offered us her doe, in milk, with two doelings and a buck. For free. This was another amazing blessing.
The single goat could not provide enough milk for the needs of our huge family. Each goat gives about one gallon of milk per day at peak production, but the average over the year is probably more like three-quarters of a gallon per day. Now we had two goats giving milk.
Goats have come and gone since then, but we still have Azalea, Daisy and Trinity, one of the doelings that arrived that day. All three are in milk and at nearly full production. That’s about three gallons of milk per day. That’s a LOT of milk, even for a family our size. And now, I find myself in the situation where some of our older children have moved out, and we are struggling to use up all the milk.
I’ve gotten adventurous. And I’ve started making cheese. I bought supplies and a book about making goat cheese. I followed the directions closely.
My first attempt was a dismal failure. This discouraged me from trying again for about a year.
But I didn’t let it keep me down forever. Since I know that I’m usually good with recipes and making things from scratch, I eventually realized the problem was probably with my book. I read more online, and I read reviews for various cheesemaking books; ultimately I decided to purchase this one. I could not be happier with it. It is thoroughly detailed without being boring. It is fascinating. All the chemistry involved is explained. Which is something I wanted to understand. The book is not specific to goat cheese — any milk will work — but I was glad to note that the author has experience with goats. Goat milk has one very distinct difference from cow milk: the milk is naturally homogenized; the cream does not separate to the top.
So, I started with the simplest cheese ever: Queso Blanco. This cheese goes by other names throughout the world:
- Brousse in France
- Mizithra in Greece
- Paneer or Panir in India and Middle Eastern countries
To make this cheese, you need:
- a large stainless steel pot with a heavy bottom
- a thermometer (It’s easiest if the thermometer can clip onto the side of the pan like this one.)
- a colander or strainer of some sort
- muslin cheesecloth or flour-sack type towel (Don’t bother with the cheap cheesecloth from the grocery store. In a pinch, use a clean, white cotton t-shirt.)
- 1 gallon milk
- ½–¾ cup lemon juice or vinegar (acid)
- ½ tsp salt
Remove from heat and allow the milk to cool to 190°F.
When the milk reaches 190°F, begin adding vinegar/lemon juice 1 T at at time, stirring well after each addition, until the curd separates. You will be able to tell when this occurs. It is plainly obvious. You will see little white blobs (the cheese) and a yellowish liquid (the whey). At this point, stop adding your acid.
Leave the pot alone for 20 minutes. While you are waiting, place a colander/strainer over (or in) a bowl and line it with the cheesecloth.
After the 20 minute wait, begin ladling the curd into the cheesecloth-lined strainer. I have trouble getting all the curds out from the whey, so after I’ve scooped out as much as comes readily, I begin to scoop out the whey and ladle it into a large jar. When not much whey remains, I pour the remaining curds and whey through my strainer.
There are two options to finish the cheese: pressed and unpressed. I nearly always go with unpressed because it is easier. Simply leave the curds in the colander to drain for 60 minutes. Then add the salt and refrigerate.
If you want to do the pressed version, you only drain for 20 minutes, add salt and then gather the corners of the cheese cloth and force the curds into a compressed mass. Place the ball of curds on a flat surface and flatten into a disc shape about 1½” thick. Open the cloth and carefully refold the cloth over the disc as smoothly as possible. Place the disc on an inverted plate that is in a large bowl/container. Place another upside-down plate on top of the packet and put weight on top of the upper plate. Go for about 3 pounds of weight. (A cast iron skillet or canned food works well.) After 10 minutes, add 3 more pounds of weight. Press for a total of one hour. If, after an hour the cheese is not firm, or if whey escapes when you touch it, press longer.
Enjoy your cheese.
All that whey that you generated can be used in smoothies or fed to animals. They love it.