Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Milk(ing)

For the last couple of years, when people have asked what it is I want for the future, I answer with a smile, "I want to have a cow."

This reply is usually received with a smile back and a laugh maybe, if I am lucky. And then, there is the pause, to which I insist, "No, really, I want a cow."

What I really mean is, I want the kind of life you have to have to have a cow. I want to be rested enough to get up at the crack of dawn to milk my cow. I want to have a place to put my cow. I want the luxury of the simple hard work it takes to keep a cow. And, I know the only plausible way of me being able to afford organic raw milk is by doing the work myself.

Then about a month ago I saw a cow. Up 'till then, I guess I had never really stood close to a cow before. And how was it I thought I could handle a cow having never even seen one up close? Blind idealism I guess. The cows I saw through the wire fence were not yet full grown, but still I stood in front of them for about fifteen minutes just flabbergasted at how enormous they were. All my critics thus far have only warned me how much milk I would have to deal with if I had a cow. They talked of the commitment it is to milk her twice a day and how you can't go on vacation. They never mentioned how even though I'm a substantial person comparatively, their bodies weigh anywhere from three to nearly six times as much as I do. That's a big heifer! That's a lot of weight to push around. I can barely imagine.

Around that same time I saw the cows I learned that my friend Christy bought a milking goat last year. She had heard of the benefits of raw milk, and being the adventurous hobbyfarmer that she is, she went out, tried some goat milk, loved the taste, and bought the goat. She promised it was not goaty at all. Really. She swore it tasted just as good or better than cow milk. I wanted to believe her, but I was skeptical. Who has had goat milk that isn't goaty? Not me.

Then this last weekend I got to meet her goat from last year (still freshening) and her new goat and try some of the famed goat milk. And lo, and behold, it was delicious! I tried to detect the goaty weird taste but honestly could not. Christy says the key is freshness, goat diet, and keeping the milk cold. The chill factor keeps the goatiness away. She tried making yogurt and the goat flavor developed, so I assume any amount of heating will take that the creamy sweet flavor and give it that other nice but slightly off-putting goatiness you find in soft goat cheeses.

Just my luck, Christy waited for the evening milking until I got there. She has the freshening Nubian, pictured above, and a mixed breed who is currently giving milk. I have milked a goat once on a fifth-grade field trip to Sacramento's Sutter's Fort, but it still took me a little practice to get a good flow of milk and any rhythm going. I was afraid of hurting the poor girl. But I learned you have to be like a baby goat (they butt their mama to cause her milk to let down) and milk her like you mean it. I was far too delicate.


These are my friend Christy's hands. See how much more milk she's getting? She's a pro.


So I have revised my intentions. I will not have a cow. Not at first. Instead, I will get a goat. Then at least I stand a chance if she decides to pummel me.

Whole Goat's-Milk Ricotta (from Home Cheese Making, by Rikki Carrol)

1 gallon whole goat's milk
1/4 cup vinegar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1. Heat the milk to 195 degrees
2. Slowly stir in the vinegar a little at a time, watching for the clear separation of the whey. If the whey is still milky when you have added all the vinegar, increase the heat to 205 degrees.(Adding too much vinegar will impart an acidic or sour taste to your cheese.)
3. With a slotted spoon, gently ladle the curds into a colander lined with butter muslin.
4. Drain for 1 minute. Place the curds into a bowl.
5. Add the butter and baking soda and mix well. Store a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Serve like you would cow's milk ricotta--in Italian recipes, mixed into a salad, or on its own with a little salt and pepper. Enjoy!

3 comments:

  1. I loved this post! I didn't realize it until I read it, but I think I want a cow (or perhaps a goat) too! :) or maybe just that sort of life with a kindly raw-milk producing neighbor...

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  2. You can come be my neighbor! Then I'll trade you milk for some of that yummy-sounding lemoncello--that was you right? I just tried to get onto your site, looks like your working on it...excited to see the new Modern Beet!

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  3. Amanda, I enjoyed reading your story. Glad you and Christy were able to milk together. Sounds like a fun time, especially fun imagining how giddy you must have been. :)

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