Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

Knocking up a goat October 15, 2010

Filed under: Animal Husbandry — realfoodmama @ 3:04 pm
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One of the largest commitments I have made towards having a more healthy food supply is the purchasing of two dairy goats. Goats are great animals, require much less space than a dairy cow and, at least in my opinion, have much better personalities. They are incredibly smart (mine frequently escape their locked pen), curious, playful animals and I personally believe that the world would be a happier place if people participated in daily goat watching activities.

Additionally the benefits of raw goat milk are numerous. Goat milk is much easier to digest than cow’s milk as the fat molecules are smaller and more easily broken down. Lactose is still produced, however there is evidence to suggest that other factors minimize the effects, such as certain anti-inflammatory properties of goat’s milk which minimize the immune response. Additionally goat’s milk has a higher calcium and phosphorus content than cow’s milk. Calcium and phosphate join in the body to assist with bone mineralization, however calcium can also help with other physical ailments such as migraine headaches and pre-menstrual cramps.

Lastly, and most importantly, goat milk does not taste like goat cheese. While it has a different flavor from cow’s milk, it does not have to taste at all goaty, especially if chilled immediately after milking.

All this is a very long lead up to the fact that I need to get my goat pregnant this fall so she can have milk next spring! Goats need to be pregnant in order to produce milk (unlike chickens who will lay eggs regardless of the presence of a male) and in order to get pregnant I need to take my girl on a date.

I am frankly totally freaked out about it for a couple of reasons. Last year, when I got my other goat pregnant, I took her back to the breeder I bought her from in order to get her knocked up and she lived with them for a full month. I have elected not to take my goat to the same location this year primarily because it is very far away and I can’t have my goat gone for that long.

So instead I had to advertise for buck services (male goats are called bucks, females called does…similar to deer) on Craigslist and am sort of walking into the situation blind. I have asked a lot of questions and generally feel like the breeder knows what he is talking about, but I have never seen his set up and am worried my sweet girl will be knocked around, mistreated, or injured. There is also the possibility that she won’t even get pregnant!

Suffice it to say all of this really makes me wish I had the space for a buck of my own. It really isn’t practical since I only have two girls and I am hardly making money off of them so a buck would just be an expense, unless I rented him out for breeding purposes. However I really don’t have the room as a buck can get very stinky when in rut and I wouldn’t want it to affect the flavor of the milk.

So basically I am at the mercy of other buck owners. I am sure that everything will be fine, but in the event I don’t like the looks of the buck, or the set up or anything I have no qualms about backing out of the agreement and going with someone else. So wish me luck and lots of goat fertility!

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So many plums! October 13, 2010

Filed under: Baking,Canning,Garden Fresh,Home Made — realfoodmama @ 2:11 pm
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This year most of my fruit trees were frozen in a late frost, however the one tree that did avoid the worst of the cold weather has managed to produce a bumper crop. We have two plum trees in the yard, one of which is a beautiful, but very overgrown, mother. The other is a daughter offshoot that hides in the shade of our yard and generally gets overlooked. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of the fact that it was carrying fruit until about a month ago when I looked closely and realized the branches were laden with small, purple globes.

Since we purchased the house with established fruit trees, I am not sure what type of plum these are, however as they’ve ripened they have developed a lovely sweet-tart flavor and have a rather eerie green flesh. Yesterday we processed about ten cups in order to make what turned out to be nearly a gallon of preserves and we only used a third of the plums! I honestly have no idea what we are going to do with the rest, but I am hoping to find some recipes for plum cakes, puddings, pies, tarts…you get the idea!

Suffice it to say the bounty is pretty impressive and I am hopeful that as our fruit trees mature and we learn more about taking care of them we can avoid a frost kill like the one that happened this year and actually be able to harvest some apples, pears and apricots from the other trees in our mini-orchard.

Until then, however, any and all plum recipes are appreciated and I will definitely share my plum experiments as they occur! Happy Eating!

 

Tomato Sauce October 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — realfoodmama @ 6:29 pm

This year I have decided to try something a little different with my copious quantities of tomatoes. Last year I processed them into spaghetti sauce using a recipe that I sort of made up – a no no as far as canning is concerned. However we went through it in about two months and it really only served one purpose – spaghetti sauce.

This time around I wanted to have a more basic ingredient on hand so that I can make things like chili, soups, Indian recipes…so forth. The solution to that is to make simple tomato sauce. The process is actually easier than that of making spaghetti sauce, at least initially. Unlike spaghetti sauce, where you have to peel, core and preferably seed, your tomatoes. This is a process than can take up a bit of time, especially if you are doing a large batch of sauce. To make a simple tomato sauce, however, all you do is core them and cook them for about twenty minutes, then strain them in a mesh strainer to remove the peel and seeds as shown in the picture.

Straining the seeds and peels

The next step in the process is to cook the remaining liquid pulp down until it has thickened and reduced about half.

I tried a sample batch this morning that used a combination of the Brandywine and Black Krim tomatoes I grew this season. The result was an incredibly sweet, slightly tangy, very rich tomato sauce that will work wonderfully in a variety of recipes.

Strained Sauce

 

Cheese Wax! October 1, 2010

Filed under: Cheese making,Raw Goat Milk — realfoodmama @ 8:36 pm
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Cheese before waxing

I finally got a chance to wax the cheddar that I made this week and thought it would be a good opportunity to show pictures of the finished project. While I do not have an actual cheese press or molds, I have managed to rig something up involving some camp bowls made from stainless steel and a large brick from my garden path. It is rather precarious, to be honest, but it works!

Cheese making, like baking, is really all about mastering the art of reading and following a recipe. If you mess up or get sloppy along the way you end up with either an inferior product or a complete failure. Cheddar is one of the more complicated hard cheeses I’ve tried to make because it requires a) the addition of a specific culture and b) slow curd cooking combined with a special process known as cheddaring. This is the act of stacking the curds until the texture changes to that of cooked chicken. Weird, right?

The process of making cheddar can be broken down into a few steps. You allow the milk to culture (I use raw milk even though the recipe says to pasteurize it), bring to 86 degrees, add your rennet and let it set a curd for about 45 minutes. Then you cut them and slowly cook the curds to about 110 degrees over the course of an hour. At which point you strain them for a few minutes, then cut them again into four pieces, stack them until they achieve the chicken consistency mentioned above, cut them again then press them for about 24 hours. At this point you let your cheese wheels form a rind, then you wax them.

This is a huge over-simplification of cheddar making and I urge readers NOT to attempt to make cheddar from the above instructions. The web site I had been using is currently offline, however here is the link and hopefully it will come back up so anyone interested in doing this themselves can follow more detailed instructions.

The real bummer about making cheddar is that once you have it waxed you have to let it age for about three months before you can eat it. So even though I have these lovely cheese wheels, I cannot eat them until January of next year. So I have no idea what it tastes like or if it is even edible. Luckily cheese wax is fairly inexpensive and I can buy it locally at Santa Fe Homebrew Supply where they also reassure me that it can be reused.

Waxed Cheese

So, I will try to get back to you all about this in January and let you know how the cheddar worked out! Hopefully it will be worth the wait! Until then, Happy Eating.