Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

The Ingredients in Milk February 23, 2011

Filed under: Politics,Raw Goat Milk — realfoodmama @ 4:16 pm
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Fish Milk?

Since my goat has been dried off and I am currently waiting for my hopefully (crosses fingers, arms and legs) pregnant doe to kid in April I am without a milk supply at the moment. If it were up to me we would simply go without, but sadly it isn’t. As a result we have had to buy milk recently. While I would prefer to buy goat milk from my local goat dairy, they are all in the same situation I am and have no milk at the moment as they are also expecting kids and their girls are either pregnant or dry. It is that time of year.

This has, of course, led me to buy organic cow milk from my local co-op. I don’t really drink it except for in my tea, but my kiddo asks for a glass now and then and his father consumes quite a bit of it. When I went to buy the first half gallon I noticed something new in the milk isle. Granted I haven’t paid that much attention for nearly a year since the last time I found myself without a goat milk supply, so maybe this isn’t news to everyone reading. Apparently you can buy milk that has added omega-3’s and DHA in it. Upon reading the back I learned that in the case of the additional omega-3’s and DHA in the Organic Valley version, fish oil has been added to supply them. I beg your pardon?

I mean really, who wants milk with fish in it?

Then, this morning, I was made aware of something even more disturbing that fish-milk. According to the Cornucopia Institute, Horizon Dairy (not known for their exemplary record in following organic standards anyway) has added synthetic, non-approved DHA and Omega-3’s to their milk and are still proudly flaunting the organic label. Apparently the synthetic additives come from a processed algae source, rather than actual fish like the additives in the Organic Valley version. The problem, of course, is that the synthetic source has not been approved organic and therefor the addition of it to an organically labeled product is questionable.

In either case, whether organic fish or questionable algae bi-product, I find the addition of these nutrients to a food like milk highly questionable. Milk is a real food, even in its pasteurized form – though I personally believe raw is better. On the one hand it is somewhat inspiring to see that the recognition of the importance of nutrients like omega-3’s has made such an impact, but on the other hand I don’t understand why the food industry – the Organic food industry even – has decided it needs to mess with something that isn’t broken.

It seems to be just another attempt of the industrial food machine to modify a “product” to fit “consumer” patterns in order to make more money. And in the process they have taken a very simple food and given it an ingredient list.

Suffice it to say I am going to be very glad when my goat milk supply comes back.

Happy Eating (and drinking!)

This post has been my contribution to Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday.

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So Long, Fresh Milk January 27, 2011

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Raw Goat Milk — realfoodmama @ 11:12 am
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Eek!

This week is the week I am going to finally dry up my poor goat. She has given me copious amounts of liquid white gold for nearly a year now, but the continued lactation is finally taking a toll on her. She is skinny, she dislikes getting up on the milk stand, frequently kicks at me and generally looks annoyed whenever I come down to the pen with the milk pail in hand.

I am anticipating a long dry spell this year. My Nubian didn’t get bred until November so she is not due until April. That means I am looking at at least two months of milklessness (yes I realize that isn’t a word). In an effort to alleviate the horror of it all, I made a gallon of kefir yesterday in order to continue to bake and make pancakes. I suppose I will just have to give up on alfredo sauce altogether. The household will continue to purchase yogurt as the primary eater of yogurt hates the flavor of goat anyway (sorry to out you mom!) and we always have half and half about for coffee and such for a similar reason. I suppose I can resign myself to putting half and half in my tea if I must.

The alternative, of course, is to buy raw goat milk from a friend or the farmer’s market but that really just get’s my goat, so to speak. I hate buying it when I actually own the animals! Regardless, I think my girl will be much happier when she no longer is obligated to feed us. She needs a nice long rest to put on some fat and enjoy life before I get her impregnated this fall.

 

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.

 

Cajeta…sort of September 14, 2010

Filed under: Home Made,Raw Goat Milk,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 4:27 pm
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So after perusing the goat forum I frequent (yes I realize I am kind of a loon) I decided to try a recipe posted for Cajeta. I modified it a bit because the original recipe called for corn starch. I try to avoid corn starch if at all possible because I have yet to find any that isn’t from GMO corn. Instead I used arrowroot powder. I have had success using it as a substitute in the past and this time was no different.

When using arrowroot powder as a substitute for corn starch, you want to use it at a 2:3 ratio. So if your recipe calls for 2 TBSP of corn starch, you use 4 tsp of arrowroot powder. A TBSP is = to 3 tsp.

Unfortunately, due to an “accident” the Cajeta is not particularly beautiful and as a result I refuse to post pictures of it!

So here is the recipe I used:

Cajeta

3 quarts raw goat milk
3 cups evaporated cane sugar
4 tsp arrowroot powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

I admit to being totally confused as to the addition of the baking soda, but perhaps a knowledgeable reader can let me know what purpose it serves!

Basically you take a cup of the milk and, using a wire whisk, mix the arrowroot powder and baking soda in until it is smooth. Then add that mixture to the rest of the milk and sugar in a large pot. Bring rapidly to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium and let cook down until it thickens and darkens in color (this took me about 3.5 hours)

Of course, I scorched mine! You have to continue stirring regularly towards the end of the process or this will happen to you! I decided (due no doubt to the fact that I am sick) that I didn’t care about the weird brown bits. After tasting it I decided it was fine, didn’t taste at all burnt, and after over three hours of work I put it in jars anyway and moved on.

This doesn’t have to happen to you, however. Simply stir continuously in the last 30 minutes or so and you will avoid getting speckled Cajeta.

The flavor is great and I am really looking forward to getting some apples and making some horribly decadent tart with it soon. I will, of course, post about that when I make it! Until then, happy eating.

 

Home Made Feta – finally tried it! August 16, 2010

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Home Made,Raw Goat Milk — realfoodmama @ 2:24 pm
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About a month ago I made a batch of home made feta using my goat milk. I set it aside in the fridge in the brine, as directed, and let it sit for a little over four weeks. Today, while going through the fridge and trying to decide what kind of cheese to make, I pulled it out and gave it a nibble.

Unfortunately it was horribly salty. Inedible, even. Unwilling to give up, I took a piece and rinsed it off under the faucet, then tried again. Still incredibly salty. Like…olive salty. It was delicious, but more than a teeny nibble would dehydrate you instantly.

So then, still unwilling to give up, I set a piece in a dish of water in an attempt to pull more salt out. Sadly this wrecked havoc on the texture, causing it to turn slimy, but it did slightly remedy the salt situation. Rather than soak the entire batch, however, I think I will simply rinse the cheese before using it, and use it very, very sparingly.

This brings me to my real point, however, which is that I am going to make more feta today. I am hoping that if I make a few changes to the recipe the end result will be more palatable. For instance, when letting it dry I will not salt it as much, and when making the brine I think I will back off on the salt content in there as well.

The recipe I used is pulled off the Fiasco Farm web site which is a great resource for all things goat and dairy. There are several great cheese recipes on the web site as well as an abundance of information regarding care and handling of goats.

I am hoping to be able to post in about another month about a successful batch of feta, but until then I will have to content myself with teeny, tiny nibbles at the saltiest cheese on earth!

Happy Eating!

 

Cheese, glorious cheese. June 25, 2010

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Home Made,Raw Goat Milk,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 4:01 pm
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Making the cheeseThe summer milking routine is in full swing here and my first time goat mommy is providing an over-abundance of milk. Giving us nearly a gallon a day, she has successfully added a new chore to my list: cheese making.

Home cheese making is a combination of rewarding and tiresome, at least at this point in the process. The basic problem I face is the size of the batches. I am forced to make cheese one gallon at a time, primarily because I lack a pot large enough to hold more than one gallon of milk. And while I would love to invest in a huge pot reserved solely for making cheese, I have yet to do so.

In fact, generally speaking cheese-making is instrument heavy. There are all sorts of things you need – the right cheesecloth (especially for ricotta), slotted spoons, large pots, thermometers, multiple bowls and strainers for catching whey, somewhere to hang your cheese while they dry, cultures, rennet…the list could go on but I don’t want to alarm you.

In truth cheese making is not difficult, it is simply procedure intensive. It is like chemistry…if you skip a step or get sloppy, your cheese could potentially explode. (Okay not REALLY, but it could get moldy and smell funny…which is nearly as bad).

There are a variety of recipes out there on the internet for making your own cheese. One of my favorite sites is Fias Co Farm, a web site dedicated to all things goat, including cheese making. Some of the recipes are very simply and it is a great introduction to making your own cheese at home, regardless of whether you are using fresh goat milk from your own animals or not.

In general, cheese making follows some basic steps, with modifications to temperature, time and cultures making up the bulk of the differences in the end result. Basically you bring the milk to temperature, add a culture if necessary (for things like cheddar and feta cultures or even yogurt are added to allow the ripening to occur properly) then left to ripen for about an hour. At this point the rennet is added and the curd is allowed to form – again, the time allowed for this depends on the cheese. The curd is then cut, rested and brought up to the appropriate temperature during the “cooking” phase. The temperature affects the firmness of the curd and thus the firmness of the final cheese.

The curds are then strained, salted, hung, pulled, or pressed and you end up with your final result.

So, like many things culinary, cheese making isn’t necessarily difficult, however it is time consuming and it does require basic direction following. Cheese making is not an area where experimentation is an asset – at least not at the beginning.

All this being said I have successfully made mozzarella, farmers cheese, fromage blanc, cheddar (I think…I won’t know for about 3 months how successful it was…), and feta. All in all, I enjoy the process and really enjoy eating the results.

So here is a very basic recipe for a paneer like cheese (for those of you not familiar with Saag Paneer, a favorite Indian dish of mine, paneer is a firm cheese with a consistency similar to tofu. It does not melt and can be used in pretty much any way tofu can).

Paneer or Farmer’s Cheese

1 gallon milk – I use raw goat’s milk but any will do
1/4 c white vinegar
cheesecloth
milk thermometer

Bring one gallon of milk up to 160 degrees over direct heat, stirring regularly to ensure the milk is heated evenly. Once at temperature, remove from heat and add 1/4 white vinegar, stirring until well mixed.

You will notice that the milk will start to separate right away. Let cool for a few minutes so as to allow for the curds to separate fully as well as to avoid burning yourself during straining.

Straining the curdStrain the curds through a colander lined with cheesecloth that you have resting over a large bowl or another pot. Catch and keep your whey so you can make ricotta.

Let the curds drain overnight. The end result should be a firm cheese that resembles tofu in texture.

One of my favorite ways to serve this cheese is to cut it into cubes, dredge it in flour and fry until it is golden brown. Then I sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper and voila! A perfect snack!

 

Kefir Success!…kind of… February 5, 2010

Filed under: Fight Back Fridays,Home Economics,Raw Goat Milk — realfoodmama @ 11:35 am
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I am pleased to announce that my kefir grains acclimated perfectly to my raw goats milk and I ended up with a beautiful cup-full of kefir yesterday afternoon. The sour smell was very mild, but I decided to stop the culture anyway, change the milk, and give it a try – I have an aversion to really sour flavors as a general rule. It was the sixth morning of letting the kefir sit in fresh milk overnight and everything seems to be working smoothly.

After straining it and transferring the grains to yet another cup of fresh milk (I want to keep a continuous supply going) I poured myself a little and gave it a try. The flavor was very mild, slightly sweet, and very delicious. The thing I find so interesting about kefir is that it is incredibly rich. I can really only drink about 1/8 of a cup before I feel full. I also made my boyfriend and my son try it. The results of their taste test was not quite as enthusiastic as mine:

My son’s response was “I don’t like it…I want to wash my mouth.” (He’s 2, btw.)

His father was more diplomatic and said something to the effect of “My body isn’t sure what this is.”

So this morning, I re-presented it. This time, however, I had added a small amount of organic cherry juice concentrate. This changed the color dramatically and while I didn’t notice a significant change in taste, apparently the boys did because my son gobbled it up and his father did the same. I am hoping that at some point I will be able to convince both of them to eat it un-altered, however for the time being I am willing to accept that they are getting what they need from it, cherry juice aside.

It was pretty exciting to see my little man drink the kefir. The same way I feel when he eats his clams or gets really excited about my sourdough bread. Hopefully when, and if, I get that liverwurst he will be equally excited about that!

The real goal of all of this, of course, is to make sure that he is given the best possible nutrition at an early age and to teach him enough about food so that when he grows up and starts making his own food choices he does so consciously and with a foundation of knowledge rather than just buying things because he saw an ad for them or because they are cheap. It is all about little steps.

Ironically, the real challenge is not my two year old, but his father. He is a southern boy who was raised on sweet tea, mountain dew, candy, and a variety of fried goods (I can bet they weren’t fried in home rendered lard!). In fact, it is a miracle that the only visible damage was to his teeth (which are wretched). He has none of the other health problems so often associated with that diet. As for my part in it, I suppose that working with 40+ years of food experience is much more of an uphill battle than working with my son, who really only has about 18 months of food experience! So while he is willing to let me render my lard, he still wants me to use it for cherry pies, and though he is willing to try kefir, I imagine that if I presented him with a plate of liver he’d burst into tears.

In either case, I think that the most important thing about changing your diet is being willing and able to go slowly, work in small steps, and allow yourself the benefit of the doubt. With that in mind, I’d rather my son drink kefir sweetened with fruit juice than none at all! And the same goes for his dad.

Happy Eating…and Drinking!

This post has been my contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday’s blog carnival.