Go(a)t milk?

The benefits and popularity surrounding goat milk

In the modern world of the West, milk is consumed daily, but where does it all come from? The majority of milk consumed comes from dairy cows, while goat milk is less common. Many people only attribute goat’s milk to a certain type of cheese, but with a little bit of looking, anyone can see that there is a variety of different cheeses, foods, and products available from goat milk. Not only that, but according to the Global Healing Center, consumption of goat milk has different health benefits on the human body including high calcium to support bone health; an increased ability to metabolize iron and copper; smaller fat molecules and a high amount of fatty acids that make it easy to digest; trace mineral selenium that boosts immune health; and many others.

A Short History

Photo taken by Katie Curry Goat at Integration Acres
Photo taken by Katie Curry This is me at Integration Acres with a couple of the female dairy goats on the pasture.

According to the American Dairy Goat Association, goats (and sheep) are humankind’s oldest domestic species, dating back some 10,000 years ago. While alive, goats provided herdsman with a constant supply of milk that was used for raw consumption, butter, cheeses (one of the earliest milk products), and the dung was used to fertilize crops. In the most simple forms, goat cheese was made by allowing raw goat milk to curdle naturally, then was pressed and drained of the liquid.

According to History World, after the goat was dead, it provided herders with fresh meat; the skins were used to make leather and clothing; bones were used to make weapons such as arrows; fat was used to make candles, and even the hooves were used to make glue. Since then, goat milk has remained popular in much of the rest of the world, and is just now gaining popularity in the West.

Goat Milk Industry in the U.S.

As people become more aware of the benefits associated with goat milk, there is a steady increase of dairy goats across the U.S. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, dairy goats are found in every state, with Wisconsin and California having the highest numbers. Many dairy goat farmers rely on direct market sales, such as farmers markets, to sell their product. Some are beginning to sell directly to stores and restaurants as the demand for goat milk and goat milk products rise.

Dairy goat farmers will not have a profitable business if they only sell raw goat milk opposed to the addition of other products. According to a 2012 study from the USDA, raw goat milk sells for $3.20 a gallon, but if they convert that to sixteen ounces of cheese, the selling price increases to $16.00.

Gimme the Cheese!

Photo taken by Katie Curry Hard cheeses aging at Integration Acres.
Photo taken by Katie Curry A look inside one of Integration Acres’ storage areas, used to age a variety of hard cheeses.

Many people are aware that crumbled goat cheese and chèvre are made from goat milk, but there are all sorts of cheeses made with it. After talking with Lauren Hamami of Integration Acres, I found out that goat milk can be made into a variety of hard and soft cheeses, some made with pasteurized milk and others with raw milk. Hard cheeses include gouda, cheddar, tomme, and romano. The soft cheeses include chèvre, smoked chèvre, and feta.

Getting Specific: Chèvre

As mentioned before, goat milk can be used to make a variety of different cheeses, but one of the most common is called chèvre. Originating in France, chevre is a semi-soft cheese that has been made for centuries. France is the number one producer of goat cheeses in the world, producing over 242 million pounds in 2011. According to The Original Chèvre, the main steps in making chèvre have not changed much since ancient times and innovation since then has only been to improve flavor and help with conservation of the cheese. With the help of The Original Chèvre, the following is a simplified step-by-step process into the making of chèvre.

  1. Coagulation of the Milk: Either raw or pasteurized goat’s milk is heated and fermenting agents are added. Rennet (animal enzyme that curdles the protein in milk) is added over one or two days, then the solid curd is drained.
  2. Molding, Draining, and Drying: The curd is placed in small mold and placed in a dry location for about 24 hours. The remaining whey is removed from the curd.
  3. Salting and Maturation: The cheese is sprinkled with salt to bring out the flavor as well as kill bacteria. Fresh goat cheese, such as chèvre, can be eaten fresh, or are left to mature for no longer than a week. Maturation gives the cheese a stronger flavor.
  4. Final Texture: Fresh chèvre is white and often comes in the shape of a log. It remains moist and crumbles a little when cut. It is soft and is often spreadable. The amount of rennet used determines the final texture of the cheese.

The full recipe can be found at Cypress Grove. It is a cheesecake that includes Cypress Grove’s “Purple Haze Chevre” which has hints of lavender and pollen in it.

The next recipe I made was an Herb and Goat Cheese Bruschetta, inspired by The Tasty Kitchen. I used an original chèvre made by Vermont Creamery.

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