Yesterday the Spring rains returned. Wonderful for the environment but a little depressing from the mood perspective. To beat the blues, my friend Amy and I made a trek up to The Beverage People in Santa Rosa. Despite what the name might suggest, we didn't go there to drown our sorrows by hitting the bottle. We went to buy cheesemaking supplies.
There's a wide selection of cheesemaking products online (cheesemaking.com is a great resource) but given the choice I think it's so much more enjoyable to browse in person and support a local business. We also discovered (thanks to Amy's resourceful researching) that The Beverage People is where the venerable Cowgirl Creamery buys some of their supplies. That was all the endorsement we needed to head on up there.
So today we got together with our supplies and five gallons of whole goat's milk and made cheese. First we made a goat's milk ricotta (shown draining in the photo above). I wanted to try this variation on the standard cow's milk ricotta for several reasons–one is because I'm lactose intolerant and can better digest goat's milk (which has about a 10% lower level of lactose than cow's milk). The other reason is because I actually prefer the taste of goat cheeses but have never seen a goat version of ricotta. I like making things by hand just for the sheer love of it but it's an added bonus if it also results in something you just can't get by any other means.
For all the same reasons, the next thing we made was a goat's milk mozzarella. Of course I wish we could have made the traditional buffalo mozzarella (not only the tastiest but also low in lactose) but unfortunately there's just nowhere to buy buffalo milk around here. (If anyone has a secret source, please let me know!)
Amy and I were both a little concerned about how the goat's milk would hold up in mozzarella form (wondering if maybe there was a good reason why we don't see this product anywhere?) but our fears proved unfounded, both technically and taste-wise. As far as the technical aspect as the cheesemaking process, even though goat's milk produces a smaller, lighter curd than cow's milk, it set up just fine.
Here is the curd separating from the whey and then the beginning of the draining process:
And then the final straining and unformed curd (before making it into the actual smaller balls):
As far as taste goes, we actually were surprised by how incredibly good both the ricotta and mozzarella made with goat's milk were. Even though I really like the strong "gamey" taste you usually find in goat cheese, it was completely absent from both our cheeses. They tasted sweet and fresh and not goat-like at all (not that that's a bad thing!)
Of course the success of this experience has only further fueled my deep-seated desire to raise Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats. Sigh. Well, until I can make that dream come true at least I have the Pholia Farms goat webcam to keep me company.