by Heather Linderfelt
She runs across the yard every time. And every time she waits until I come and retrieve her from the front door. It’s our ritual that she loves and I hate; you’d think I’d learn.
“Time to milk Buttercup. Come on girl.” She trots back in front of me, occasionally kicking up her back hooves in a giddy goat jig.
It drives me crazy. If she didn’t produce such sweet creamy milk, I’d sell her curmudgeon-quirky butt. However her milk is lovely. She doesn’t give a lot of milk but it’s sweet heaven to me. Sweet heaven? What I mean is it’s a mouthful of silk; it’s caressing a new baby’s soft cheek. The sweetness coats your tongue like Crème Anglaise minus some sugar. It also tastes of grass. Not a blender full of alfalfa and cream but how berries, nuts, spice, and oak are to wine, grasses and grains underlie the flavor of the milk.
When goat milk is fresh it is my sweet heaven and when it’s not fresh, it’s bad! Oh, it’s everything most people think of goat milk—the grocery-store carton-I-can-smell-a-buck-in-rutting-season variety.
Milk from my girls hits the bucket and is a frothing milk waiting for a few shot of espresso (run through a filter first, of course.)
My friend who sold me Buttercup regrets selling her to me. “Your cheese is so creamy.” She thinks it’s the feed. I feed Alfalfa; she feeds Timothy. I haven’t experimented with this, but it makes me wonder. If I feed my goats honey and lavender, what affect would it have?
Really, I think the sweetness comes from the whole process. In the yard, my girls get a lot of grain; the girls are grain barges. Other farmers scold me, “You give them too much.” Also, I pasteurize when I make cheese. Not because I am afraid of bacteria. We drink it raw and everyone should drink more raw milk. I pasteurize because it sweetens the milk just slightly.
I gently heat to 161 to 163 degrees and then quickly chill it down in my bathtub full of ice-cold water to 82 degrees. I lovingly swirl in the culture. Moving my spoon back and forth, watching eddies swirl behind the spoon, it’s a dance of the milk like a flock of birds flying gracefully in one direction and then they swoop and turn. A moment of chaos ensues as it turns direction. I try to make no noise as I do this. It’s my teacup game. If I were having tea with the queen, I would stir my tea without the clink of my spoon to the cup, so goes my spoon to my pot. And then, I leave my cheese alone.
I don’t think I do anything different or special; I am pretty sure most cheese makers would tell me what I am doing wrong, but I don’t care. I love my goats and I love pulling my five-gallon pot down from the shelf to make my cheese. I do have my silly rituals, but it is my passion and what puts the sweetness into my cheese.
Heather Linderfelt is currently a personal assistant to a 6 and 10 year old and hobby farmer, but in the past worked as a geologist in Australia, Canada, and the US. She is also trained as a Pastry Chef from Le Cordon Bleu in London. Writing keeps her sane or maybe just on the edge of sane occasionally dipping her toes into the pool of insanity.