Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goat Cheeses ~ Varieties I've Been Learning To Make

Goat's Milk Camembert
Learning to make good cheese from our goat's milk has been a pursuit of mine for the last couple of years.  Chevre was the first cheese I made, it's quick, fresh, and delicious, a very rewarding cheese to make since everyone loves it.  However, I dreamed of  making  Cheddars,  Gouda's, Parmesan's, and the French style cheeses that I so wanted to try but could never justify buying from the store because they're so expensive, the Camembert's, French style Coulommier's Valencay's, Chaource's, St. Maure's, and on I could go.  I wanted to try blue cheese as well, though I was warned it could contaminate the cheese cave with blue cheese spores. 
The first year I aged several waxed cheddars in the refrigerator where the temperature is around 40 degrees.  They turned out pretty good at 4-6 months old.  This gave me the confidence to keep going, my dream was to turn out great cheeses so we never had to buy them from the store again.  
The ideal temperature to age cheeses is around 50-58 degrees and they need high humidity.  Waxing, I have found to be the most fool-proof way for me to turn out consistently good cheddars.  This year I'm also aging 4 natural rind cheddars in tupperware in the wine cooler/cheese cave.  I wash the rinds with a salt water brine, and the tupperware keeps the humidity high.   I'm looking forward to tasting one soon. 
Zolena our Lamancha dairy goat, and Jersey our Nubian dairy goat.
These two girls have been our main milkers, they produce two or more gallons of milk per day during the prime Summer-time months, and through the Winter I still have been getting a gallon of milk every other day.  Right now, in the middle of Winter as we are winding down our milking, I focus more on making yogurt and kefir.  This is the time of year we have been enjoying pulling out our aged Cheddars, and Caephilly's, and are getting ready to try the Gouda's soon. 
I bought my cheese press from Hoegger goat supply and it has worked wonderfully for me.  Every year I've also been adding to my collection of cheese molds, and good books.  The Cheese Maker's Manual by Margaret Morris has been a great source for recipes and tips.  I also checked out every book from the library on cheese making, and wanted to keep Gianclis Caldwell's, The Art of Artisan Cheesemaking.  I will be buying that one soon.  There's quite a learning curve to making cheese, and plenty of research and developement go into producing really good cheese. It take patience to age them, the part is  fun part is pulling them out of the cheese cave after 6-12 months to cut open and see what we have.  Sometime's I wish I had added more salt, or let it age longer.  Once I made the saltiest Feta, it was completely unedible, by accidentally leaving it in the salt brine too long.  I make notes on what I've made, and each hard cheese is numbered and labeled, so I can continue to grow by experience. 
 I have had many people want to buy my cheese, but alas I am not licensed.  I've looked into getting licensed , but like so many things I truly enjoy doing, if I got too big and turned it into a business I wouldn't have time for all the other fun things I enjoy doing.  So, for me cheesemaking is for our family and close friends to share with. 
Goat's Milk Blue Cheese with pears from our orchard
Raw goat's milk Blue Cheese timed to be ready exactly when the pears were ripe.  In case you were wondering... yes, this was an absolutely divine combination and soooo delicious to eat.   You may not know that Blue Cheese is actually very easy to make, and is much less time consuming that Cheddars.
We grow delicious figs, they are perfect for the cheese tray.  I have stirred many a pot of curds and whey as the curds slowly heated to the right temperature.  By the way, did you know that whey is a super healthy drink, after I make cheese and drain the whey, I refrigerate a quart of the whey to chill and drink while it's still fresh.  This is one of the delights of being a cheese maker, fresh healthy whey, loaded with vitamins and minerals.  Sometimes I also make ricotta with the whey, or I give the surplus whey to the dogs and chickens.
 Fresh Cheeses air drying and cheddars drying after cream waxing.  First I cream wax then wait a week to apply the final thick wax.  The cream wax helps prevent mold and bacteria under the main cheese wax.  I have found a window slightly open with a screen that's not in direct light will allow good fresh air flow around the cheeses.  The fresh cheeses especially like to have air flow when they're drying before putting them in the cheese cave.
The wine cooler/cheese cave
This wine cooler/cheese cave we found on craigslist has been the perfect solution for aging our cheeses, it maintains a temperature of around 54 degrees.  It is large enough for me to grow into as a cheesemaker,  I can produce more aged parmesan type cheeses that take a long time to age, and it gives me room for tupperware containers for the soft aged cheeses.  Inside the containers are chevre and ricotta on the top, hard cheeses, camembert's, and feta's.  I had to find balance with the fresh cheeses, you only want to make enough to eat within two weeks then make it fresh again.  If I had Camemberts available everday I might eat way too much cheese, so I space them out, and sometimes let them run totally out.  My children love the cheddar cheese in all things like omelets, grilled cheese, pizza etc.  
Goat's milk blueberry cheesecake

Garden Pictures

 David Austin Rose Munstead Wood
 My daughter came out with the camera and snuck in a few pics of me watering the garden.  This is one of my favorite Summertime rituals.  Actually as I sit in the January rain and dark... I can hardly wait for the need to water again!  The lovely mornings or evenings doing nothing but watering the vegetable garden with the light playing over the water and plants.  We have so much rain here most of the year that there is rarely a need to take the hose anywhere to water.  Water-logged is normal state for the plants around here!
David Austin Climbing Rose "Shropshire Lad"
 David Ausin Roses have become my latest addiction in the garden.  Once you begin by getting their catalog, you fall in love and must have new varieties to add, I escpecially love the climbing roses.
This is what I talk of around Mother's Day.  The one above Kaley got me for Mother's Day this past year.
My patio overlooks the vegetable garden, I have a small Bloodgood Japanese Maple in one corner.  A couple years ago I bought eight of these trees for a super good deal.
I have one concrete raised bed, with the eventual plan of continueing to add them one by one.  However, at the moment I'm happy with just my mounded raised beds.   A greenhouse is what we need, that one element so important to grow food year-round in our climate.  Last year my tomatoes that I started extra early, thrived all Summer long, then they got blight just as the huge crop of Roma Tomatoes were about ready to turn red and ripen.  I had been looking forward to canning them all Summer, then they were destroyed by blight in an instant.  It made me realize how important a green house is for our self sufficiency plan.  To be able to garden year round is important to me, and to be able to grow tomatoes and peppers that need heat!  Now, cherry tomatoes I can grow, this year I will focus on both red and yellow cherry tomatoes.
Dahlias, Plums, and Roses from the garden

During the hot and dry time of the year I water frequently.



Homegrown Food

 A snapshot of my counter at the end of last Summer. Cheeses freshly waxed in the back, vegetables fresh from the garden, and our farm raised Chevon that is surprisingly delicious.  Getting ready for slow cooking a goat stew.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Late April Pictures

The Honeybees Have Arrived!
Yesterday I installed a package of honeybees that came in over the weekend.  They arrived just in time to pollinate the apple blossoms over the next couple of weeks.  Right now they're feasting on dandelion pollen, see how they're legs have pollen sac's that are full.

I've been keeping bees for about 7 years now and they're just part of my garden routine.  They're tireless little workers that are fun to watch.

Grazing in the Sunshine and Dandelions
For years I dreamed of having dairy goats.  I wanted to have our own raw goats milk to drink, as well as enough to make cheese, yogurt and ice cream.   Three years ago I bought my first dairy goat and I have loved them ever since.  Now, I think I will always have goats in my life.  

On the right side you can see the gate to enter our 10 acre property, we live at the end of a dirt road in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.   The barn was built by my husband many years ago when he was learning to timberframe.  It is built from the trees off this land. We have giant Douglas Fir, Cedar, and Hemlock trees.  

Our Mini Lamancha doeling greeting me at the gate.

Biscuits and Gravy
My husband was just fixing to take his first bite of  breakfast, when I said, "Wait, let me take a picture first". So, I quickly got my camera and snapped a shot with him holding up the plate. 

Homemade biscuits and gravy is a family favorite that I grew up with, and have many fond memories of watching my Grandma make them.  She was from the South and grew up eating biscuits and gravy.  We always had scrambled eggs, and bacon, along with several types of fruit.  The gravy was always made out of the bacon drippings.  I still love to make them when I have a little extra time.

ps. a note after the picture.  Sure wish I had added a sprig of parsley from the garden to spruce up the color a bit. Oh well, impromptu.

The definition of  Preen  -  1. To smooth or clean feathers with the bill.   2. To groom oneself with elaborate care or vanity.   3. To take pride or satisfaction in oneself.  
My chickens like to be clean, they take dust baths daily, and make sure there's plenty of time for preening to look their best.  

William's Pride Apple Blossom
William's Pride is our first apple tree of the year to bloom.  It is also the first of the year to ripen, around late August.  "The best of the early season apples", Raintree catalog says.  They are delicious fresh, but are not very good keepers.  The later season apples are the good keepers.  The virtue of a William's Pride apple is that it is first to ripen in my orchard, and after a long spell with no fresh apples they are eagerly anticipated.

Rhododendron Blossom in the Rain
From my kitchen window I can watch this giant old rhododendron blooming.  

*All the pictures above and what I wrote for each caption came from the 365 Project I'm working on.
 My address for the 365 Project is here,  I started on March 5th and am uploading a picture a day with a short description.  It's been fun to look back and see what is happening with our family, the animals or what's blooming on a particular day.  I'm enjoying seeing so many amazing photo's from around the world and connecting with people all over, it's been a great place to learn about photography.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Early April in Pictures

April began quietly with the Spring daffodils and Methley plum blooming, then along came the Salmonberries and currants.  Now, we're in the middle of the month, and just two weeks later, everything has begun to burst forth, growing at top speed.  I think the rhubarb grows a foot a week, it's ready for a bigger harvest than just pies, so, I'll be making my first preserves of the season soon.  The orchard has new blossoms happening daily, and the vegetable garden is beginning to grow.  The cold frame is full and the first beds of peas, greens, and herbs have been planted. The warm season crops are sitting inside under lights with heat from below, full of natural sunlight from a window, they're all toasty and will be ready to go out in another month.  

With the moon now waning, I'll be focusing on planting below ground crops for the next couple of weeks, planting seeds of  carrots, beets, and radishes, onions starts, and seed potatoes.  The onions I started from seed back in Feb. along with the celeriac and cruciferous vegetables (all sitting comfortably in the cold frame).  I'll begin to plant out the broccoli's, cabbages and cauliflower out over the next couple of weeks. April is the month I really begin to focus on the garden and orchard. 

The following pictures are all from the last couple of weeks.

The Trumpet of Spring

 Soup for breakfast
I love eating soup or stew for breakfast on a cold rainy morning. 
 This is goat and vegetable curry soup, 
it's one of my husbands favorites to take to work for lunch.

Methley Plum
The Methley plum starts our season of blossom in the orchard.  
For the last 8 years I've been planting about 5 new fruit trees every year. 

My grandson Roman saying Hi to one of the mini Nubian goat kids. 

Salmonberry Blossom
The border of our property is edged naturally with Salmonberry bushes.  This time of year they are filled with beautiful fuchsia colored blossoms.  Salmonberries are the first berry of the year to ripen.

Eye See You
Sierra is our beautiful Great Pyrenees.   
She was laying under an Asian Pear tree in the orchard,
 just relaxing in the sun watching me.  

 Ruby Red Rhubarb

 Rhubarb Pie
The season of rhubarb pie and ice cream is upon us!  
I made this for dessert right after harvesting it. 

Part of our morning ritual is Kalua joining us in front of the fire while we have our coffee. 
 She's purring and content on Dad's lap this morning.

Spring Break Sleep Over
My daughter Kaley on the right and her friend Hannah camping in the back yard.  We couldn't find the tent poles, and the girls worked so hard gathering sticks from the forest to set it up somehow.  After watching them, my husband joined in to help make it sturdy enough, he used a tall ladder to hold it up in the middle and sticks tied to support the sides.  Where there's a will, there's a way!  They had fun and were lucky it didn't rain.

Glowing Onion Starts
The vegetable garden is well on it's way, with baby seedlings everywhere.  The cold frame is filled with cool season seeds and the seed starting rack inside is full of warm season seedlings.

April 14, Seed Sowing
This white butterfly hung out with me while I was planting seeds a couple days ago.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Late March in Pictures

Little Eli
Snowdrop's little buckling Eli has lot's of spunk,
 he likes to jump off the highest rocks and run the fastest.

First Day Outside
Our beautiful Lamancha goat Zolena gave birth to triplets a few nights ago, 2 bucklings and a doeling. Our kidding season is now complete.  I've been having fun this March with 8 goat babies running around jumping, leaping and playing.  Spring smiles!

Kisses Say, "I Love You"
Our little Golden Retriever puppy giving kisses to Dad.

Good Morning Alarm Clock
We  have 2 roosters born and raised here, they have 25 hens between them and each has their own faithful harem following.  They're the early morning alarm clock around here, and when I say early, I'm talking around 4:30, the first crows happen slowly, then increase as the sun rises.  Luckily we enjoy our roosters and their crowing.  It helps that they're not too close to the house, so the sound is nice and lets us know the sun will be up soon.

"The Redheads"
Our family has beautiful redhead girls, daughter Tessa and our little girl dog Summer.

Playing in the Spring Sun
I'm enjoying life with all the goat kids this Spring.  
This little Nigerian  Doeling is adorable and loves to crawl in my lap for pets, I'm thinking of the name Elsie for her.  I'm trying to have them all named with E names, since that's the letter for the year for the ADGA, the American Dairy Goat Association.  

Last night on my way home from town, I paused to admire the 
evening painting in the sky and the beautiful silhouettes.

Ruby Red Rhubarb

Rhubarb pie baking season has officially arrived