I had a sweetly special experience today in the current deep freeze we are experiencing here in Paonia, Colorado. I mingled with goats. Friendly, furry and inquisitive – they were certainly happy to see me, the Girls of Rain Crow Farm.
I had talked with Carrie, co-owner of the farm – www.raincrowfarm.com – this morning. I was so happy to get her call, as I’ve been sourcing goat milk in the valley to make yogurt and cheese, and now have two farms I know of still producing milk this winter. The family was going to be out of town when I came for the milk, but she gave me directions to the farm fridge – in through the red door next to the hay barn, also alerting me about their two dogs who would likely greet me very loudly!
The snow crunched under my tires as I rolled up to the drive way…watch pups in position and the goats straight ahead.
As I got out of the car, the faithful farm dogs set up a ruckus that would alert everyone far and wide a visitor was in their midst. I headed in through the red door of the shed to pick up my two half gallons of milk, and was closely followed by a beautiful rooster. He erupted with a hearty cock – a doodle – doo then slowly strutted back out into the day.
After the milk was stashed safely on the front seat, I walked over to meet the Girls. What a gift! Standing out in the country, snow capped mountains all around, I was petting and getting licked by the goats who created the milk I’d be making yogurt and cheese from this afternoon. They were bold and made me laugh, nosing my hands and mouthing my fingers with their rubbery lips. The longer I live in this North Fork Valley, the more locally grown foods I’ve been growing, gathering, preserving, and preparing, falling in love with the concept of sustainable living. This morning, though not the first time I’ve sourced local goat milk to make cheese, it was really hitting home. It was a gorgeous, cold day and I felt rich.
I reluctantly left the farm, yet was excited about the afternoon. I’d received a new yogurt maker as a gift over the holiday, and couldn’t wait to make my first batch. Then, a batch of fresh cheese…. The yogurt turned out great – I’ll save that little adventure for another post – maybe teamed up with a favorite granola recipe.
Fresh Herbed Goat Cheese Au Poivre
This cheese could not be simpler to make – inspired by the extraordinary Yumani Devi, author of India – The Vegetarian Table, it is a recipe for panir, the fresh cheese of India. I love to add additions to the plain cheese. In this version I add the herbs into the milk as it comes to a boil – really infusing the flavors of rosemary, thyme and a pinch of dill seed into the cheese. The curds and whey are strained through a round sieve lined with cheese cloth, and today I decided to leave the cheese in this half round shape, pressing the extra whey out, letting it cool a bit, then finishing the cheese with cracked peppercorns. It is truly delicious!
- 1/2 gallon whole milk – wonderful with local goat milk!
- 1/3 c. fresh lemon juice
- salt to taste (about 1 tsp.)
- 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp. thyme leaves
- pinch dill seed
- 1/3 c. (approximately) cracked peppercorns
Bring milk to boil in large pan along with salt, rosemary, thyme and dill seed. Reduce heat to low and, while gently stirring, add the lemon juice. When the milk separates into cheese curds and yellowish whey, remove pan from the heat. Line a strainer with triple thickness of cheesecloth 22 to 24 inches square. Slowly pour the curds and whey into a strainer set in the kitchen sink. Gather the corners and tie into a bundle. Squeeze out excess moisture. Neatly fold cheesecloth over the cheese. Drain and press cheese until it is firm, this will take about 10 – 15 minutes. Meanwhile crack whole peppercorns in a mortar and pestle or electric grinder, taking care to not process too finely. If you have a round bowl, pour cracked peppercorns into it, invert cheese into bowl, and rub peppercorns into the cheese. Alternatively, press them into the cheese from a plate. Use as desired or wrap well and refrigerate up to 5 days. The cheese is perfect for sautéing, it does not melt but rather gives off it’s herby fragrance even more wonderfully. It is also excellent with a fresh, garlicky basil pesto folded into the curds after straining, or cilantro and crushed cumin seed. I’ve made it too with minced chipotle peppers, wonderful!
A scattering of fresh minced rosemary, thyme and dill seed infuse their flavors into the fresh goat milk as it comes to a boil.
At the sink, straining the curds from whey through cheesecloth.
After the whey has drained off, the curds are pressed into shape – in this case, left as a half – round in the strainer. Cooled just a little and rolled in cracked peppercorns, I couldn’t resist cutting into the fresh cheese while it was still warm. Here’s what that first wedge looked like:
After chilling in the refrigerator, the cheese slices well and thinly, with a wonderful herbal taste.
This visit to Rain Crow farm was truly special. I had come to help with weeding another time, close to the end of the harvest season. The memory which is most brilliant is the one where, with a pitch fork, we unearthed dozens of carrots per square foot of the carrot patch – red, yellow, orange and white. It was a spectacular sight of abundance, of farming at it’s finest, to me. Just as this parting shot of the girls.