Monday, February 28, 2011

Get your Goat?

No Kidding – We’re kidding

Kidding season is in full swing. The first kid goats were born in February’s subzero temperatures. Unless we were at the freshening, some of them did not make it. We also lost a few ear tips from the cold. We have 20 females and 20 males on the ground with ten more does to freshen. All of the yet-to-freshen does are yearlings and we need to pay special attention when they are freshening. We breed for milk production not mothering skills and some of the yearlings are downright bad mothers. They freshen and walk away from the kid(s) without cleaning them and getting them on their feet. After such a painful ordeal, they can’t imagine that there is more “work” to do like making sure their kids are on their feet and nursing. So we have to be in the barn to swoop them up, dry them off and bring them inside for warmth and their first bottles. At any time, there is one to ten goats in my kitchen.
There's A Goat in My Kitchen (Again!)

Normally freshening occurs without much intervention/interference from us. But this year we had three difficult deliveries which required pushing the kid back in, rearranging the head and legs and guiding the kid back through the birth canal. There was a breech delivery which required pulling so hard that I was worried that the kid’s legs would disengage from the body. The kids are tagged with colored and numbered ear tags – yellow for the females and green for the males. The numbers are then logged into an Excel spread sheet so we know who is who.

Kids in Orbit - Pan Feeding

The Bottle Rack Feeding Method

We are building a creamery on the farm to bottle our milk and make yogurt and cheese.  The creamery’s equipment is being paid for by a USDA grant but like all monies tied into the government, the project is delayed by funds disbursement.  So as soon as we are inspected we can begin raw goat milk sales but will not be selling goat milk products until summer.  As a result, we decided to keep the males on their moms so they will grow really fast and fetch us good prices for the Easter markets.  The males that are nursing their moms are almost twice as big as the bottlefed males.   The nursed male kids have 24/7 access to the mom milk bar and the females and bummer lambs (lambs without a mom) are bottle fed twice a day.   We milk the does, pasteurize the milk and feed it back to the kids.  Why?  Mostly for prevention from caprine and ovine diseases such as CAE and Johnnes.  We have used different methods over the years for raising kid goats.  We’ve used a lamb bar or suck-it-bucket which is a bucket with ten nipples attached to it.  The warm, pasteurized milk is poured in the bucket; the bucket is hung over the pen and the 12 goats go at it.  The problem with this method is that some goats get more than others; when the fastest sucking goat is done it moves over to the next nipple and bumps the kid out of the way.  The domino bumping continues and one or two kids get very little milk.  The other method is pan feeding; most cow dairies pan feed their calves.  The kids are not efficient at lapping milk like calves and digestion problems become a huge issue. Clots of curded milk are lodged in their rumens and they eventually die.  The third method is the rack.  Individual bottles with nipples attached are inserted into the rack and the rack is hung over the side of the goat pen.  The design of the rack is not perfect.  If you don’t supervise, the domino bumping occurs and the bottles pop out of the top of the rack. But this method is much more efficient than hand bottle feeding, which we are doing now.  We are hand bottling 28 kids and lambs.  When Riley was living with us, he was able to hold two bottles in each hand and one between his legs.  The problem with the bottle acrobatics is that when one the first goat finishes – your hands are occupied and you can’t easily protect the fast sucking intruder from hijacking a bottle in your other hand.  

The kid goats are bottle fed for eight to twelve weeks. The cuteness factor dissolves after a few feedings and everyone on the farm looks forward to the last bottle feeding of the season. The weaning process begins at about eight weeks – the kids are eating hay and pasture and small quantities of grain at this point. We bottle feed only once a day for a week or two and then every other week for a week. It is a great day when we can throw out the nipples, the soda bottles and store the rack in the top of the barn until its use next spring.  

Goats in Horse Barn playing King of Goat Mountain
The kids and bummer lambs are housed in the former horse barn. We have not horses in that barn for five years but I have a feeling that it will forever be called the horse barn. Barrels are placed on their sides for sleeping and cuddling corners and a couple of platforms are in the middle of the pens for the goats to play on. At two to three weeks, the female kid goats are disbudded; their horns are burned off with a disbudding iron. We used to keep the horns on the goats but it is difficult for the milking does to get their heads in the milking stands and we were constantly rescuing horned goats from entanglement in fences and feeders. Also, horned goats have an advantage and their typical goat play (rearing up and bashing heads) is dangerous for a non horned goat. While the horns are great handles for escorting them to and fro, we have had a few accidental piercings of hands of foreheads.
Let Me Entertain You - Let me Make you Smile!

The Hay Feeder Rubbed the Hair off our Noses!

Yearling Goats in Horse Barn

Why goat milk versus cow milk? Most people who drink goat milk are not able to drink cow milk because of lactose intolerance. While goat milk has the same percentage of lactose and fat, it is easier to digest because the fat globules do not bind together and are more easily digested and nutrients more efficiently absorbed. Many people believe that goat milk tastes “bucky” or “goaty”. I enjoy dispelling this myth with the Udder Challenge – comparing the taste of goat milk to cow’s milk with adventuresome milk tasters. Over half of the tasters cannot distinguish the cow milk from the goat milk. If goat milk tastes like the smell of a buck or a goat, it is most likely because the milk was improperly handled such as leaving it unrefrigerated for a while.

Recipes for Goat Milk
Raw goat milk is the best. The milk holds the flavor of the grasses, herbs and browse that the goats are eating. The flavors of the seasons are celebrated in the fresh milk. In the spring, the goat milk has a green, tangy taste from new grass and is buttercup yellow from the dandelion flowers. When the mint appears streamside, the milk, even as it is milked out of the udders, wafts of fresh mint. By June and by July the distinct taste of wild thyme flavors the milk. In late summer, the taste of hawthorn berries, wild blackberries and raspberries dominates the milk. By autumn, the milk is deeper flavored and more concentrated with taste traces of leaves, mosses, earth and apples.

My favorite goat milk recipe is Cajeta, a Mexican caramel that is drizzled over ice cream or pound cake or eaten with a spoon right out of the jar.

2 quarts of goat's milk
2 cups sugar
1 large, plump vanilla bean, preferably Mexican, split open (or substitute 1 tablespoon pure Mexican vanilla extract)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
1.  In a large, heavy pot (not iron), combine the milk, sugar, and vanilla, and place over medium heat. Stir regularly until the milk comes to a simmer and sugar is dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and add dissolved baking soda; it will bubble up. When the bubbles have subsided, return it to the heat.
2.  Adjust heat so that the mixture is simmering briskly but not boiling. Cook, stirring regularly, until the mixture turns pale golden, about two hours.
3.  The milk should be stirred regularly as it begins to thicken and turns a caramel-brown color. Don't allow the milk to stick to the bottom of the pot. You can drop a few drops into a small glass of water. If a soft ball forms, the cajeta is ready.
4.  If you take the pot off the heat and allow the cajeta to cool, it should be a medium-thick sauce. If it's too thick, add hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time until it is the proper consistency. If it is too thin, return to the heat until it thickens.
5.  When the cajeta is cool, remove the vanilla bean. Strain the cajeta through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl or wide-mouthed jar, then scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cajeta. Refrigerate until ready to use. Cajeta is best served warm.

It is difficult to make goat milk cream as goat milk is naturally homogenized. It requires a separator.  We make a lot of goat milk fudge, ice cream and chevre.  Spring's offerings of chives and dandelions mixed in the chevre is a little slice of heaven.  

What is your favorite recipe with goat milk?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

It's in the Soup and Good Farm and Food Reads

It’s in the Soup

My dad sent me a new cookbook last week - Earthbound Harvest – a collection of stories and recipes from the organic vegetable farm in Carmel, California, The book opens with a story of how the farm grew from a ramshackle road stand to a multinational corporation. The beginning recipe section is a celebration of soup. The first recipe is for Nan’s Tomato Rice Soup made with canned tomato juice, beef short ribs, onions, celery and rice. Simple. Perfect. This chapter, which also includes chicken parmesan soup, shrimp and corn chowder, curried garnet yam soup, pear and fennel soup and butternut, white bean and chard soup, inspired me to begin a journey discovering soup. Not only is soup the perfect meal for fending off the chills of February, it is the ideal way to glorify leftovers and make use of the canned harvest in the cellar pantry. My husband was searching for celery to dice into the egg salad. The celery? It’s in the soup! Cranberries? It’s in the soup! Cinnamon bread? It’s in the soup! Now my family peers first into the stock pot to see if the food for which they are searching is in the soup.

Soup for breakfast? Absolutely. A steaming bowl of broth is perfect. After morning chores, instead of another cup of coffee (so much caffeine), I curl my cold fingers around a bowl of meat broth. The freezer is full of stock so I started canning it. Some people are paranoid about running out of half and half or toilet paper; I worry about running out of stock or broth. So every chicken or turkey or rabbit carcass, every pork or lamb chop or beef bone relives as broth. And every nib of onion, celery, turnip, carrot or leek is thrown into the pot. Good stock is like a strong foundation; it is easy to build something great from good stock. Soup is a diary of what we have eaten during the week. Leftover rice, vegetables, meats, chutneys are thrown together to create soup. Jackson Pollock probably made great soup. Making soup is as creatively satisfying as painting or sculpting but more so because it nourishes us.

Nan’s Tomato Rice Soup
From The Earthbound Book by Myra Goodman

3 lbs beef short ribs on the bone untrimmed
2 large onions, cut in half through the stem end
4 ribs celery including leaves
2 large cans (64 ounces each) tomato juice (from my canned tomatoes)
1 cup long grain white rice
salt and black pepper

1. Combine the short ribs, onions, celery, and tomato juice in a large stockpot. Place the pot over medium high heat, cover and bring to the start of a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the meat is so tender that it falls off the bones, about four hours. Then let the soup cool for 30 minutes.

2. While the soup is cooling, combine the rice and 2 cups water in a medium size saucepan, cover, and bring to the start of a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the lid and let the rice cool.

3. Strain the soup through a colander set over a clean saucepan. Skim off any fat that has risen from the surface and discard it. (Alternately you can refrigerate the soup until is it chilled and then remove the layer of congealed fat that rests on the surface.) When the bones and vegetables are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and add it to the liquid. Discard or save the bones, onion and celery for stock.

4. Reheat the soup covered over low heat. Season with salt and pepper (Depending on the tomato juice you use, you may not have to add salt.) Divide the rice among the soup bowls, ladle in the soup and serve hot.

Other great soup recipes can be found in my favorite recipe books The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marion Morash and Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

Good Farm and Food Reads

I want to read as much as I can before the kid goats are born and we are milking twice a day and bottlefeeding 50 goats two or three times a day. My favorite books about food, cooking or farming are below and were found at my favorite used book stores The Bibliobarn in South Kortright and the Rose and Laurel Bookshop in Oneonta :

Tender to the Bone from Ruth Reichl. I laughed the hardest about her accounts of her mother’s poisonous cooking (really – she poisoned a wedding party with bad fish.)

Comfort me with Apples by Ruth Reichl. It’s not as good as Tender but still insightful about her days as editor in chief of Gourmet Magazine.

In Good Hands – The Keeping of a Family Farm by Charles Fish. A great history of a Vermont Farm

First Person Rural – Essays of a Sometimes Farmer by Noel Perrin. It brought back memories of our early farm escapades

Of Sheep and Men by R.B Robertson A great read about sheep, herding and dogs in the 1950s in Scotland.

A three book series: Moving UpCountry, Living UpCountry and Growing UpCountry – Raising a Family and Flock in a Rural Place by Don Mitchell. Packed with delightful adventures about families, flocks and farming.

I would love to hear your food, farming, cooking “good read” suggestions!