October 29, 2017

Goat Bells

Dan needed to order a new ignition control module to fix his truck. We found the best price on Amazon, but still needed another purchase to have a $25 order for free shipping. He suggested goat bells!

These came in a package of 12 bells.

These are brass bells from India. They are roughly 1.5 inches tall and at first I thought they might be too small. They come in larger sizes, but I liked the price on these. However, they have a nice weight to them and we can hear them from across the pasture, so they are just right.

Daisy and Violet modeling their bells.

They are useful, because when I take the girls for walks in the woods, they sometimes spread out in the brush, and I can't see where they all are. The bells help me keep track of them.

When they're out in the pasture it sounds like wind chimes. Quite a chorus when they come running to the barn at milking time! It makes a nice touch to the homestead.

Goat Bells © October 2017 by Leigh 

October 26, 2017

Autumn Chores

Certain times of the year projects like the barn are set aside for seasonal chores. When the forecast was for heavy rains followed by nighttime lows in the 30Fs (single digits C), it was time to get a few things done. I started by harvesting the sweet potatoes.

Sweet potato bed. The goats get the vines.

They are easy to find because the tops are right under the mulch.

They look good. Some are too big and some are too small, but they'll all get eaten. The one bed gave me about fifty pounds.

We have to wear leather gloves any time we work in mulch
because that's where our black widow spiders like to hide.

While I was in the neighborhood I pulled some radishes from the bed next door.

Purple plum radishes. The goats get the leaves.

The radishes' companion lettuce is looking good too.

Lettuce. I misplaced my garden chart so I'm not sure what variety this is!

I also harvested the cushaw squash. Not sure if frost would harm them, but the rinds were tough so they were ready to pick.

Cushaws - love this winter squash. Three is plenty for the two of us!

Dan's first autumn chore was firewood.

Then it was on to cleaning out the gutters and the woodstove chimneys.

Chimney brush with add-on extension rods.

The soot falls into the stovepipe elbow attached
to the stove. Dan used his shop vac to clean it out.

Lastly the catalytic combustor was cleaned and the stove is ready.

Next the cookstove chimney pipe was vacuumed out and the cast iron top oiled.

Ready to cook!

Pecan gathering will be ongoing for the next couple of months.

I keep a couple of buckets near the bench outside the
Little Barn. We add a handful of pecans to these daily.

The last thing I did was to move my Meyers lemon, aloe vera, and ginger plants indoors,

Lemons! Hopefully they will ripen by Christmas.

while Riley practiced for upcoming long winter's naps.

This takes a lot of practice, you know.

How about you? Are seasonal projects on your agenda too?

Autumn Chores © Oct. 2017 by Leigh 

October 23, 2017

Not Much to Show on the Barn

Sam showing off the outer wall for the hayloft.

Ridge beam extension at the peak

This will be for a block and tackle.

That's about it for actual barn progress since my last barn post. All of the action has been taking place at the sawmill, because the next step was to cut rafters for the milking room and nailers for the roof.


After that Dan got a start on the milking room roof,

Ridge for the milking room rafters.

but then a vehicle problem channeled all energies elsewhere. So while he's working on the truck I may as well get started on the paint.

As a consolation for not having many barn progress photos, here are a few of Sam and Meowy, two of our barn cats.

That's about it at the moment.

Next > "'Bones" for the Milking Room"

October 20, 2017

New Adventures in Cheese Making

The other day I made the last of my mozzarella for the season (need enough in the freezer for pizza while the girls are dry during the last two months of their pregnancies). I also finished up the last of my liquid rennet and was ready to try my new Walcoren powdered. It was time for a new adventure in cheese making! For that, I wanted to start working my way through this book by David Asher. ➘

The Art of Natural Cheesemaking
Why this book? Because I'm a self-sufficiency wannabe. That means I look for ways to make cheese without having to continually buy cheese cultures. My first cheeses were based on a recipe that I called my Little House on the Prairie Cheese. I used whey as my starter culture instead of a meso or thermophilic culture. Those first cheeses were okay, but I wasn't entirely satisfied with them. This book uses kefir, which I make regularly, so it perked my interest.

To start, I wanted a firm, ready-to-eat cheese that I could slice for sandwiches or burgers, or grate to use in eggs or fajitas. For that it made sense to start with the basic rennet curd cheese (chapter 13), because the author says it's the foundational cheese for most other cheeses: fresh, brine-aged (feta), pasta filata (stretched cheeses such as mozzarella), white-rinded, blue, alpine, washed rind, washed curd, or cheddared. That's a lot of variations from one basic process, so it seemed like the place to start.

Here are the notes from my cheese journal:
  • 1 gallon *skimmed raw goat milk
  • 1/4 cup freshly drained kefir
  • 1/32 tsp powdered calf rennet (WalcoRen)
  • 1 tsp non-chlorinated water

For 1/32 teaspoon rennet I used my smidgen spoon

8:30 a.m. - set milk to warm slowly on stove
9:30 a.m. - milk temp 90°F (32°C), stir in kefir
10:00 a.m. - mix rennet in water, set aside to dissolve
10:30 a.m. - stir rennet solution into milk. Let sit & keep at 90°F (32°C)
11:30 a.m. - clean break, cut curd, stir occasionally (85° reheat to 90°)
12:30 p.m. - let curds settle
12:35 p.m. - pour off whey and drain. Pack curds into molds

Hand packed into two cheese molds. (Recipe calls for three.)

The instructions said the curds would knit together as they sat in the molds. I was a tad dubious how well that would happen without weighting them, but at that point I had an errand to run, so off I went. A couple hours later I was able to remove them from the molds.

Okay, not bad. Not smooth, but firm.

They were firm enough to handle - no crumbling. I was impressed. I rubbed each with canning salt. They were covered with a dish cloth and allowed to air dry for about 24 hours, flipping occasionally.

I was very curious when I sliced the first one and was pleased with the texture.

They were firmer than I expected, especially for the curds only being hand packed. And the cheese had good flavor, even without aging! A keeper!

The other thing that is different with this recipe, is that the curds weren't "cooked." That's usually what's done after the curd is cut in the pot. The temperature of the curds in whey is typically raised to anywhere between 100°F (38°C) and 110°F (43°C) depending on the desired result. This recipe maintained a curd temperature at 90°F (32°C).

The final test was the melting test.

Grilled cheese and tomato sandwich. Yum!

It melted beautifully and made a delicious sandwich, especially with a slice of homegrown tomato! Definitely a keeper. The only thing I will do differently next time is to put all the curds into one mold. I'd like the cheese to be sandwich size and fit on a slice of bread.

I'm really excited about this new direction for my cheesemaking. I have quite a bit of milk right now, so it's a good time to experiment.

*NOTE: Practically all of my homemade cheeses are made from skimmed milk. Not because I especially want it that way, but because I use my own raw goat milk which is not homogenized. Goat cream is slower to rise than cows cream, but by the time I'm ready to make cheese, it is ready to skim.** This has been one of my cheese making challenges, because whole milk cheeses are tastier than skim milk cheeses. David's book explains that once the cream has separated from the milk it can't be reincorporated to make a whole milk cheese. The cream comes out with the whey! I've had that happen and now understand why my old time cheese recipes, such as in Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery, often call for adding that morning's milk to the previous day's milking. Their cheeses would have been partially whole milk cheeses.

**NOTE ON THE NOTE: I have to mention that the milk from my Kinders give me more cream than either my Nubians or Nigerian Dwarfs did. On top of that, their skimmed milk is creamer than either of the other two breeds. Skimmed Nubian and ND milk never made good coffee creamer, but my skimmed Kinder milk does! (Just another reason anyone considering goats should consider getting Kinders!)

October 17, 2017

Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes

My tomato plants have recovered from their late summer droop and are not only perking up, but beginning to produce again.

If our first frost holds off I will be able to make another batch of pizza sauce! However, when my tomatoes look like this...

I think of fried green tomatoes! But frying is a bit of a bother - messy, time consuming, and using a lot of oil or fat. So I got to wondering, could I oven fry them instead? I oven fry okra and other veggies (roasted, actually), so why not green tomatoes?

Did it work? See for yourself.

Faster, easier, and just as tasty. Here's the recipe -

Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes

  • green tomatoes cut into quarter-inch slices
  • oil (Your choice. I used a combo of coconut and olive)
  • cornmeal, flour, or combination
  • salt, pepper, etc. to taste
Combine seasonings with cornmeal and/or flour. Coat tomato slices first in oil then in the flour mixture. Spread out on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400°F (200°C) for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately!

Even if our first frost doesn't hold off, maybe I should can a batch of green tomato slices too. I could oven-fry those for a winter treat too!

Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes © October 2017

October 14, 2017

Gjetost (Norwegian Goat Whey Cheese)

Making cheese means making whey, lots of whey. More whey than one knows what to do with. Usually I make ricotta with my whey (how-to here). I love ricotta and have a number of recipes I use it in (click links for those): as a fat substitute in biscuits and ice cream (called gelato), also in cheesecake and gnocchi (Italian dumplings). But ricotta leaves whey behind as well, more than I can used in cooking. With about four gallons of whey in the fridge at the moment, I thought it was time to try something else.

I grabbed David Asher's The Art of Natural Cheesemaking and looked at the chapter on whey cheeses. Of course ricotta is always listed first, but then I saw his recipe for mysost. Mysost (my' sost) is a whey cheese made from cow milk whey. The goat version is gjetost (yeh' tohst or g tohst') which means goat cheese. It is also called brunost (brun' ohst) or brown cheese.

The recipe looked simple enough with only two ingredients: whey and cream. The down side was that it called for two to three hours of constant stirring after the cream is added. Now, me and sitting still don't get along very well, so I started looking for alternatives. I compared David's recipe with the one in Ricki Carroll's Home Cheese Making. No shortening of cooking time, but it called for using a blender. That didn't seem very authentic to me, however, my own method didn't turn out so very authentic either! I used my crock pot! It solved the constant stirring problem and worked well for me.

Here is the process in pictures.

Norwegian Goat Whey Cheese

  • 1 gal. fresh sweet goat whey from any goat cheese
  • 1.5 C goat cream (how to extract goat cream here)

Fill crock pot with whey & turn on high. When
it begins to simmer, skim foam and set aside.

Once it's simmered down a bit, the foam can be stirred back in.

It's about half the volume here and the consistency of evaporated milk.

As it cooks down it continues to thicken. When it's about
one quarter of the original volume, stir in the cream.

The cream is optional, but usually added to give the final product a creamier texture.

I stirred frequently and scraped the sides of the crock pot. The
scrapings melted back in & I used a little whisk to smooth them out.

How much to cook it down is apparently a matter of taste. The more
 it's cooked down, the firmer the cheese. It was 9 p.m. and I didn't
want to let it cook for another night, so this is where I stopped.

Primost is a softer, spreadable version of mysost or getost. It's made by not cooking the whey down so far. I think it would take a bit of experimenting to learn how long to cook the whey for the desired end product.

The hot cheese is cooled in a bowl in cold water. Stirring
helps maintain a creamy texture. It thickened as it cooled.

The last step is to put it in a mold. I used a glass dish, but traditional
Norwegian gjetost is put into square or rectangular wood molds.

Then it was into the fridge for overnight. The next morning the challenge was getting it out of the glass dish. I can see why the Norwegians use take-apart wooden molds!

My first gjetost

Mine was too hard to spread, but too soft to make firm, thin slices. But that's okay because it gives me experiential information for next time.

Next time I'll cook a little longer for a firmer, more
sliceable cheese, plus I'll try to find a better mold.

How does it taste? Heavenly! You'd never guess it was cheese! It has a tangy, nutty, slightly sweet flavor that is a delight to the taste buds. We had it for breakfast in place of our usual peanut butter and jelly on toast.

Can't beat this: toasted bread from our homegrown wheat, raspberry
jelly from our own raspberries, and gjetost from our own goat milk!

What did Dan think? He agreed it's a definite winner. We really like our PB&J breakfasts, but until I can grow peanuts and make our own peanut butter, this is an outstanding replacement, in both taste and price (free versus about $4.50 per jar of "natural" peanut butter.)

Will I try it again? Absolutely! I'd like to experiment with no cream and also with using whole goat milk instead of cream, just to see the texture differences (plus I have way more whey than cream). I'd also like to try primost, the spreadable version. That might be the best option for our morning breakfast sandwiches.

The only other thing I have is a few more links for both gjetost and mysost:
  • Gavin Webber (formerly of The Greening of Gavin) has a good video here. He adds cinnamon to his.
  • David Fankhauser's gjetost photo recipe (no added cream) is here.
  • Docaitta's recipe (here) used the whey from whole milk ricotta. That recipe is first, followed by the one for mysost. Also without cream.
  • And if you would like to hear the authentic Norwegian pronunciation of gjetost, plus see Norwegian dairy goats and how they milk them (makes my back hurt just to watch!) click here