Wednesday, May 26, 2010
It's been only two days since the last two baby goats were picked up, and already I have run out of room in the refrigerator for milk and cheese. I am frankly stunned by the amount of milk three dairy goats produce daily. Yes yes, I have had three milking does for three years now, but this is the first year that I have bit the bullet and actually sold the kids while they were still babies. In years past, I have kept the kids until they grew up and weaned themselves. Then I sold them for meat.
Sure, theoretically, I knew that each doe would produce about a gallon a day, split between morning and evening milkings. But three theoretical gallons are very different from three actual gallons taking up all the very literal space in my refrigerator. I need to make cheese every day just to reduce the cubic volume somewhat - a gallon of milk makes a pound of cheese, which occupies much less space.
Today I made cheddar, and yesterday I made black pepper chevre. The day before that I made paneer. The trade network will be able to absorb some of this excess, but not all of it. As I am not a licensed dairy, it is illegal for me to sell cheese or even milk. I am not entirely sure of the legality of selling milk "for animal consumption only" but I advertised it that way on Craigslist nonetheless.
What I really need is a way to reliably age hard cheese. I can make cheddar, but without a "cheese cave" - a climate controlled area - I can only keep it for a month or so before it begins to mold. It's delicious young, but that's not the point. The point is, how can I store my summer excess for winter?
This is hardly scientific, I know, but my best idea so far came from the "Little House" books. Ma Ingalls used to paint her cheeses with wax and then set them to age in the root cellar, turning them every couple of weeks. I can buy paraffin cheaply at the craft store. It's worth a try. I don't exactly have a root cellar, but I have a crawl-space and a lockable cooler.
The other possibility is convincing my husband to have a go at converting an old half sized fridge we have sitting out in the garage into a cheese cave. What I need is a box that will maintain a temperature of between 45 and 55 degrees, and a set humidity which I'd have to look up. He likes to tinker, so getting him to give it a go isn't too far fetched. Getting him to maintain interest long enough to make it actually work, though...
The last possibility is training myself to look upon my astounding surplus of milk as a golden opportunity to experiment with tricky cheesemaking techniques and obscure products. I'm dying, for example, to learn how to make Oaxacan quesillo - a delicious kind of string cheese. My husband would absolutely swoon if I succeeded in making quesillo. I haven't attempted it before because it's difficult and I would certainly fail a few times before I succeeded.
I am rather a miser when it comes to milk (and eggs) and I find it very hard to launch an experiment which might very well result in the loss of a few gallons. Nobody knows what an investment of time, sweat, and tears those gallons represent but me. I am the same way, actually, with paint and canvass. Lord knows the masterpieces I might have created if I could just get over my fear of wasting materials.
Whaddaya say - shall I risk a little milk in pursuit of new and superior cheese? Some gourmand said (I read in a book of quotations) "Cheese is milk's leap toward immortality." If immortality isn't a goal worth risking a little raw material for, well, whatever is?