"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One Giant Leap for Cheese

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?


The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

What an amazing opportunity - to have the materials on hand so that you can experiment on good, healthy foods. I'd say to start the trial runs of quesillo. As long as you have more coming every day, it's not depleting your stores of food supply.

Kudos for handling everything this week. I've had to cover extra duties while my husband was working away from home, but I couldn't imagine also handling all the farm chores, too! Take care to get enough rest!

Susie said...

Wish I were closer to you. I'd trade you some knitted goods for some yummy cheese.

polly's path said...

I say absolutely go for it! You are in the perfect position to experiment, with all that extra milk needing storage..

el said...

I say go for it.

I am amazed too: our one goat is putting out close to 2 gallons a day (13-15 cups usually) so I have been going a bit nutty with the cheesemaking too. Cheese wax is not expensive, though, and I have had a friend preserve fairly successfully with lard on her blue cheeses.

Dea-chan said...

I understand your wish for frugality, but why not give yourself ONE day a week for experimenting until your excess dies off. That's not that much to go to waste (if it does at all), and one day doesn't feel like that much.

The worst that can happen is you don't have cheese for that day. The best? Nummy yummy cheese!

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm said...

Why not can it. Here's how:

Coco said...

Could you preserve some of the soft cheeses longer jarred in olive oil?

And please keep providing recipes so we can follow along.

Aimee said...

thanks for the encouragement, all! Sheryl, I know milk can be canned and thanks for the link, but I don't like it. If I want a canned product I make cajeta (goat milk caramel sauce).

Coc- hi there! yes I will document my efforts. Good idea on the soft cheese. Once I made feta and tried to store it jarred in brine but after a week or so it dissolved. Haven't tried oil.

Sherri said...

Hi... Hey, how about getting a little feeder piglet to eat up a little bit of that milk. I hear that's a good way to use excess milk. And then in the end you get meat for the winter and all that. Just a thought.

Love checking in at your blog... you are living it real! I love how the posts are true life, not always peachy keen and perfect like some folk will try and convince you that homesteading is. It ain't! It's got thistle and burrs along with the pretty flowers!

We're doing it urban homesteading and while we can't have chicks or goats, we have close neighbors that do and we help support them until we can do it ourselves! Big on gardens and permaculture though... keep it up!!! Thanks for sharing with us!

Teresa said...

Of course experiment. I am so jealous. Every drop of milk I have now and for the next two or so months is going into kids.

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