During my teaching schedule in Turkey, I was fortunate to spend time with both villagers and nomadic people who are masters at making goat yogurt and cheeses as their daily practice. With all this practical inspiration, I made a commitment and bought a organic goat milk CSA share before I brought home my own goats two years later. From spring to early fall, I had fresh, raw goat milk every week and began to experiment with raw goat milk cheeses all summer. This new skill set engaged all my senses and provided me with an extremely nourishing and creative experience, albeit a very intensive process!
Even though I had been making weekly goat milk yogurt (from store bought milk) for many years, this new adventure into artisanal cheese making took me deeper into the creative process. So many different kinds of cheeses depending on temperature, time, season, kinds of milk, cultures! As my first entry into this process, I wanted to keep it very simple. Even with that initial guideline, I realized very quickly that are many, many variables to make cheese. After a few mishaps of the cheese not coagulating, or too much mold on humid days, I quickly began to get the hang of it. The regular rhythms are very soothing: Stir the evening milk with starter and organic vegetable rennet and let sit overnight. First thing in the early morning, with the sun peeking through, ladle the formed curds into the molds. Let the whey continue to drain for two days in the warmth of the kitchen and/or the fresh summer air (covered with cheese cloth). At this point it can be refrigerated at 55-57 Fahrenheit for few days to many months, depending on the cheese and preservation methods. The smell, taste, and texture of raw milk cheese has no equal to the pasteurized versions.
The by-product of cheese making is the whey, which is rich in minerals and enzymes. I make certain cheeses so-as-to-not bring the milk to higher temperature than 80-86 Fahrenheit, to retain the nutrient density of the whey. The raw milk whey has a delicious sweet-sourness to it and this has provided the best nourishment for my husband and I for our morning whey drinks. If I have extra, I use it as fertilizer for all my fruit trees. I have had much bigger and juicier figs, peaches, plums, apricots since beginning to use the whey in the gardens these last few years.
From the very beginning, making goat cheeses captured my heart, mind, senses and creative passion. From feeding and taking care of the animal, to the daily milking rhythm, to the process of transforming milk into cheese, and finally to feeding oneself and others has been exhilarating and enlivening for the body and soul.