Goat cheese has become a culinary celebrity. But what about its parent product, goat milk? While the cheese has become the darling of contemporary California chefs, goat milk is more appreciated by diet and health professionals, who recommend it for babies unable to digest cow milk.
Like an undiscovered Cinderella, the milk has not yet been tapped for a glamour role on California tables and is largely unknown to the general public. Production is so small that the California Department of Food and Agriculture in Sacramento could offer no statistics on goat dairies and goat milk production in this state. The milk is expensive, too. A health food store in Los Angeles sells it for $2.79 a quart, either raw or pasteurized. In contrast, a quart of cow milk cost 56 cents in a supermarket.
Another factor hinders acceptance. "Goats have a very poor image. They're supposed to be dirty animals that eat tin cans and garbage," said Gloria Willis of the Green Gold Valley Goat Dairy at Salinas. The reputation is undeserved, according to Willis. "Goats are very, very clean animals. They smell their food . . . and if it is dirty, they won't eat it," she said. The only odor associated with goats is that of the bucks during breeding season, she added.
Green Gold is a Grade A dairy that began this year to distribute milk in Los Angeles. And a visit there is as entertaining as a visit to the zoo. The does are not just milk givers but individuals, with names like Fawn, Tara, Nougat, Amelia, Naomi, Felicia and Betty Jane. The baby goats (kids) are kept on milk for three to five months. At feeding time, they wag their tails as they eagerly slurp the milk poured out for them by Kathy Thomas, 26, the herd manager. The older goats feed on alfalfa and forage hay, not cans and rubbish.
Schools make field trips to the dairy. And an invitation to visit is also extended on Green Gold milk cartons. The 45-acre property presents an attractive rural scene. Live oak trees shade the Willis house, which is fitted out with antiques and handcrafted woodwork. The carefully tended flower garden in front is the work of Willis's 87-year-old mother, Gerda Jacobsen, who also cooks hearty ranch meals from her store of family recipes. Out back are pens for the goats, barns and the structure that houses the milk parlor, where the goats are milked; the milk room, where the milk is pasteurized and put in cartons, and a small cheese room.
The goats are outgoing, friendly, intelligent and, as Willis said, possessors of "cute personalities." The older ones eye strangers with interest or, sometimes, with wariness. A 2-week-old Alpine kid happily nuzzled Willis as she held it.
The milking proceeds so rapidly that watching it makes one dizzy. Does jam the entrance to the milk parlor like shoppers waiting for the doors to open on a sale. Eight at a time, they rush into individual pens on either side of a sunken area where Thomas supervises the milking. While being milked, they munch on a caprine treat, a mixture of cracked corn, rolled barley and a dairy pellet that supplies vitamins and minerals. Runways lead them out and others take their place without interruption.
The milk is piped through a double filter into a refrigerated tank. Tasting a sample from the tank while the milking was in progress put an end to the myth that goat milk is strongly flavored. The sample tasted pure, clean and light. However, cartoned milk that is allowed to stand for several days will develop a slightly rich flavor.
Green Gold milk comes from four breeds--Alpine, Nubian, Saanen and LaMancha. In full season, the dairy produces about 120 gallons a day, most of which is sold raw. Willis estimates that one-fourth is pasteurized.
In July, the dairy introduced a line of goat cheeses, produced in the cheese room by Mary Jane Pruett, aided by Willis' daughter, Marilyn McMurray. In addition to plain cheese, they make garlic-dill, orange-tarragon, fines herbes, dill-curry, apricot-pistachio and date-nut flavored varieties. Pruett named a dessert cheese Lulu's Delight after an encounter with a particularly skittish, older Alpine goat. This cheese contains fruits and walnuts and is spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom.
Goat dairying may be a small industry, but it is as closely regulated as the production of cow milk. Howard Eastham, dairy foods specialist with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Milk and Dairy Foods Control, said samples for inspection are picked up at least once a month from dairies producing either type of milk. Milk stocked in retail stores is periodically checked, too.
Whether from a cow or goat, milk is divided into two types: market milk and manufacturing milk. Grade A, or market milk, is milk "that ends up in the bottle," Eastham said. To be designated a Grade A facility, a dairy must meet strict building and cleanliness standards. The building standards are less rigid and the acceptable level of bacteria is higher for manufacturing milk, Eastham said. This type of milk might be used for hard cheese, for condensed milk or for powder that will not be reconstituted as a beverage. Market milk must be used for yogurt, cottage cheese or powdered milk that will be reconstituted for human consumption.
Goat milk is slightly lower in fat than cow milk, Eastham said, and is naturally homogenized. The minimum fat content set for goat milk is 3% and for cow milk 3.4%, he said. The minimum percentage of nonfat solids (protein, casein, albumen, lactose) for goat milk is 8.15% and for cow milk 8.7% or 8.8%. Mixing the two types of milk is prohibited, he stated.
Eastham, who is based in Sacramento, said he is not aware of any cases of raw goat milk contaminated by salmonella but does not state that it can't happen. "We've just never had a problem with goat's milk," he said. Joe M. Cardoza, who inspects the Green Gold Valley Dairy, supports that statement. "So far as I know, we haven't had any major problems," Cardoza said.
Rita Storey, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman in Los Angeles for the American Dietetic Assn., repeats a standard caution about the consumption of raw milk. "Generally speaking, nutritionists are always against raw milk simply because milk can be a carrier of potentially harmful bacteria," she said. Those who choose to drink raw milk should bring it home from the store promptly, refrigerate it and use it immediately, she said. Goat milk contains about 35 milligrams more calcium per one cup measure than whole cow milk, but in protein and calories it is "roughly the same," Storey said. She explained that goat milk is easier to digest than cow milk because it contains more short- and medium-chain fatty acids. A delicate system can absorb these more readily than the longer-chain fatty acids that predominate in cow milk.
Because their gastrointestinal tracts are not fully developed, babies are sometimes unable to digest cow milk. Goat milk provides a nutritional alternative until the child is able to eat solid food at about the age of 1 year, Storey said. However, goat milk is low in folacin, a B vitamin that is important in preventing certain types of anemia. If a baby is fed primarily on goat milk that is not supplemented with folacin, it should be given a folacin supplement, she said.
Storey figures that goat milk has not achieved the popularity of the cheese for this reason: "So many adults just do not drink fluid milk, whereas cheese has always been in another arena."
The Willis family drinks goat milk, obviously, and uses it in cooking interchangeably with cow milk. For them, dairying is a dedicated life.
Their first goats--registered Nubians--were given to them. "Who would want to have a goat anyway?" was Willis' reaction to that happening. But the relationship took, and in 1978, Willis and her husband, Carl, borrowed money to build the dairy. The operation is small, run by the two Willises, Kathy Thomas and a helper, Aurel Caraconcea. Thomas was graduated in animal science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and plans a future as a missionary, working in Third World countries where goats are more common than in the United States.
After the morning milking and feeding, the family, Thomas and Caraconcea gather for breakfast. When we joined them, they had cantaloupe, Gerda Jacobsen's coffeecake, eggs, goat milk and coffee. Dinner precedes the afternoon milking and centers around a sturdy dish such as tacos with goat cheese or macaroni and cheese made with goat milk, Cheddar cheese and garlic-dill flavored goat cheese.
To introduce goat milk cookery, Jacobsen provided several recipes for family favorites, including pancakes that are wonderfully light and waffles. Her pumpkin pie, a handed-down recipe, has traditional flavor, but the filling is more delicate in texture than one usually encounters. Fairy Pie, another old-time recipe, is not so much a pie as a cake. Baked with a meringue-nut topping, the "pie" is cut into wedges and served with whipped cream and raspberry sauce. Willis explained how to make the macaroni and cheese, and Pruett provided her recipe for goat milk cheesecake. Additional recipes include vanilla ice cream, which acquires rich flavor when made with goat milk, and peanut butter-chocolate fudge.
GOAT MILK WAFFLES
4 cups sifted flour
3 tablespoons sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups goat milk
1 cup melted butter
5 egg yolks, well beaten
2 egg whites, beaten stiff
Syrup, strawberries or olallieberries
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Combine buttermilk, goat milk, butter and egg yolks. Add to dry ingredients and blend. Fold in egg whites. Bake in hot greased waffle iron until browned and crisp. Serve with syrup or with strawberries or olallieberries. Makes 32 waffle squares.
GOAT MILK PANCAKES
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup goat milk
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup melted butter
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Combine goat milk, buttermilk, beaten egg yolks and butter. Add to dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. For each pancake, pour 1/4 cup batter onto lightly greased griddle. Cook until browned on each side. Serve with syrup. Makes 16 pancakes.
GLORIA'S MACARONI AND CHEESE
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 quart goat milk
1 pound Cheddar cheese
1 cup garlic-dill-flavored goat cheese
1 (7-ounce) package macaroni
Melt butter in large saucepan. Stir in flour. Add goat milk and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to boil. Add cheeses and cook until melted. Cook macaroni in boiling salted water until just tender. Drain. Place in 3-quart casserole. Stir in cheese sauce. Bake at 350 degrees 1 hour. Makes 8 servings.
GERDA'S PUMPKIN PIE
1 cup mashed cooked pumpkin
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups goat milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
Combine pumpkin, eggs, sugar, flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt in bowl. Heat goat milk with butter until butter melts. Combine with pumpkin mixture. Turn into pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake 35 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Place on rack until cooled. Makes 1 pie.
Note: If making 2 pies, triple filling.
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup goat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts, optional
1 (10-ounce) package frozen raspberries, packed in sugar syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
Cream together butter and 1/2 cup sugar. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Beat egg yolks with goat milk. Add flour and egg mixtures alternately to creamed mixture.
Pour batter into 2 greased 8-inch round layer cake pans. Spread evenly to edge, forming thin layer. Beat egg whites until stiff. Gradually beat in remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Blend in vanilla. Add nuts.
Spread meringue on batter in layer pans to within 1 inch of edge. Bake at 350 degrees 25 minutes or until wood pick comes out clean. Remove from oven. Cool on racks 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely. Drain syrup from raspberries into saucepan. Blend in cornstarch. Cook and stir until thickened. Add berries.
To serve, cut each layer into 4 to 6 wedges. Top each wedge with spoonful of whipped cream. Drizzle some of raspberry sauce over cream. Makes 8 to 12 servings.
MARY JANE PRUETT'S CREME CHEVRE CHEESECAKE
3 (5.5-ounce) cartons plain goat cheese
5 extra large eggs or 6 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
Grated peel of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
3 teaspoons vanilla
Prepare Crumb Crust. Stir cheese until smoothly blended. Beat egg yolks until almost pale. Add 3/4 cup sugar, lemon peel and juice, cornstarch and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
Beat egg whites until firm but still moist. Beat in remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. Fold in remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla. Turn into Crumb Crust. Bake at 300 degrees 1 1/2 hours until center tests done. Cool and refrigerate. Release cake from springform and place on serving platter. Makes 8 servings.
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add butter and mix. Pat over bottom of generously buttered 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees 10 minutes. Cool.
GOAT MILK ICE CREAM
1 quart goat milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
Scald 2 cups milk in large saucepan. Combine sugar, flour and salt. Stir into scalded milk and cook and stir until boiling and thickened. Blend some of hot mixture into eggs, then stir into mixture in saucepan. Cook and stir until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and cool. Add remaining 2 cups milk and vanilla. Freeze in ice cream freezer following manufacturer's directions. Makes about 5 cups.
GOAT MILK FUDGE
1 2/3 cups goat milk
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup peanut butter
4 teaspoons vanilla
Pour milk into heavy 4-quart saucepan. Add chocolate and stir over low heat until chocolate melts. Add sugar, corn syrup and salt and stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until mixture reaches soft ball stage (234 degrees on candy thermometer.)
Cool to lukewarm, then add peanut butter and vanilla and beat vigorously until mixture loses its gloss and thickens. Turn into buttered 8-inch square pan. Cool until firm, then cut into 1 1/2-inch squares. Makes about 2 dozen.