A couple weekends ago I visited a family in Mississippi to attend a small Quaker gathering in their home. I knew the mother of this family kept goats and I really wanted some fresh, raw milk (so hard to find this precious substance these days!). I love raw milk and I haven’t been able to find it locally until I heard about this woman. She runs a small operation out of her home which is legal in Mississippi. There are some regulations, however she mentioned that the laws are nicer to home dairying operations than in most other states.
We sang some songs from the old activist classic, Rise Up Singing. We sang Simple Gifts, Do Re Mi (we rocked it out, just so you know), some song about a lonely girl, and closed with Simple Gifts again (it’s an all-time Quarker classic, something like ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ at a college party or ‘Summer Nights’ at a Karaoke bar). We then sat in meditation for about 30 minutes. Then, we ate amazing food.
This family has lots of animals, 18 of them being goats. I saw them huddled outside the window with an official goat herding dog who thought he was one of them. The family told stories about how gregarious the goats were. So, their reputation holds true — they climb and eat everything.
I bought a 1/2 gallon of goat milk for about $5. I brought two quart jars for her to fill. She gave me a recipe to make Queso Fresco which is the easiest recipe she knew of. And, considering my limited cheese-making skills, I was grateful.
In this picture you can see that one jar is almost empty. Well, as soon as I got home I tried it. It tasted so amazing! I love whole, raw, fresh milk. It is so satisfying. The next morning I warmed a good bit and threw in powdered cocoa, red pepper, cinnamon, and honey to make a delicious hot chocolate. With the rest of the milk, I made Queso Fresco which refers to its preparation in Mexico. However, many cultures make a simple soft cheese separated by an acid — take paneer from India for example. The recipe is fairly simple as you don’t need to culture or use rennet:
Heat milk to 180-200 degrees F (hotter temp for firmer curd, lower temp for softer curd).
Add about ¼ cup cider vinegar per gallon of milk. Milk should separate into curds and whey. Add a little more vinegar if not separating after stirring.
After milk has begun to separate, whey may still be milky but should turn clear and yellowish when completely separated.
Let curds sit in hot whey for 10-15 minutes.
Strain with cloth and hang to drip for an hour or more until almost completely drained.
Sprinkle with about 1 tsp. salt per original gallon of milk (if pressing), somewhat less if cheese will not be pressed. (Salt is easiest to mix in before cheese has been refrigerated). When serving the cheese, drizzle with olive oil and your favorite herbs.
For spreadable cheese: Whiz salted cheese with a little milk, add herbs and spices. Pressed or spreadable cheese will gain a stronger taste as time passes and should keep in the fridge for at least a week but should not have an “off” taste nor turn pretty colors.
The whey that I capture in the stainless steel bowl will likely be used to make whey coolers. Whey coolers are a lacto-fermented drink that are just plain good for the gut. There are rose geranium whey coolers, lemon verbena, mint, hibiscus…just be creative — there are lots of other possibilities.
I pressed my goat cheese into the glass container above with the bottom of another jar. Then, I drizzled (ok, maybe I poured) olive oil and sprinkled a good bit of thyme, oregano, and basil on top. Soon enough, half of the cheese was gone — super delicious.
For further reading on raw milk, check out Ron Shmid’s book “The Untold Story of Milk” — and hey, I will too. It’s been on my list for awhile.