Daily Archives: June 22, 2011

What I really learned on my summer vacation: goat-milking and cheese-making

Okay, I’ll admit the first 2/3 of my vacation wasn’t intended to be educational although I did learn a few things while relaxing on Tybee. Helpful things…or at least helpful for the next time I’m near a beach. I now know that that the sting of a jellyfish does not always cause an adverse reaction on humans, and, by watching a few very young experts, I learned how to pick them up and fling them to the beach. I also relearned how to ride an upright bike. This was not an easy task for one accustomed to a recumbent bike, and there were a few moments in which I hoped no one was watching.

Leaving the ocean behind was, as usual, difficult. Fortunately, we had another few days before returning to reality. Our destination? Elk Creek Farm in Natural Bridge, VA, where my brother, James, his wife, Karen, and their college student son, Adam, live with a bunch of goats, a bunch of chickens, two donkeys, two boxers, one African Grey parrot, not to mention fish in the river that their property borders. There’s a huge garden which, at the time of our visit, was producing carrots, lettuce, beets, peas, onions, garlic, spinach, and a variety of herbs. There were fresh raspberries, strawberries, and if James had run up into the mountains, probably some other berries.

In previous visits, I’d learned to kayak through the rapids (sort of), so this time I had set two new goals before arriving: to learn to milk a goat and to learn to make cheese. With Karen’s direction, I managed to do both. I have proof, thanks to my husband, the chief videographer.

Milking a goat

Turning milk into cheese

Stretching the cheese

What a perfect way to end our vacation — we returned home with a large cooler full of fresh vegetables, some soft goat cheese, and a large round of goat mozzarella, which is better than anything you’ll buy in the supermarket. The ingredients include only milk, salt, rennet and citric acid. The whole process for mozzarella took just 30 minutes and the cheese can be used immediately. I’ll definitely make it again at home. According to the recipe, if your milk is ultra pasteurized, a better option is to use nonfat powdered milk.