Cashmere is our name and cashmere is our game. But oh do I love those goat milk things, the soap!, the lotion!, yogurt!, cheese! So I have a small crew of Alpines and Saanen Alpine crosses and I love them so!!
My favorite cheese is Chevre. It makes me so happy on a pizza with a bunch of spinach from the garden, or crumbled on my salad. For me, it is also the easiest to make. Sure there's 30 minute Mozzarella, and farm-style cheese (Paneer) with just milk and lemon juice. But even those require heating to just the right temperature and, well, standing around in the kitchen making a mess for at least an hour. I do love them, but my favorite cheese to make and to eat is Wasabi Chevre.
Making Chevre fits just right into my daily schedule. Each step is quick and easy, so while it takes a couple days from start to finish, it feels like you're hardly doing anything and like magic, there it is!
Here's my recipe and how I put it together:
1 1/2 gallons fresh raw goat milk
1/4 tsp dry Chevre culture
4 drops vegetable rennet
1/4 cup water
2 tsp salt
2 TBS Wasabi from the squeeze tube
I know, Wasabi?! Yeah, the stuff that comes flaming out your nose when you put the tiniest dab on your California Roll. I don't know why but it is simply not hot when you put it in the cheese; it's just the most lovely flavor. My least spicy friends love it, really. And, as I said, it's my most favorite; and I like all cheese. Okay, leave the Wasabi out if you must.
Alrighty, here's what you do:
IN THE MORNING after milking put 1 1/2 gallons of milk in a stainless steel pot. Put that pot in a slightly wider pot (or the sink) with either warm or cold water, whichever is needed to bring the milk to 80 degrees f. This will only take a couple minutes. At 80 degrees sprinkle the culture on the top of the milk and let it soak in for a couple minutes. Meanwhile drop 4 drops of rennet into 1/4 cup cool water and stir in. Stir the rennet and water into the milk. Stir for at least a minute using an up and down motion. The culture and rennet need to be well mixed with the milk.
Put the lid on the pot and set it out of the way for 8 - 12 hours. How easy is that?
AFTER DINNER is all cleaned up in the evening take the lid off the pot and cut the curds. Cut about one inch curds in each direction vertically and then horizontally. I just use a stainless steel knife, it works fine. Stir the curds gently a few times and let them rest a couple minutes while you get your straining stuff together.
Line a colander with butter muslin (or several layers of cheesecloth, or one of those jelly straining bags from Ace Hardware) and set the colander over a bowl. Use a slotted ladle to spoon half of the curds onto the butter muslin, you might have to pour the whey from the bowl into a jar if it reaches the bottom of the colander. When half the curds are in the muslin tie up the corners and hang it so the whey can drain into a jar or a bowl. Do the same thing with the other half of the curds. Leave the curds to hang and drain overnight. Nighty night, sleep tight.
IN THE MORNING, when it fits into your schedule, before or after milking, take the drained curds (it's cheese now!) out of the muslin and put them in a fairly large bowl. Stir them up with a fork mixing the dryer outer layer with the moister middle. Sprinkle the salt over the cheese and stir it in. Add the Wasabi and stir it in. Mash the cheese into molds, put a bit of weight on top and let them drain for 2 - 4 hours in a cool place.
You can see in the photo below the little jars with water set on top of the cheese as weights.
In the winter I put them in my special "cave" plastic container with drain holes in the bottom and air holes in the top in my cistern house (it stays about 50 degrees in there). In the summer I put one or two of those frozen cooler thingies in my plastic container cave and set it in the sink the stay cool and drain. Adding the salt and keeping the cheese cooler slows the culture growth way down. If you would like your cheese super tangy Chevrey, don't worry about keeping it cool at this point. At lunch time turn the molds upside down and let them drain 2 - 4 hours in your cool place.
Around dinner time take the cheeses from the molds. Aren't they beautiful!! Fantastic job. Wrap them in plastic and refrigerate. Be sure to eat some right away while you watch Netflix, or take them to a party and impress all your friends. Whatever you do with them, someone's gonna love them!
If you're lucky you live close to a cheese making supply source and can go shopping in person, get advice, look at the different supplies. If you're like me and live way far away from that sort of shopping you can find great sources online. A couple of my favorite places to get things like cultures and rennet as well as great recipes and advice are Hoegger Supply, http://hoeggerfarmyard.com/xcart/Cheese-Making/, and New England Cheese Making Supply Co., http://www.cheesemaking.com/. Check 'em out!
Old friends, new love.
It all began when I quit my job at the local clinic last April. Well actually I guess it all began in the winter of 2001 during the first evening of my beginner spinning classes with Maggie Casey at Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins in Boulder, Colorado. On that night we learned to choose fiber, scour, tease, card and finally, to use our drop spindles. Really, all in one evening. We practiced all week and returned with some pretty good messes on our spindles. Then we were introduced to the spinning wheel and over the next five weeks we tried them all out. At the end of the classes I tossed my budget to the dragonforce winds of Boulder and bought a Schacht Matchless. Bless my dad. He helped me afford the Cadillac; it was my great fortune that he had worked with Barry Schacht prototyping some parts in the past and was delighted to help me buy one of his wheels.
I should have loved my drop spindle more in the beginning. It is my nature to love the simplicity of form and function that makes even the crudest hand spindle pleasing. But I was smitten with my Matchless, and probably more importantly, I could actually spin yarn with it.
Fast forward to April 2014 and I quit my day job here in Westcliffe to spend more time with my cashmere goats and the fiber. I talked my brother, Bob, a woodworker, into making some beautiful drop spindles for me to sell along with my fiber and other goatie things at the farmer's market. Thinking it would be a good thing if I could actually spin on the spindles if I wanted people to buy them, I plucked out the most beautiful one and started playing. As Rita Buchanan wrote about her own experience in her 1995 article in Spin-Off magazine, "Drop Spindle Basics", those 13 years on the shelf did the spindle a lot of good. I spun pretty good yarns with it, fast too.
I taught dozens of people to spin using drop spindles over the summer; mostly kids, who were at first disappointed that the spindle wasn't an interplanetary weapon, but lots of grown up folks too. Turns out I'm a pretty good teacher. We made spindles with old CDs and lengths of cheap pine dowel. I think these rock for learning to spin; they are just the right weight and that big circumference keeps them spinning and spinning while the new spinner learns to love the draft triangle.
And me, I'm in love again. My new love is an old Bulgarian spindle I got on ebay. Did I mention my three dozen cashmere goats? Cashmere demands a support spindle. Rustic simplicity, form, function. I.Am.Enraptured. Newly challenged, enchanted, charmed, besotted, and smitten all over again I am. Did I say obsessed?
It all starts with this.
Find love for someone you love in our shop, we send the spindle, a couple ounces of clean carded corriedale wool, and instructions. What a great gift!
Watch a video.
Read a book.
Earlier this year I got a fairly distressed text message from my brother, Bob. He was retiring, his last day of work was in two weeks, and then, he would have no value to the world! I got it, retiring can be a really hard life transition, especially if you're managing other big changes at the same time. I felt bad right along with him. But, I was secretly kinda happy. Not schadenfreude, really. It was that I wanted some of his spare time for my own interests. See, my brother is a super woodworker. He has a lathe. I wanted things like drop spindles and yarn bowls to go along with my goaties' fabulous fibers.
Frankly, I started to nag. I needed these things. I sent him links to my favorite shopping spots, The Woolery, Etsy, Paradise Fibers. I mailed my favorite spindle to him. I mailed him pages torn from Spin Off magazine. I even mailed him a bundle of fiber to spin. He asked if I wanted him to start working on making his own sweater from scratch. Not yet, first I want spindles. And yarn bowls.
And finally, one day, he came for a visit. He brought beautiful spindles!
I'm rained out of the garden for a few minutes so let's talk about soap again. The last time we talked about making goat milk soap, we kept it as simple as possible since it actually requires a lot of equipment, materials and coordination to make a super simple batch of soap. And, I do recommend starting out as simple as possible just to experience putting all the elements together.
But of course super simple begs to be made better, and with soap that means the addition of luscious stuff like essential oils, fragrance oils, colors, exfoliants, salts, and any other beautiful things you can think of.
I'm still trying to pour the perfect bar of soap. Not there yet but so far, my favorite is the salt bar. Surprisingly, adding a whole bunch of sea salt soap to your soap makes it feel really soft on your skin. And by all accounts, it's good for your complexion too. Add a beautiful fragrance like Rain, and wow, you really have a luxurious bar of soap. Another of my favorites is to add honey and oats to the basic goat milk bar, no fragrance thanks. That's like health food for your skin. It's good to take care of yourself!
Where to get soap supplies and other stuff:
You might have a craft store or a homesteading supply store in your town, fun! My town isn't really big enough for a specialty store so I have to shop online. As you know, Amazon is always a good starting place; everything is there, molds, stamps, ingredients of all kinds. I can pass on a couple of suppliers I've had great luck with too. Bramble Berry is a really good source and an easy to use website. The link is just above this. I love Mountain Rose Herbs for essential oils and organic flowers and herbs. https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/
I've had good service for basic supplies like oils and lye from Essential Depot: http://www.essentialdepot.com/ There are so many good resources, look around and find some for yourself. Saponifier Magazine: http://saponifier.com/ is a super place to find ideas and suppliers. And a good forum is always helpful when you have questions or problems: http://www.talksoapforum.com/
There you have it! You know everything I know about making soap at home, I hope you have a lot of fun and make something beautiful. Let me know how it goes.
Wow, I bought the Spring 2014 Spin Off magazine yesterday. I've always loved Spin Off and it's always beautiful, but you gotta love this issue especially; it's all about color. If you'd like to take a peek at it yourself you can find it here: http://www.interweavestore.com/spinning-magazines-spin-off.
I was especially taken by the beautiful and complex colors of yarns created by blending many colors on the drum carder. I guess I was already noticing this beautiful process as I watched a "batt contest" develop on facebook (and now that it's over I can't send you to it because I can no longer find it).
I am in the process of spinning up a bunch of Great Pyrenees hair from my guardian dog's grooming. Pyr hair is super soft and a great addition to yarn. I have been blending it with Corriedale, a sheep wool that has all the right ingredients for good yarn spinning, and nylon sparkle. I have been dying the sparkle bright colors, grasshopper, sky blue and deep orchid. The Pyr is white with a bit of grey and black, I have white and black Corriedale stash in abundance. I also have on hand some Corriedale that is dyed sky blue, ready for an upcoming project involving silk noils, but that's a whole 'nother story.
So, after perusing the Spin Off magazine I decided my last batch of Pyr would be blended with black Corriedale, sky blue dyed Corriedale and deep orchid sparkle. You can see it on the carder and in batts above. Such fun! I may never card another monotone batt, ever. This batch is still on the spindles, I like to let the twist set overnight before plying into two ply yarn. So far it's a loose, fat, colorful single.
Here's Shiva showing you where we're going with the spun chunky, sparkly, colorful Pyr yarn. Funky crocheted hats for the farmers market.
It seems like I'm always spinning luxurious, fine yarns appropriate for the fabulous cashmere the goats give me, and then moving on to a larger project like a shawl to show it off. It's really fun to make the chunky stuff and then crank out a cute and funky hat in under an hour.
So tomorrow I'll ply today's colorful batts and crochet another hat for Shiva to cuddle with! After that, I'm thinking cashmere, bamboo and silk in who knows how many colors. It'll take a while.
Cashmere goats are typically considered a dual purpose goat, luscious fiber and meat. My herd are mostly quite small and any one of them wouldn't net more than a couple of chevon burgers. I can't actually imagine butchering Betty or Goldie anyway, so Cloud Valley goats are just single purpose goats. But, as any goat farmer knows, one goat leads to another, so lets have milk.
The first year of milking I actually milked a couple of my cashmere mamas. It was a lot of work for not a lot of milk, but I loved the milk. So I bought a young Alpine dairy goat, Bluebell.
Bluebell's baby, Louie, didn't look like the others, and boy was he big! Just as I'd hoped, Bluebell gave me lots of milk. I learned how to make cheese, I put milk in my tea (yum!), I froze some milk in ice cube trays for soap making.
Then, I learned how to make soap. I'm still a beginner but I'm happy to share my experiences. Like bread baking or riding a unicycle, making a good bar of soap takes a little trial and error to get the feel for it. My first batch never reached trace and I poured it on the driveway to keep the dust down.
A Goat Milk Soap Recipe and How to Make It
There are several ways to make soap. I use one called the cold process technique because it seems the most appropriate for goat milk. It is basically dissolving Sodium Hydroxide (the big name for lye) in liquid and then blending it with oils or fat. The lye and oil saponify, a fancy word for the chemical reaction between the lye and oil that makes the soap harden.
The most important ingredients for making soap are safety items, goggles and gloves. I also like to wear an old long sleeve t-shirt. Don't mess with lye, it can hurt you! So here's a list of the stuff I use to make cold process goat milk soap:
Cheap plastic 1/2 gallon pitcher
Cheap stainless steel 10 quart stock pot
Electric hand blender (also not expensive)
2 cup measuring cup
Long handled spoon (a narrow spatula is pretty
Kitchen Scale (making soap is like a chemistry
experiment in your kitchen, you
have to measure accurately by
A length of 2 inch PVC pipe to mold the soap
Now the ingredients for a very simple pure and soft facial quality
700 grams Olive Oil
300 grams Coconut Oil
380 grams goat milk that has been frozen into ice cubes
142 grams NaOH (lye)
We'll talk later about where you get this stuff and other soap making supplies.
Here's how you do it:
Put on your goggles and gloves.
Put your plastic pitcher on the kitchen scale and tare it (zero it).
Measure goat milk ice cubes directly into the plastic pitcher.
Let the ice cubes melt just a little bit, so there's a little melted milk in the pitcher and the cubes are a tad softer.
Put the stock pot on the scale and tare it.
Measure the coconut oil into the stock pot. 300 grams.
Measure the olive oil into the stock pot. 700 grams brings the total weight to 1000 grams.
Warm the stock pot gently so the coconut oil becomes liquid. I just put the pot in the sink filled with warm water. I put the plastic pitcher with the milk ice cubes in the warm water too, but don't melt the cubes too much, you need ice.
Prepare your soap molds while the oils are warming to liquid. I use a couple one foot lengths of PVC pipe. To prepare them I oil the inside surfaces and seal off the bottoms with saran wrap and packing tape. You could also line a shoe box with saran wrap, or oil a bread pan, or you could buy a fancy
silicone mold or some cool soap molds, whatever.
Put the 2 cup measuring cup on the scale and tare it.
Measure the lye into the cup.
Fill a sink or large bowl with icy cold water and place your plastic pitcher with milk cubes in the cold water.
Slowly pour the measured lye into the pitcher stirring it into the milk cubes to dissolve it.
Note that it gets hot! Refresh the icy cold water in the bath if you need to so the lye mixture doesn't get too hot.
Note that it stinks! Make sure you have lots of air circulation in your room so you can breathe fresh air while you're dissolving the lye.
When the lye is dissolved, pour it into the stock pot with the oils.
Stir it in with your hand blender. Run the blender for a minute or so, then just stir the mixture around for a couple minutes, then run the blender for a bit, then just stir for a while. This process takes several minutes so crank up your favorite music and keep at it for a while. Be careful to give your blender breaks so you don't overheat it or wear it out.
Stop blending when the mixture reaches "trace". Trace is when the mix begins to thicken, like a soft pudding. When you lift the blender out of the mix it holds its shape a little bit.
Pour the soap into your molds.
Wrap the molds in a thick towel to retain heat and put them out of the way to cure overnight.
The next day the soap should be firm to the touch and ready to pop out of the molds. If the soap isn't firm enough to come out of the molds cleanly, give it more time to cure in the molds.
It is helpful to put the molds in the freezer for a couple of hours before unmolding the soap.
When I use the PVC pipe for molds I put them in the freezer for a while then I take them out to the shop and put them in the table vise and push the soap out with a stick.
Next, we'll let the soap cure for a few days or a week. Then if it's molded in a form that needs to be cut up, cut it up. Finally, let it cure for at least a month before using.
Tomorrow, or maybe the day after, we can talk about adding other things to the soap to make it more nutritional, to add texture or fragrance. Also, I'll put in a few links for resources. Until then, dream soap dreams!