Archives for the month of: March, 2012

I started making cheese a month ago.  The aim is to be able to store the abundance of Summer/Autumn goat milk for the leaner Winter months.  I chose to store it in the form of cheese! 🙂 Never having made hard cheeses before, this was a steep learning curve.  Luckily for me, Ricki Carroll’s book ‘Home Cheese Making‘ is easy to follow with step by step instructions.  My very first hard cheese was the Farmhouse Cheddar (p104).  The only variation, between the recipe and my cheese, is that I made it with raw goat milk, not pastuerised cow milk.  We prefer to keep our milk raw, to retain all the health giving enzymes that naturally occur in the raw milk.  This cheese was aged for 30 days, under wax, in the cheese cave, and the great unveiling occurred last night!  It was with much excitement that I cracked open the wax on my first ever Farmhouse Cheddar!  The structure looked good, reasonably soft with some good holes.  It sliced well, was slightly crumbly, and the flavour was great, with a nice tang, if a little too salty.  I can remedy the saltiness next time, by reducing the amount of salt I add to the curds.  All in all, a success, and I will continue with my amateur cheese making whilst I have a plentiful supply of milk! 🙂

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Farmhouse Cheddar

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Today I attended the Alpine Poultry Club’s Poultry Auction.  What a glorious Autumn day it was in our beautiful North-east!  My aim today was to find some point of lay pullets, in the hope that they would lay well through Winter.  I was seeking heavy breeds which I could later breed some good table birds from.  I was vaguely hopeful that someone might have some fertile eggs for sale, even though the season is well finished, as I would like to run the incubators one more time before Winter.  Unfortunately there were no eggs on sale, but there was a lovely selection of chicken breeds, both bantam and full size, as well as ducks, turkeys and geese.  I was pleased to see 2 pens of Brown Chinese Geese.  These usually sell for $50 or more per bird, but looked like they sold for around $50 per pair.  I used to raise geese and love them, but really do not have a suitable yard for them, so wistfully passed these magnificent creatures by today. 😦  I was also very, very happy to see several pens of my favourite, SIlver Grey Dorking chickens.  They raised a fair bit of interest and I was happy to chat with prospective buyers about this delightful rare breed.  I wonder if the owners realised I had a part to play in the very good prices these birds fetched!  I did bid on a pair of pullets, but they went over my limit.  I also bidded on a trio of young Rhode Island Red chickens, but was again outbidded.  The only chickens I managed to snaffle was a pen of 4, 2 week old chicks.  I paid $16 for them!  They are unsexed, and I have 3 Plymouth Rocks and 1 Silver Laced Wyndotte.

The one bird that won my heart was a very young turkey Tom.  He was so talkative and allowed me to pet him through the cage.  I was the first bidder, at $10, for him, but then I realised, as I do not have any turkeys, he would be very lonely should I win him.  I found a gentleman who breeds and shows turkeys, and we chatted about the 4 very large Toms that were for auction down the end of the row.  Apparently these were show quality birds.  I decided to bid on all 4 as well, so that my little guy would have a friend.  Having never kept turkeys before, I figured they would make excellent table birds should things not work out between us! lol

Things did not all go my way, and I only came home with 2 of the large Toms.  These are show quality Bronze Turkeys, and I have fallen in love.  Bronze Turkeys are listed on the rare breeds trust website as ‘at risk’,  so I am very happy to be a part of the survival of this magnificent breed.  I can’t wait now to find some gorgeous turkey hens for my boys! 🙂

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My new Turkey Toms, T1 and T2
(now (18 April 2012) known as Truffles on the left and Tambo on the right :D)

Duck meat is super delicious with lots of flavour, and wonderful fat which can be stored for cooking potatoes and things in 😛

We prefer to raise pure and rare breeds, and started our duck flock with Pekins for meat, and Khaki Campbells for eggs.  Over time, and looking for an even meatier bird, we introduced Aylesbury Ducks and Muscovies to our flock. 

Ducks are messy.  They poo everywhere and it is sloppy, runny poo.  They trample your garden and spread water everywhere, but they are the best bug control you will ever have in your orchard!

I love to use duck eggs in baking.  The whites fluff up for the perfect pavlova and the perfect sponge cake.  Due to our current dietary restrictions, I now bake with coconut flour.  Coconut flour baking requires a LOT of eggs, and I make a wonderful chocolate slice using 8-9 duck eggs at a time.

 

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Although goats can have very long lactations, which means they do not need to be bred every year in order to produce milk, there are times when breeding occurs, in order for us to obtain milk from our goats.  We do not take the kids off the mothers at 3 days or 3 weeks of age, preferring to wait until a more suitable weaning age, before beginning milking.  The dilemma then arises as to what to do with the kids.  We castrate the bucklings at a couple of weeks old, and they are then generally grown on for meat.  The processing occurs on site, so there is minimal stress to the animal.  Usually they are eating breakfast, and do not know what has just occurred, when we end their lives.  The reality for us is, that if we eat meat, then we must be prepared to take responsibility for that.  It does mean the end of a life.  We raise our animals with love, care and respect, and we end their lives in the same manner, and with gratitude for the sustenance they will provide our family.  Each piece of the carcass is dealt with respectfully, and we do not allow any waste.  Last year we processed Annabelle’s two buck kids, and tomorrow we will be doing the same again.  Here are some photos of the process from 2011.

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breakfast, as usual

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skinning

After a few days hanging in the cool room, I cut, vacuum seal and freeze the meat.

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hanging

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cutting up

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vacuum sealed goat meat

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I also love to make sausages!

Years ago we used to buy in day old meat chicks.  These birds are bred to grow fast, and can be processed for the table in as little as 5 weeks.  Any attempt to grow these birds out for 6 months or more, usually results in failure – the failure of the birds’ legs to be able to hold them up.  Despite our efforts to raise commercial meat chicks to breeding age, by feeding them a lower protein diet, and encouraging them to free range, we were only able to keep 1 hen successfully to laying age.  Eventually, she too, succumbed to the phenomenon of her legs no longer being able to hold her own weight.  For this reason we no longer support the idea of commercial meat birds, instead choose to raise old fashioned table birds, which take 6 months to grow to eating size, and in the process develop a fantastic true ‘chicken’ flavour. 

Cockerels are processed around 6 months of age and hens around their third laying year.  We raise chicks every year to replace the layers we use for the table.  We usually have around 50 chickens on the place at any one time!

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Silver Grey Dorking cockerels ready for processing

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The Dorkings are one of the smaller of the large breeds, but provide a lovely white, delicately flavoured meat

During Summer and Autumn there is an abundance of milk; far more than a household can drink!  The challenge becomes how to store the milk for lean times, such as during Winter.  In this modern age, freezing is one option, although the freezer quickly becomes filled with plastic 2L milk bottles.

Goat milk soap

When I have an abundance of lard or tallow, I like to make goat milk soap.  Not much milk is required per batch though, so I needed another method of preserving my goat milk.Image

Cheese making

Traditionally, many versions of farmhouse cheese were made as a way to store the excess milk.  Although I do not have a cellar (yet!),  I was still keen to have a go, and learn a new skill.  Cheese making has proved to be a fairly simple and fun exercise, even though I am self-taught!  I have been working my way through Ricki Carroll’s, ‘Home Cheesemaking’ book.   Some of the recipes are quite fiddly with lots of steps, and I have a bad habit of not reading them through first up, only to find I am tied to the kitchen for a whole day, eg Traditional Cheddar.  I also failed to read properly, the curing time with the parmesan, and was horrified it would be 10 months before I could even taste it!  That aside, I believe this to be a rewarding and satisfying way to use the milk from my gorgeous girls, respectfully and thoughtfully.  There have been a few failures, a few wins and the remainder – well we cannot even try these until the curing time is up. 😮 I am not known for my patience! 😛

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the first 3 cheddars in the ‘cheese cave’

It has been nearly a month since the Farmhouse Cheddar was waxed!  We get to taste test it next week!!  The traditional cheddar and kefir cheddar need another 2 months in the cave.  These are only a few of the cheeses I have made in the past few weeks.  I will be reporting on each one in turn as we eat them 🙂

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feta in oil

This feta is the best thing I have ever tasted! (well almost lol)  My second batch failed and I fed it to the pigs.  I will definitely be making this on a regular basis – so good!  It is also a fresh cheese – so waiting time between making and eating is minimal! 🙂

We have kept dairy goats for two years.  I am currently milking 3 does, once per day, for a gain of approximately 6L of milk per day.  In order to store all this milk for the Winter months, when milk levels drop off significantly, I am converting much of the milk into cheese.  This has been a very steep learning curve in the art of cheese making!

Meet the Girls

Judith is a 9 year old British Alpine doe.  She was our first ever milking goat.  She has been a fabulous teacher, and is greatly loved!  Judith has not had kids for over 4 years, but true to breed, keeps producing a good quantity of gorgeous milk every day for our family’s needs 🙂


Judith, the day we collected her


Judith May, after a year or so in our tender care!

Annabelle is a 3 year old Saanen/Toggenburg Cross.  She is currently on her second lactation.  I did not milk her during her first lactation, as she was quite difficult for me, a beginner, to milk.  Firstly, she seemed to hate it, and secondly, her teats were small and difficult to milk.  Her milk also tasted quite terrible at that time 😛  This time around I was determined to teach her the ins and outs of milking, just as Judith taught me! lol  With garlic therapy, we have managed to turn Annabelle’s milk into sweet tasting liquid gold, which hints that a slight mastitis infection might have been present previously.  Annabelle is very sweet in the milking stand now, and has graduated, just last night, to being milked without a leg rope!


Annabelle arriving at Baringa Park


Pregnant Annabelle Mary

Violet, is another British Alpine doe.  She is approximately 5 years old, but as we do not really know her history, do not know if this is a second lactation, or later.  She has lovely soft teats for easy milking.  I once told DH that, “You just have to look at Violet’s udder, and the milk comes out!”  She is also a dear, sweet girl, and no trouble at all in the milking stand.  This is very important to me, as I once owned a cow that was so scary, I had sworn off milking for life.  Judith changed all that;  she changed my life and when I count my blessings, I do always count her twice! ❤


Violet’s first day, with Bellamy James


Miss Violet Rose