Recently I had the pleasure of attending a class on the art of making Organic Goat Feta Cheese, at a local farm in our area - Sacred Circle Farm. This was an educational day, let me tell you. This lovely farm raises Sannen goats, chickens, ducks, geese, 4 dogs, a number of cats and a lovely horse. This is a farm that works hard to give rescue animals a loving sanctuary. Please check out the website Sacred Circle Farm to see how you can help.
Let me also say this is the longest post I have ever done. I wanted to capture the farm and it's animals from organic product to the plate. I love this way of life, I love that natural living is so simple, and although it involves a lot of hard work, the efforts produce the freshest most delicious food you can ever imagine.
In this post, I will include a step by step process on how to make Organic Goat's Milk Feta Cheese, beginning with a tour of the farm.
Lets start the tour:
All of the animals on this farm have been rescued - whether they suffered abuse, neglect, or were ill and in declining health. Here, they can live out their lives, in this peaceful sanctuary, where they are lovingly cared for. Some of the chickens were once caged, ill, underweight and now - they are thriving, producing chicks and eggs. This is free range living at it's best!
The work, dedication and loving patience that is involved in such a sanctuary/farm is heartwarming to say the least. I have always had a huge respect for farmers, however, this day gave me an even greater respect - it is a way of life, it is their passion. And hard work? Hell yeah! This is pretty much a 24/7 job on it's own.
So here are a few more shots of the farm animals: (a wee young'in)
Here, a few of the goats and the horse were mowing down on fresh hay:
Here is another goat in his stall - checking out the action - they are just so darned cute! Goats are social, curious, friendly and they can be stubborn.
Time to milk the goats:
First and foremost let me clarify this type of farming. Everything and I do mean everything is done by hand. No industrialization going on here. It is as organic as organic can be. It is the "old" way, the tried and true method on how to succeed and create an organic way of life raising goats.
It makes me ask, "what the hell has man kind done to manipulate time honored traditions all in the name of mass production"? If you ever ever get the opportunity to taste real goat's milk and feta cheese, handled in the natural traditional way you will not believe the difference. I was astounded. I was served a bowl of Goat feta cheese - it was so so good. The milk? (I just had one mouthful) Again so delicious - it did not taste like regular store bought Goats milk at all - very mild tasting, rich and creamy.
Here I will post a step by step process - from milking to making Organic Goat Feta Cheese.
Cleanliness is the first step - all the way. The handler's hands are scrubbed before even entering the pen. Then the goats are brushed well to loosen any debris, hair etc. They love it!
Next, the udders are released of the first spray of milk, then washed with warm water and a cloth. Only then can the milking begin. After the milking is done, the platform is washed down. Milking is done twice a day, and each time the process is the same.
The warm milk is then strained, and refrigerated in a very cold fridge - to flash cool.
As this goat was being milked, there was quite a commotion going on with the chickens. They were underneath the goat stall. I was asked to look underneath and pull out any eggs.
Mercy...they were not only warm, but still wet! That was a first let me tell you! (I also went home with these fresh eggs - can't wait for breakfast tomorrow) Check out these eggs. The larger one came from an older hen - but is considerably bigger than one from a young hen. Apparently, the older hens are slower to lay, but when they do they have huge eggs!
Back to the goats...the next goat was eager to step up to the platform - see how cute? I fell in love with them! These goats are so lovingly cared for, they even get to listen to classical music in their stalls.
I was asked would I like to buy a mother and her kid? A part of me wants to. But honestly? I do not have the space, the time, or the commitment. I believe if you adopt an animal - it is for their ENTIRE lifetime. I just can not at this stage in my life do that, as much as I want to. It is only fair to that animal to give it your full attention and care to it's well being for the rest of it's life.
Here is a picture beginning with the goat milk and ending with delicious feta cheese.
Now time to make cheese: All utensils used are stainless steel, and glass and thoroughly sterilized
3 gallons goat milk
1/4 tsp. Choozit Cultures
1/2 cup water - chlorine free and room temperature
1/2 tsp. rennett
Using a 16 quart stainless steel pot, add the milk and keep on the lowest temperature, stirring from time to time until a temperature of 86-87 degrees is reached. Through out the whole process, the temperature was double checked - to stay at 85-86 degrees. Also, each time the milk is stirred, the stainless steel spoon is washed in hot soapy water, and rinsed well.
Once it comes to temperature, turn off the heat.
Now it is time to add in the Choozit culture. It is very important not to touch the culture - sprinkle a 1/4 tsp. into the milk. Seal up the package and refrigerate.
Gently stir from the bottom of the pot to the top. Stir just a couple of times, then put the lid back on and wrap the pot well in a large towel to stay warm. Let sit for 1 hour.
In the meantime, using a 1 meter square sheet that has been washed in natural soap, begin to rinse the sheet in very hot water. It is important to get rid of any leftover soap residue. You could also soak the sheet overnight in a vinegar solution, or boil the sheet.
Mix the 1/2 tsp. of rennet with the 1/2 cup of cooled water.
Remove the towels and bring back the milk to a temperature of 86 degrees on lowest heat, stirring occasionally. Pour in the rennet and water mixture, stir 15 times, then back stir to let the milk settle.
Turn off the heat and rewrap the pot in towels to sit for 40 minutes. During this time the milk can not be moved.
Now it is time to cut the curd. You can see the whey at the top of the curd.
Cut a diagonal cut right to the bottom of the pot. Then cut another diagonal the opposite way.
Once cut, gently stir once. If you see any very large pieces, just cut with the knife.
Line a very large strainer that is sitting inside a larger pot with the meter sized wet sheet so it drapes down evenly on each side of the pot. Carefully strain off the whey and carefully lift the corners of the sheet to tie and hang over the pot to drain. My camera batteries died at this point, but the scooped up ends of the sheet were tied and hung on a cupboard door handle - genius!
Hang for 4 hours, then unwrap the sheet and turn over the cheese to the opposite side and rewrap to hang for another 24 hours.
With clean hands and cutting board, cut the loaf of cheese in half then cut the cheese into cubes. Transfer the cubes of feta to a large dish. Sprinkle Kosher salt onto the cubes and cover with plastic wrap to tightly seal. Allow to sit on the counter for 4 days.
After 4 days, drain off any excess whey:
Make the brine the day before so it can come to room temperature:
Boil 1 gallon of water and add 1 cup of Kosher salt. Stir to dissolve and cool, to come to room temperature. Pour over the cheese to completely cover the cheese, put a lid on the container and refrigerate. (when the feta cheese is first added to the brine it will initially float, then sink to the bottom) Allow to cure for 30 days.
Come this fall, I definitely will give thought on how to make Lactose Free Goat's Milk Feta Cheese. I love the process, I love that this milk is local, and I especially love, what great care is taken in raising these lovely goats.
Thank you Sacred Circle Farm for the education and a most enlightening day...I felt blessed to be apart of it!