Historians Hear About Tasty Cheese from Goat’s Milk

Keith’s Newest Product to be Goat’s Milk Soap

By Terry Hussey

Tammy Keith delighted members of the Milbridge Historical Society on February 13, as she told them about making cheese from milk from her goats. She brought samples of the cheese for tasting, and told about a new goat’s milk soap that she will be producing for sale in the spring.

She and her husband, David, are raising six milking goats, along with sheep, pigs, and chickens on what locals know as the Fickett farm on the old County Road in Milbridge.  Many will remember her goat, pulling a wagon, that appeared in the Milbridge Days parade last summer.

Keith spoke affectionately about her "girls," who produce almost a gallon of milk a day.  She said that goats are affectionate, social animals. "They want you to like them," she said. They love to be stroked and talked to.  She said that goats are smart, with the intelligence of a two or three year old child.  "They have enough wits to get into mischief, and not enough smarts to know how they got there."

 Keith said her goats are fed a mixture of grain, kelp meal, and sunshine pellets.  She milks her goats twice a day by hand.
She said that making soft, French goat cheese is relatively simple process.  She first pasteurizes the milk on the stove, by bringing it to a temperature of 150.  It then can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Making the Cheese

To make the cheese, she puts a gallon of goat’s milk into a large pot and slowly brings it to a temperature of just under boiling.  When the bubbles begin to rise, she adds 1/4 cup of water and about 20 drops of rennet.  Rennet is a vegetable product that can be bought at health food stores. She also adds about a tablespoon of vinegar per pint to the mixture to give a little tang to the cheese.

The addition of the rennet causes the milk to separate into curds and whey. The curds and whey looks something like very course cottage cheese.  After the mix has cooled, she strains off the liquid whey.  Keith uses a clean Handiwipe towel to strain through, instead of cheesecloth. She lets the liquid drain for about 45 minutes, and is left with a soft, firm ball of cheese in the Handiwipe.

The cheese is pure white, soft, and spreadable.  It can be eaten just as it is, or enhanced with herbs.  She made a container of apple pie flavored cheese, using cinnamon and nutmeg for flavoring.  She also had samples of cheeses flavored with coarsely ground pepper, with garlic, and with other herbs and spices.

Why goats?

Tammy Keith said she first became interested in goat’s milk years ago when her baby daughter was found to be sensitive, if not allergic, to beef products.  She tried other substitutes for milk, but the only one the baby liked was goat’s milk.  She said she had to drive more than an hour into the country to get goat’s milk, and decided it would be easier to raise her own.

Keith eventually had a herd of about 20 goats at that time; but her military husband was transferred to New York City, so she had to give them up.  Today she is raising six milking goats, but she also has a small herd of "boys," bucks, and neutered males, who are being trained as work animals.  From this group came the goat that pulled the cart in the parade.

She said, "My boys take good care of the girls."  When a coyote came into the yard one day, she said the male buck stood guard on the does, watching to make sure they were all safely in the barn before he went in himself.

Her does produce enough milk to supply all the cheese, milk, and yogurt the family needs.  The excess milk is used to feed the other animals on the farm—the pigs and chickens.

The family also can eat goat’s meat, which Keith said is much like beef only leaner. It doesn’t have much marbleized fat, so you have to cook it with moist heat or it would be dry and tough.  She can’t sell her milk food products because she doesn’t use a commercial grade pasteurizer.  "That would be very costly for us, and far too much for just six goats," she said.

Making the Goats Self-Supporting

 Tammy and David are excited about their emerging business of making goat’s milk soap.  "The milk has high fat content, so it is nutritious for the skin.  It’s also very good for those with sensitive skin," she said.  It has no inherent smell, but can be lightly scented with herbal fragrances.  They are attending a course at UMM to learn all the intricacies of starting a small business.  They hope to have the new soap in production by late spring. "We hope the new line of soaps will make the girls self-supporting."