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The People Who Stare at Goat Cheese

By Cathy Strange, May 4, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Cathy Strange
The People Who Stare at Goat Cheese would be a great title for a movie. Of course, it would star George Clooney and the superstars of the Goat revolution! Who are the superstars and what is the revolution, you might ask. Well, it is the age of Capricorn and the stars of the revolution would be the key cheesemakers of this generation. From California to Vermont the movement surrounding the popularity of cheese produced from goat’s milk has slowly continued to gain support. Key producers of goat cheeses in the United States include Mary Keehn, Judy Schad, Allison Hooper and let’s not forget Laura Chenel and Jennifer Bice. Many of the producers began by showing goats in competition. Yes, this is an underground scene, secretive with a unique language all its own. If you have ever seen a goat, petted a goat, owned a goat, you know what I mean. The eyes of goats are hypnotic and once you look into them you become possessed. Possessed with an inquisitive nature, an agile and sure-footed gait and a love for goat’s milk cheese. Soon all cream cheese disappears from your diet, replaced by fresh chevre. On bagels, in soup, on salad, in a wrap, wrapped in bacon, infused with chocolate, the list goes on and on. There is no turning back and the sky is the limit. It is no wonder that goats lived in the White House during the tenure of Abraham Lincoln. Let’s take time to learn a bit about goats. The American Dairy Goat Association recognizes the following goat breeds: Nubians, LaManchas, Alpines, Oberhaslis, Togenburgs and Saanens. There are other breeds in the world, around 210, yet these seem to be the most popular in the United States. Goats came to the U.S. via a boat ride; yes, you guessed it, riding with Christopher Columbus. Females are known as Does or Nanny Goats, Males (intact) are Bucks or Billy Goats, the offspring are referred to as Kids and, little known fact, castrated males are Wethers. Goats are ruminants. Ruminants mean the animal has a 4-chamber stomach. Cows and sheep are ruminants also. Goats do not have teeth in the upper front jaw, like most professional hockey players. Goats can be traced back over 10,000 years to Iran. They seem to adapt to most climates and are generally friendly animals. Goats have two teats (cows have four teats) and typically birth twins. They can have a single kid or even up to six kids per litter at times, but this is rare. Goats get milked twice a day and produce an average of  one gallon per day. The average life of a goat is 11 or 12 years but Mary Keehn has had goats live to 18 years. Now, what about goat cheese? Chevre is used to commonly describe any goat milk cheese in the United States. Overall, I do not object to this, but the term is loosely used. Chevre means “goat” in France and, after all, most of the goat cheese producers in the United States modeled on the French classic goat cheese products. Allison Hooper gained her passion for goat cheese during a tour of France. She is still amazed at how little consumers know about goat cheese. Her company, Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, has introduced new aged products over the past few years styled after French products. She thinks that this speaks to the evolution of the product over the last few decades. Judy Schad owns Capriole Farmstead Goat Cheese in Indiana. “Farmstead“ means that the animals are raised and milked on the same property where the cheesemaking facility is located. This is great because the milk never leaves the farm. Sometimes when milk travels distances to the cheesemaking facility, the molecules break down creating off flavors. Judy calls this “the buck walking through the vat.” The strong, or off flavors, that some of you may have experienced with goat cheeses are caused by acids in the milk. If you have tasted a “compromised” goat cheese it is easy to say “I do not like goat cheese,” but I encourage you to try again. Goat cheese has come a long way, baby. Judy began with her career with goats via a relationship with “Tea Rose,” a goat bred by Mary Keehn. When her herd grew to 30 goats she began looking for ways to cover the costs of feed. Her cheesemaking career began with fresh goat cheese — what the consumers knew and wanted. Inspired by Chantal Plasse, as she had never been to France, she began experimenting with mold-ripened cheeses in 1993 and 1994 and thus “Wabash Cannonball” cheese was born. She wanted to broaden the horizons of the consumers in the marketplace and was creating cheeses to model on cow’s milk products. Her key message for all of you is TEXTURE. Goat milk is not homogenized so the texture is very rich and creamy. Got to love that about goat cheeses! Probably the best known of the American original goat cheeses is the Humboldt Fog from Cypress Grove Chevre in California. Mary Keehn is the Godmother of Goat! She rocks and so does her cheese. Her first goat was caught by her and cost about $15 (the price of a pizza today)! From that day on she was hooked. In the late 1970’s her background in biology and interest in genetics led her to enter a goat in a national contest. Guess what? She won! Not only were her goats judged on all of the attributes of breeding, but they were also prolific milkers — giving up to 1.5 gallons of milk per day. Her Alpine lines are still recognized as some of the best in the U.S. today. Her Humboldt Fog Cheese came to her in a dream. She was on her way home from a trip and was inspired to produce this cheese named after the area of the country that she lives in. This is the silkiest and sexiest goat cheese that you have ever tasted. Mary’s mantra is “clean milk makes clean cheese.” It is true, healthy animals produce high quality milk. Cypress Grove rewards it’s seven dairies by paying a higher price for the cleanest milk around. (She still loves her goats but does not raise them herself anymore.) Mary believes that culture is not only in the cheese but in the commitment that you have to the farmers, the community, the team of employees and to enjoying goats — they are as smart as dogs. I love the producers highlighted above but do not want to ignore others who are doing a great job! Thanks to all of the goat farmers and cheesemakers for bringing goat cheese in American to where we are today! Secret hint for goat cheese: make a pasta dish with fresh chevre melted in!
Category: Cheese, Food & Recipes

 

13 Comments

Comments

S. Monaco says ...
Many years ago, my husband saw the makers of Humbold Fog cheese featured on " California Gold". We searched them out on an RV trip and have forever become followers. This is the "BEST" cheese we have "EVER" had and search it out in our local stores (not always easy to find). It is priced a bit above others but believe me.... it is worth every cent!!!!
05/07/2010 9:07:50 PM CDT
Mary Keehn says ...
Cathy has CULTURE! She has a commitment to the small cheese producers around the world to learn what we do and spread the word. The world is a better place becasue of the relationship that brings the producers, retailers, and consumers together. Thanks Cathy and Whole Foods for your values and commitment to bringing the best to market! Mary
05/05/2010 10:15:30 AM CDT
Joy says ...
I had moved over to goat cheese years ago, due to lactose intolerance, and being an avid cheese lover. Goat cheese has come a long way since then. Back when I made the switch you didn't have much of a choice in goat cheese. I would bring the goat cheese to family gatherings so I had something I could eat on the crackers and vegetable dippers. As family members tried the goat cheese they were surprised at the flavor. I think I made several converts.
05/05/2010 11:51:26 AM CDT
Miles says ...
I was turned on to goat cheese by my girlfriend, who brought a delicious SMOKED goat cheese back from a trip to Holland. There's a guy there by the name of Henri Willig who makes wonderful cheeses. He does ship in the US (out of New York). If Whole Foods carried his smoked goat cheese I would literally be buying it every week! I've tried several other goat cheeses from Whole Foods, but none is as good as Henri's.
05/07/2010 6:06:28 PM CDT
Robin Brogan says ...
I also raise goats. I have one Oberhaslis, milking doe. We bought her for $150 two years ago. This is her last year of breeding. After her kid, named "Miracle" is weaned she generally gives us about one gallon a day. We make Chevre goat cheese with most of it. Nothing like fresh goat cheese! Most Americans are afraid to try it, don't know why. Also, goat cheese is excellent for those who are lactose intolerant. By the way, we live in Ohio. Robin Brogan
05/09/2010 8:10:59 PM CDT
Ashley says ...
Redwood Hill Farm's goat yogurt, kefir, cheese are the BEST! They are the sweetest people, with fantastic products. Love, love, love! Saw them at the Goat Festival in San Francisco, and went to their Farm Tour last weekend. We'd love to see more goat products in the markets!
05/18/2010 12:40:46 PM CDT
screwdestiny says ...
It's odd. I hate goat's milk. It makes me gag. I literally cannot stand it. But I don't mind goat's milk cheese. It still kind of has the flavor of goat's milk, but it's different, and I think it's good. It's not my favorite cheese, but I don't think it's bad at all. Goat's milk is HELLA good for you though. If we could get more people to drink it, especially when pregnant, it would make them so much healthier.
05/05/2010 2:38:18 PM CDT
Clay G. Sands, Jr. says ...
I must applaud those who place this on the internet. It was very informative and has encourage me to want to use goat cheese in and with more of my meals. Although, I do eat goats cheese on occasions, but not with any regularity. It has a unique taste that one can fall in love with it very easily. I intend to eat it more often. I appreciate all of those who bring us this outstanding product. It would be nice if Whole Food would provide its customers with a, I can't turn this down coupon, which would be super. I look forward to making some purchases very soon. Clay
05/12/2010 6:29:44 PM CDT
Carol Warkoczewski says ...
Thanks for sharing this great information in such a witty way! I have experienced the strong taste of "compromised" goat cheese - now I know that is an irregular occurrence. I think those of us who live in central Texas are particularly blessed with an abundance of natural, small goat farms, with their many renditions (no pun intended, of course) of chevre. I would love to read a Whole Foods special story on them!
05/12/2010 7:06:52 PM CDT
barb says ...
I am now using Laura Chenel's goat Cheese. It is wonderful stuff. I spread it on everything and top if off with a slice of jalapeno pepper or even a strawberry. I noticed that the goat farmers listed here are all woman.. Very interesting . I am lactose intolerant and have been trying the goat cheese different times over the yrs. I recently found Laura Chenel's Cheese and love it. I am now addicted to it. Thanks so much..
05/12/2010 8:02:08 PM CDT
Charlotte H. Gee says ...
I was born in Palmyra, Mo in 1928.- a small farming community near the Mississippi River. As a baby/child I was allergic to my mothers milk and cows milk. I WAS RAISED ON GOATS MILK! I've always had a taste for goat cheese - savoring it when I coulld find it. Now at 82 it is wonderful to see so many goat cheese possibilities on the grocers shelf. As I taste each new product I realize how lucky I was to have the flavor embedded in me at such an early beginning. Todays recipe e-mail message from Whole Foods makes make want to try all the new ways of nourishing my chronologically gifted body. I'll look for the recipe book. Thank you so much for the information! AND KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!
05/13/2010 7:41:07 AM CDT
jojo says ...
CUTE ARTICLE! You forgot the Nigerian Dwarf goat. They are too now recognized by the ADGA. They put out higher butterfat content then the Nubians at times. And milk flavor is mild. Like the Nubians and Lamanchas. and they are perfect for surburban homes since they are so small. jojo
05/14/2010 7:23:29 PM CDT
Amy Butcher says ...
Another Great producer of goat cheese in Northeast Ohio is McKenzie Creamery out of Hiram. They have sooo many flavors, and all are fantastic! My favorite is the "sweet fire". It has a raspberry habenero sauce on top. The herbes de provance cheese, and truffle cheese are also great! I'd heard from Jean McKenzie that she was taking a sojourn to France to learn how to age the cheeses so she could expand their offerings. Can't wait to try their new masterpieces! I know they have a website, but can't recall it at the moment. They go to the North Union Farmer's Markets at Shaker Square on Saturdays (which is about 10 minutes from the Chagrin Whole Foods!),the Cleveland Clinic market on Wednesdays, and probably many other farmer's markets. I'd honestly suggest checking out McKenzie creamery...and enjoying a great day at the farmer's Market, as well! (But don't forget to stop at your local Whole Foods, too!)
05/24/2010 3:44:09 PM CDT