Chevre Frais from Dutch Girl Creamery accompanied by honey from Ames Farm and Savannah Bee Company
As winter makes its slow retreat into spring, there is no better time to talk about WHY goat cheese is seasonal.
It’s important to start off by saying that the majority of farmstead cheese is seasonal. Goat cheese is the most obvious to us because we have become so used to fresh goat cheese as a staple in our diets. The reality is that most operations that produce aged cheeses that are 3-6 months old still have inventory well after their animals stopped giving milk.
But why is there a goat cheese season?
Well, the biggest thing that affects the availability of artisanal goat cheese is the breeding season. The majority of goats being used for the production of goat cheese are Alpine in origin. These goats only breed in the fall. Their milk production naturally slows down and subsides in November. They are pregnant for 5 months and after kidding season in the late winter/early spring they begin to give milk again.
A lot of producers have a mix of goats. Goats from African origin such as Nubian goats can cycle anytime of the year. One can then breed the goats so that you have a rotation of goats giving milk and goats having babies. This allows for artisanal producers to produce all year.
However, big commercial producers use lights to trick the goat’s bodies into thinking that it is fall so that they cycle all year. In many cases, hormones are also used to get similar results.
In artisanal practices, the milk at the beginning of the lactation period (6-9 Months after giving birth) will always be more watery. This baby milk, also known as colostrum, is rich in nutrients but lacks the concentration of proteins and milk solids that you find in the mid-summer to late fall which are necessary to make firmer cheeses. Colostrum is not fit for cheese because it contains all the antibodies that are given from mother to baby to strengthen their immune systems.
A few weeks after birth you get your early lactation milk which is great for fresh and bloomy rind cheese. Most producers wait until the middle of the summer to make firm cheeses.
The other factor that can affect milk seasonally is when the diet of the animal switches from hay (in winter) to fresh grasses and diverse plant life in warmer months.
When people are milking year round, you get into a situation where the milk is being mixed with milk from all places in the lactation cycle. If the producer is very good at animal husbandry and the ratio of the type of milk is balanced then you get more consistent milk for your cheese. In theory, these cheese will give more of a consistant flavor profile regardless of the time of year produced.
Prairie Fruits Farm is Back!
Prairie Fruits Farm is the only artisanal goat dairy in the state of Illinois. The first of their fresh chevre for this year hit the case as of last week. This early lactation milk is mild and more milky with not too much of the tang that we are used to. It still has that lovely high quality milky sweetness that leaves you wanting more. Pastoral is very proud to sell this cheese as we have a strong, ever-growing relationship with these great cheese-makers.
Dutch Girl Creamery
Charuth Loth began producing Grade A goats milk at Dutch Girl Creamery in 2006 and is now milking 70 goats at their facility in Raymond, NE. In the cheese world, this is a small operation (almost equal in size to Prairie Fruits). The dairy is located on 34 acres of farmland dedicated to the most sustainable practaces. Charurth and her family make a living by growing amazing food and producing excellent cheese. Chevre Frais – a small pyramid of fresh goat cheese covered in herbs has just landed in the case this week. It is heavenly.
Meet Charuth and hear about her cheesemaking prowess at our Artisan Lecture Series in May.
Here is a link to their web site: http://www.shadowbrk.com/shadowbrook-farms-dutchgirl
Thanks for reading!
Cesar Olivares, Fromager