Category Archives: Home Dairy

Baby Goats! (…Which Means Fresh Milk!)

I’m so excited! Yesterday we received our first milk delivery in a while. As I explained in my Home Dairy 101 post, we are members of a goat co-op and receive fresh milk weekly. We actually haven’t been receiving milk for the last few months as all of the does have been pregnant and just had their babies.


Springtime is for babies! I know I claimed that there was nothing cuter than a baby chick in the post on how we hatched chicks without a rooster, but these baby goats are pretty cute!


Many thanks from Cari at White Mountains Ranch for the use of her photos, as well as taking such excellent care of our goaties. You can see more of the goats and their babies here.

Even if you don’t own goats (or a part of a goat) spring is the best time to buy fresh goat milk at farmer’s markets and other stores. Not sure what to do with fresh goat milk? Brush up on how to pasteurize milk at home, homemade cajeta, and how easy it is to make goat cheese (chèvre) at home. I hope to add some posts soon on ricotta, feta, and a mold-ripened goat cheese, inspired by Humbolt Fog.

Click on any picture in the gallery below to enlarge.

Cajeta Recipe: Step by Step with Pictures

Before living on the Bird Family Farm in a quiet part of San Diego, I lived in the neighborhood of North Park. Well, my side of the street was North Park, but across the street was City Heights. Also across the street was a small, family run Mexican market. They had fresh tortillas and Mexican canned goods, cheeses and candies. I love caramel, and was buying these round candies labeled “cajeta” for a while before I figured out that the picture of a goat on them probably meant that it was made with goat milk. It was too late to be grossed out as I was already a fan. The slight tang from the “goatiness” balances out the sugary sweetness better than cow’s milk can.

Fast forward to this spring and with my first surplus of goat milk from our co-op I knew I wanted to try making some form of goat milk caramel. I found a recipe for Rick Bayless’ cajeta caramel sauce and haven’t turned back. I’ve been a fan of Rick Bayless ever since I saw his show on PBS. If you are not familiar with him, he is a white American guy who makes Mexican food look authentic and delicious. I remember that in the first show I saw he was featuring a recipe called Chiles en Nogada and I was dying to try it. (I’ve since had it here in San Diego and in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico.)

Pronounced “ka-HEY-ta,” cajeta is traditionally made from goat milk and sugar, slowly reduced and caramelized. Think of dulce de leche meets sweetened condensed milk. It is often served as a syrup over pancakes and cakes or stirred into coffee. I like to add a vanilla bean to the recipe. Not only are the black flecks beautiful, it adds an almost custardy taste to the cajeta.

This is NOT a “quick and easy” recipe. Plan on the cooking taking an hour and a half. You do not need to stir constantly until the very end, but during most of the cooking you do need to stir periodically, scraping the bottom and the sides with a heat proof spatula. The only tricky part is feeling confident on when to stop cooking it. But no worries there! It’s just a matter of preference. Reduced less time it will be more syrupy, and cooked longer it will be thicker, almost pudding like when chilled.

Cajeta Recipe: Step by Step with Pictures

Recipe adapted minimally from Rick Bayless’ Cajeta  •  Makes about 3-4 cups

  • 2 quarts goat’s milk or a combination of goat’s milk and cow’s milk—or even with all cow’s milk (use whole milk in all cases)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 of a cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

1.  Simmer the cajeta.   In a large (6- to 8-quart) pot, combine the milk, sugar and cinnamon stick and set over medium heat.  Stir regularly until the milk comes to a simmer (all the sugar should have dissolved by this point). Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the dissolved baking soda—it’ll foam up if the goat’s milk is acidic. When the bubbles subside, return the pot to the heat.

Adjust the heat to maintain the mixture at a brisk simmer (too high and the mixture will boil over; too low and the cooking time will seem interminable). Cook, stirring regularly, until the mixture turns pale golden, more or less one hour.

Now, begin stirring frequently as the mixture colors to caramel-brown and thickens to the consistency of maple syrup (you’ll notice the bubbles becoming larger and glassier).  Stir regularly so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Test a couple of drops on a cold plate: When cool, the cajeta should be the consistency of a medium-thick caramel sauce.  If the cooled cajeta is thicker (almost like caramel candy), stir in a tablespoon or so of water and remove from the heat; if too runny, keep cooking.

2.  Finish the cajeta.   Pour the cajeta through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl or a wide-mouth storage jar.  (Or simply fish out the vanilla pod and cinnamon.) When cool, cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.  Warming the cajeta before serving makes it extra delicious.


Cajeta keeps for a month or more in the refrigerator.  Keep it tightly covered to keep it from absorbing other flavors. I have also frozen it, although for only a month, and the defrosted cajeta was just as good.

Chocolate and Goat Cheese Truffles

I love chocolate. And these chocolate and goat cheese truffles are one of my favorites.

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Goat cheese sounds like an odd ingredient to have in truffles. But having made these at a time when traditional truffles, made with cream and butter, were in my home, I can honestly say that these are a billion times better. The cheese balances the sweetness of the sugar and compliments the richness of the chocolate with a subtle tang. If using a mild cheese, it almost disappears into a “secret ingredient.”

Since I have been making homemade chèvre, I measure and reserve 6 oz before rolling logs, however, “store bought is fine.”

I usually cut a little extra chocolate to allow for “shrinkage” from nibbling.

I do recommend paying a little extra for quality chocolate. When making a recipe, such as this, where chocolate is such a high percentage of the finished product, you will really be able to taste the quality. How can you tell if your chocolate is good enough? If you enjoy eating it straight, then it will work.

Chocolate and goat cheese truffles

Tip: If you don’t have a double broiler to melt the chocolate, use a stainless steel bowl that fits well over a pot.

Chocolate and goat cheese truffles

Whip the cheese with a little powdered sugar.

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Add in the melted and cooled chocolate.

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Mix until well combined.

Chocolate and Goat Cheese Truffles

Let the mixture chill in the fridge for an hour.

Chocolate and Goat Cheese Truffles

 Form walnut-sized balls with a spoon and then roll in shifted cocoa powder.

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Here’s my idea of a perfect dessert:

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Check out Parsonage Village Vineyard for more of my favorite wines.

Chocolate and Goat Cheese Truffles Recipe

Recipe from

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 ounces fresh (mild) goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sweetened cocoa powder, sifted

In the top of a double boiler, or in a metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water (make sure the water does not touch the bowl), melt the chocolate, stirring until it is smooth. Set the melted chocolate aside to cool for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In a bowl whisk together the goat cheese, sugar, and vanilla until it is light and fluffy. Whisk in the melted chocolate until it is well combined. Chill, covered, until it is firm, at least 1 hour.

To form the truffles, take a heaping teaspoon of the chocolate/cheese mixture and lightly roll it into a ball with your hands. Roll the finished truffles in the sifted cocoa powder, set them onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper, and chill until they are firm, about 30 minutes. The truffles can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Cheese Making: Chèvre Recipe Step by Step with Pictures

Making cheese is both simple and tricky. Let me show you this easy chèvre recipe, step by step.

Chèvre Recipe Step by Step

A hand formed log of chèvre rolled in fresh herbs from the garden.

And chèvre, the cheese we think of simply as “goat cheese”, is delicious, with a taste that is both true and complex, sweet yet tangy. If you haven’t yet tried it freshly made, you are in for a treat!

homemade chèvre goat cheese

I love cheese, and ever since we have been receiving more goat’s milk than we can drink, I have been experimenting with making fresh cheese at home. I have had some high points, some disappointments, an extremely low point, and have finally managed to get some consistency. I’m excited to finally share what I’ve learned here!

homemade chèvre goat cheese

This recipe is extremely simple. Just a few ingredients. Follow the technique carefully and you will get excellent results. Although I love to improvise in the kitchen, a word of caution: Even if you drink your milk raw, please consider pasteurizing for the purpose of makingcheese. If you think about it, growing cheese is growing bacteria and you want to make sure that you are only growing the bacterium that you want. It is also VITAL in cheesemaking to sterilize EVERYTHING that touches the cheese. By sterilize I mean using bleach, not just soap and hot water. Spoons, pots, colander, jars, dishes, etc… My husband and I learned the hard way. Please check out my first home dairy post on How to Pasteurize Fresh Milk at Home for more of that story and to learn how to make raw milk safe for cheesemaking.

Special Equipment:


  • 1 gallon of goat milk (raw or pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1 package of chèvre starter
  • cheese salt (or non-iodized salt)
  • (optional) fresh herbs, pepper, truffle salt, etc. for rolling around the outside of the finished logs

Shopping Notes:

Where? Click on any of the links to purchase these supplies through Amazon. Full Disclosure: I make a small commission on any completed purchase made from a link off this site or from our Store. If you are in San Diego, you can also buy all these and more at Curds and Wine. The owner is also very generous with her knowledge and has even helped me troubleshoot a ricotta a that wasn’t setting over the phone.

Why special ingredients? My first attempt at cheese was a chèvre recipe I googled that just used lemon juice. Let me tell you, it did NOT work. My second attempt was a ricotta using vinegar. It worked somewhat but it was rubbery and unpleasant to eat straight. Give the real stuff a shot!


(Goat Cheese) Chèvre Recipe Step by Step with Pictures

1. Sterilize all of your equipment with hot water and a little bleach.

2. Bring the milk up to 86° F into a large stainless steel (non-alluminum) pot. (If using raw milk: filter milk and bring it up to 145° F for 30 minutes in order to pasteurize it. Let the milk cool down to 86° F.)

3. Sprinkle a package of chèvre starter over the milk. Let it sit for 2 minutes to rehydrate and then stir it to mix it in. Then let the milk sit at room temperature, or 72° F, for 10-12 hours. (I prefer to do this overnight.) The cheese will be “ready” when a small amount (1/4 inch) of whey has pooled at the top and a knife or spoon inserted into it can make a “clean break” or crevice in the thickened cheese. It will look a little like greek yogurt.

homemade chèvre goat cheese

4. Gently ladle all of the curds (the thickened part) and whey (the liquid part) into a colander lined with a double layer of cheese cloth. Tie up the cheese cloth with twine and hang so that the whey drips into a large pot or bowl. Let hang for 6-8 hours.

5. Cut down the twine and unwrap the fresh cheese. Transfer to a bowl. (Cheese can be covered and stored in the fridge at this point.)

homemade chèvre goat cheese

6. Hand form the cheese into logs. Roll each log in cheese salt (or salt that has not been iodized.) You may also put fresh herbs, coarsely ground pepper, truffle salt, dried berries, or another topping on the plate with the salt.

7. Wrap the finished logs in cheese cellophane and secure with scotch tape. (Regular cellophane is not breathable and will cause the cheese to get slimy.)

homemade chèvre goat cheese

Click on any of these images to see them bigger.


Chèvre produces a relatively large yield of cheese, as opposed to some hard cheeses. You can easily halve this recipe (using 2 quarts of milk). I got 1.75 pounds of cheese from 1 gallon of milk this last time and have gotten about 1 pound of chèvre from 1/2 gallon of milk.

Please let me know if you have any questions. I promise to post the chocolate and goat cheese truffle recipe next!

Update! The chocolate and goat cheese post is now up. Click here for the chocolate…

Home Dairy 101: How to Pasteurize Fresh Milk at Home

Backyard goats are the new chickens!

pic courtesy White Mountains Ranch

We don’t actually have goats in our backyard. But we are part owners in a goat co-op. We contributed to the purchase of five dairy goats (four already milking and one yearling) and help pay for their feed and keep each month. They are boarded on a small ranch just east of the city and are fed organic feed and lovingly cared for by our friend and source for all things chicken. We receive 1-2 gallons of fresh milk each week. I love it when there is a little extra to play with and have so far made various cheeses, kefir and cajeta. (Subscribe to the blog for those recipes which are coming soon.) We haven’t bought any cow, soy, rice, almond or other milk since.

Up until now I have shared primarily recipes that I thought would interest a wide selection of people. I realize that very few people in America need to pasteurize milk at home. The vast majority of milk sold is already pasteurized and those drinking raw milk have likely gone to a great deal of expense and trouble to find it. Raw milk is legal here in California (but heavily monitored and restricted) and it cannot be bought in many states.

I wasn’t really intending to get into the whole pros/cons of raw milk… to be honest we never sought it out. We were interested in joining the co-op so that we knew where our milk was coming from. We like that it is from a very small ranch and that we know how the animals are being treated. We are confident that they do not receive hormones or unnecessary antibiotics. We decided to give it a shot. We did not intend to give raw milk to Baby Bird ever, nor would I have wanted to drink it if/when pregnant again. The milk tastes surprisingly good. It tastes less “goaty” then goat milk I have had from the store. And to tell the truth, the raw milk really does taste better….

But… my husband and I were drinking the milk for about four months without issue until one of my cheese recipes required the milk to sit at room temperature for 24 hours. We each had only one bite of the cheese as it tasted really “wrong.” Unfortunately, the 24 hours had encouraged the growth of not only the good cultures but also some yucky bacteria. (In our case, campylobacter.) We were sick, as in drink-the-water-in-Mexico-sick, for two weeks. I am so grateful that our baby never had any.

Our milk is handled under safe and sanitary conditions. It could’ve been a fluke that one of our bottles, one time, got one or two little germies, and the cheese making process was perfect conditions for multiplying them to a critical mass. I personally believe now that drinking milk raw was like playing Russian Roulette. <Sigh.> Too bad since it tasted so good.

Luckily, there is a very easy fix! Now I err on the safe side and pasteurize all of our milk (including sterilizing bottles and equipment) before drinking it or using it in any dairy making.

So why would YOU be interested in learning how to pasteurize milk at home? Here are some reasons why this is an important skill:

  1. You may get your own goats or purchase some raw milk at a farmer’s market and want to give it to a small child, an adult with an impaired immune system, or make cheese out of it.
  2. There could be a zombie apocalypse and all things homesteading will be increasingly important. :)
  3. The world banking system could fail, leading to a return to feudalism. :)

In the case of 2 or 3 above, there probably won’t be interwebs anymore, so I suggest studying well. You never know when you might need the information.

How To Pasteurize Milk at Home

In the simplest terms, raw milk can be made extremely safe to drink by bringing it to 161° F for 30 seconds, or bringing it to 140° F for 30 minutes. I use the “high and fast” method for drinking and general use and the “slow and low” for making cheese. (Higher temperatures can effect the quality of cheese, but the quicker time makes it more convenient for general use.)

Step 1: In a clean and sterilized, non-reactive pot or double boiler, bring the milk up to temperature. Stir the milk on occasion with a sterilized spoon or spatula so that the bottom doesn’t scorch. Note: In the picture below, I am pasteurizing 5 quarts of milk. I am not using a double boiler since it wouldn’t fit. I have once pasteurized as little as 1 quart (rushing to work in the morning and needing milk for coffee and cereal) and I used the double boiler. It took less time to pasteurize a quart of milk than it took to make 2 cups of coffee.


Step 2: While the milk is heating, clean and sterilize the bottles. I wash them in hot water and then add a teaspoon of bleach. I fill them with hot water up to the brim, seal them with their lids and let them sit for 2 minutes. Rinse very well.

Step 3: Prepare your set up for cooling the milk. The taste will be best if you can cool the milk as quickly as possible once it has been at 161° F for 30 seconds or 140° F for 30 minutes. Water is a better conductor of heat than air, so the bottles will cool fastest in a bath of ice water. For a batch this large, I put a stopper in the smaller, second half of my sink and fill it with ice, ice packs and water.

Step 4: As soon as the milk has hit 161° F for 30 seconds or 140° F for 30 minutes, pour it into clean and sterilized bottles through a filter. I also use a large funnel. A mesh filter will catch any bits of milk that have “cooked.” (Tip: if the surface of your sink is uneven, place a small plate upside down and then place the bottles on top of the plate.)


Step 5: Seal the bottles. Submerge them in ice water. Let the bottles cool until they are at least room temperature, then dry them and move them to the refrigerator.


Voila! Pasteurized milk is supposed to last longer in the fridge than raw.

(Pictures of the goats are courtesy White Mountains Ranch.)

UPDATE: Please check out our brand new Store for all of the equipment and supplies used in pasteurizing milk and cheese making.

Raw milk can be a hot topic, so some thoughts regarding comments: Opinions and information regarding raw milk are okay but please be kind. These are the choices we have made for our family after research and deliberation. Please respect our self determination as well as those of other commenters. My intention is not tell you TO drink milk a certain way, only HOW if you so choose. Thank you!