Nothing but time

Apple tree waking up

Pure silliness. Egged on by the promise of a plan-free weekend with clear weather, we started a mental to-do list on Saturday morning, once again blind to the difference between the time it takes to say a task and the time it takes to do it.

No matter. It’s a spring weekend. We’re beguiled by opening day at the Farmers Market, warm sunlight, a chance to drive with the car windows down, chorusing morning birds, extra minutes of daylight, and nothing pressing on our calendar. We can do what we want!

So we did. After morning chores, we sped off to the Farmers Market, bustling and busy even this early in the season. We met a six-day old Boer goat, we bought apple turnovers, we bought and ate the most wonderful pierogi I’ve ever had, then we went back and bought and ate some more.

Then off to the co-op for supplies for the various cooking projects we had in mind (tamales, slow-smoked ribs, mini quiche), then a quick stop at a consignment clothing sale in the next town over.

Home again, put the groceries and market treats away.

Visited the bees! This time we were looking for evidence of eggs and we found them. In the black frame cells, you can see small white lines, like grains of rice. Those are eggs. In other cells, there are curled larvae, the next stage. Other cells are waxed over: capped brood. This is where the fed larvae grow, until they emerge as fully-formed bees in a couple of weeks.

This is exciting. Seeing all this evidence of soon-to-be bees means the queen is healthy and doing her work. We haven’t seen the queen yet (since we put her into the hive in her cage), but we know she’s there and we’re hoping to spot her when we next open the hive.

M also noticed at least one worker with full pollen sacs (see the bee with bright yellow “saddle bags” in the middle of that second bee photo?). This means they’re starting to forage out in the world and will become less dependent on our sugar water and will be bringing back wild pollen and nectar. Bee happiness.

On a roll now, we decide to open the goat-milk cheddar that’s been aging in the cool basement since early January and we deem it quite acceptable.

The weekend rolls on and into Sunday. The cooking projects invade the kitchen and the Egg on the porch. We’ve got tamales and ribs in the works, yes. And a new batch of cheddar culturing. And a small pot of rhubarb jam bubbling down to sticky sweetness on the stove. And M saw some beautiful bluefish at the co-op so, after a day of drying in its rub on Saturday, that’s now smoking on the Egg. Meanwhile we’ve promised to make several dozen mini goat cheese quiches for H’s elementary school’s annual Medieval Festival (if you live around here and have kids, you really need to go. It’s a blast and we’re fairly sure that it won’t snow this year…)

At some point, late afternoon, H is at rehearsal for her school’s spring musical and M and I are whirling around the kitchen, busy as bees, laughing at the ridiculousness of how much we’ve taken on, the sink piled high with dishes, every pot used, the oven cranking away.

It’s crazy, exhaustingly wonderful.

By dinnertime, we’re running out of steam. We’ve made all the food to eat (plus a tamale pie, plus other things I can’t even remember) and have just enough energy to pile the plates, open a bottle of prosecco, and fall onto the couch, where we watch Audrey Hepburn in “Wait Until Dark” while the evening drapes darkness around the house.

There are still dishes to do, books we were going to read, blueberry bushes we were going to buy and plant, photographs to take, things to write, things to plan, more lists to make.

Ah well. Maybe next weekend.


Starting the smoker

Eggs! Larvae! Capped brood!

Full pollen sacs

Clothbound goat milk cheddar

Clothbound goat milk cheddar - disrobed

Clothbound goat milk cheddar - paste

I’d eat that

Morano Gelato Status

Do you see that reference to “goat’s milk chocolate chip“? That’s our Willow’s milk!

Willow 2

She looks kinda pleased, doesn’t she?

For the past couple of weeks, Morgan at Morano Gelato has been churning some test batches of goats’ milk gelato made with Willow’s milk. This week’s version includes several ounces of chevre we made with the same milk, which makes the gelato’s texture even creamier and lends a touch more “goatiness” to the flavor (Willow’s milk is very mild and “ungoaty”).

If you live anywhere near Hanover, NH today, run on over to Morano Gelato before it’s all gone. If you miss the goat milk gelato, stay to order something else. It’s all stunningly wonderful.

Homemade yogurt

I can hear you wondering to yourselves, “A few months back she mentioned all that milking and plans for cheese making, but she’s written precious little here about the milk and the cheese lately. What gives?”

Not to worry. We are inundated with milk and have been making things with it all winter. And soon — yes, soon — I’ll write about some of that and the interesting ups and downs of home cheese making.

For now, thought, I’ll give you a small sampling by telling you about yogurt.


When we started on this goat-tending, cheese making adventure, yogurt was not on my mind at all. But a month or so ago it finally occurred to me that we could make it. Compared with other cheese projects, yogurt-making is not at all time- or equipment-intensive. In fact, it’s downright easy IF you follow these simple rules, which apply to all cheese making in general:

  • Keep all your equipment clean
  • Pay attention to time and temperature requirements
  • Use the best, freshest milk you can

As far as the milk goes, you can use whatever type of milk you prefer: cow, goat, full-fat, low-fat, even dry milk. I’ve used the following recipe with whole goat milk and with 1% cow milk. If you use goat milk or low-fat milk, the resulting yogurt will probably be thinner than the cow- or full-fat milk version. I like both textures, and the thinner variety is great for making sauces, but you can also thicken thin yogurt by straining it as you would when making yogurt cheese.

Yogurt ingredients

In addition to milk, the key ingredient for making yogurt is the starter culture: the bacteria that converts the milk’s sugars into lactic acid. The culturing process thickens the milk, makes it more digestible, and develops the sour flavor. For starter culture, you have a few choices:

  • Use a few tablespoons of store-bought yogurt that contains live cultures; read the labels on yogurts available at your grocery store, and try to find a brand doesn’t have any additives or extra ingredients; it should just contain milk and live cultures.
  • Use a prepared, dried starter culture available from cheesemaking supply houses like New England Cheesemaking Supply Company or Dairy Connection. You can also find yogurt cultures (and yogurt makers) at many natural/health food stores.
  • Once you’ve made your first batch of yogurt, you can reserve a few tablespoons of that yogurt to start the next batch (much the same as when you’re using a sourdough starter to make bread).

The basic process for making yogurt is to heat the milk (which pasteurizes the milk to kill any harmful bacteria and also changes the milk proteins so that they can form the thick, smooth texture of yogurt), cool the milk to a temperature that the culture bacterias happily thrive in, add the culture, and then incubate the mixture for several hours at a constant temperature so that the bacteria can do its work.

During the incubation period, the goal is to keep the cultured milk at a constant temperature (around 105-110°F). If you live in a warm climate and your home stays at a pretty constant temperature all day or overnight (whenever you’re incubating your yogurt), you could probably get away with covering the pot of cultured milk and maybe wrapping it all in a towel or blanket to keep the heat from escaping.

Constant mild temperatures are not a feature of living in Vermont, but it’s easy enough to fake it. I’ve heard of people putting some warm water in a cooler, then putting the the prepared milk in a mason jar and putting the jar into the warm water bath, then closing the lid. Other people use thermoses, or mason jars or pots sitting on heating pads. If you like electric gadgets, you can buy an electric yogurt maker that keeps the temperature exactly where you set it, with the added benefit of making the yogurt in darling little individual-serving jars. Finally, you can get a yogurt maker like this, which is essentially just a washable plastic insert that sits inside an insulated container. No electricity needed. This is the yogurt maker we opted for.

Yogurt equipment

Okay, enough build-up. Are you ready to make some yogurt?!

Home-made yogurt

What you’ll need

  • 1 quart milk
  • Starter culture; powdered starter culture or 1-2 Tablespoons of yogurt (see above for more information about starter cultures)
  • A reliable thermometer (a good thermometer is critical for cheese making; this is the one I swear by)
  • A spotlessly clean stainless steel pot in which to heat the milk
  • A stainless steel, slotted spoon or flat ladle, also spotlessly clean
  • A yogurt maker or a thermos or some other way to incubate the yogurt (see above)


  1. Collect your equipment and ingredients.
  2. Gently heat the milk to 180-185°F. You can do this directly on the stove, or in a double-boiler.
  3. Yogurt - heating the milk

    I’ve read that if you hold the milk at 180 °F for about 10 minutes the resulting yogurt will be thicker, but I haven’t tried that yet.

  4. After you reach the target temperature, cool the milk back down to about 115°F
  5. Yogurt - Cooling the milk

    Some recipes say to just take the pot off the heat and let the milk cool down over the course of about 20 minutes; others say to cool it rapidly by putting the pot of milk in a cold water bath. (I use the latter process because I’m used to doing that for other cheese making projects.)

    Whichever method you choose, keep an eye on that temperature and don’t let it get too low. You want the temperature to end up in that window where the yogurt culture is happiest (around 105-110°F). If you cool your milk slowly and a skin forms on top, remove the skin before adding the culture.

  6. Add the culture to the milk and stir it in gently, but thoroughly. If you’re using yogurt as your culture, stir in 1-2 Tablespoons of yogurt.
  7. If you’re using prepared, dried starter, follow package directions for the amount to use (I use the ABY-2C culture from Dairy Connection and add 1/8 teaspoon for 1 quart of milk).

    Yogurt - Adding the culture

  8. Pour the cultured milk into your yogurt maker (or cover the pot if you’re incubating in the pot).
  9. If you’re using a non-electric yogurt maker, you can pour hot water into the maker to pre-heat it (empty the hot water before you put the cultured milk into the yogurt maker). I also like to sanitize the inner plastic container by rinsing it with boiling water before I put the cultured milk into it.

  10. Let the yogurt incubate for several hours. The incubation time depends on the texture and flavor you want. Generally, a shorter incubation period (5-6 hours) yields a thinner, sweeter yogurt; a longer incubation period (8-10 hours) results in a thicker yogurt with a tangier, sour flavor.
  11. Yogurt - Finished

  12. Once the incubation is complete, chill the yogurt.
  13. The yogurt is now ready to eat and should last in your refrigerator for at least a week.

Homemade Yogurt on Punk Domestics

Steps two and three

  1. Order the molds for making soft-ripened goat cheese.
  2. While we’re waiting for those to arrive, make another batch or more of chèvre.

It’s been quite a while since we’ve made some real cheese around here, aside from a quick batch of too-salty mozzarella that we whipped together on Halloween weekend and a tasty serving of paneer to go with our Indian food feast with friends a few weeks back (are you admiring my use of alliteration?).

This summer, we made several batches of chèvre and we were getting into the swing of that, but never took it further. In October, I attended a two-day advanced cheese making workshop (and, yes, I’ve been meaning to write about that and post some pictures), which was an incredibly inspiring and overwhelming experience. But have we made cheese since then? No.

Clearly, the only thing standing between us and becoming cheese makers is, um, making some cheese. Honestly, we don’t even need the goats to make cheese. We know where to buy the milk.