Valley Bounty: Goat Cheese

Spring is a time of new life and with kidding season wrapping up, farms across the Valley are welcoming scores of baby goats to their herds. When I recently spoke with Laurie Cuevas, who runs Thomas Farm in Sunderland with her partner Jim Thomas, she explained that their barn is teeming with cute kids. “We used two bucks this year and they got the job done. The babies have been flying out left and right.”

During this time of year, Cuevas keeps those bucks as far away from the does as she can. Being near the males’ pheromones can change the flavor of a doe’s milk. Plus, Cuevas is happy to deal with the bucks as little as possible. They tend to employ some bizarre strategies when they’re looking to attract a potential mate. “Bucks are gross. They do disgusting things to impress the ladies, like peeing on their own faces.” I was surprised, of course, to learn this. Cuevas just laughed, “Yes, it’s an athletic feat. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe it either.”

Making goat cheese is a long process so on creamery days, Cuevas transfers the goat milk into their pasteurizer to be cooked early in the morning. Once the milk is pasteurized and cooled, she adds a bacteria culture. The bacteria consume the lactose in the milk, raising the acidity and shaping the flavor of the finished product. The other main ingredient, rennet, acts as the coagulant which separates the milk into solid curds, for the cheese, and liquid whey, which will be discarded. By the time the cheese has set and is ready to be drained, it’s often 11pm.

It’s no surprise that Cuevas eats goat cheese with just about everything. She recommends it sprinkled over a salad of fresh spring greens or spread on crackers. For the adventurous, try dollops of goat cheese on your next homemade flatbread pizza.

Noah Baustin is the Communications Coordinator at CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)