These are our three goats in milk at Iron Oak Farm. Esther our Alpine, Gretta and Nan our two Nubians. The Nubians produce about twice as much cream as our Alpine, but the Alpine produces twice the amount of milk total. So it’s a nice mix of useful milk that I’m learning to fill all of our dairy needs. We get about ¾ of a gallon from our girls in the morning milking and a little less than that at night. We are still bottle feeding the goats kids so we split our harvest with the babies.
Besides drinking milk outright, (in our coffee, with dinner or homemade cookies), our biggest dairy demand is butter. I use a lot of butter in cooking, sautéing and baking, I mix it with olive oil to give pan fried foods a wonderful caramelized sear that you just can’t get with oil alone.
For so long, butter has been a bad word when it comes to healthy eating, But I believe that our butter is a healthy source of fat. And I’m not afraid to eat it in moderation. Just as grass fed beef is a healthier alternative to the commercially raised cows, our goats get grain while we milk them, but the rest of their time is spent out in green pasture grazing on lush grass, or munching on the hay that we bale ourselves from the same field.
We jumped into dairy goats before I realized that goat butter wasn’t going to be as easy to make as cow butter.
Goat milk, unlike cow milk, is naturally homogenized. Which means the cream doesn’t separate as easily to the top of the milk. Eventually the cream will rise to the top if the milk is left undisturbed for a few days, but the yield is small and it’s a tedious process that holds the milk up waiting to be skimmed.
In frustration, I searched the internet for a better solution and found that there was such a gizmo called a cream separator. The device uses centrifugal force to separate the cream droplets from the milk. Many of these machines go for $300 and up, but we found an inexpensive model on E-bay for about $75. There is a range of simple, hand crank models available with a little searching.
To make the goat butter I place the jars of milk in the clean sink and fill almost to the top of the lid rims with hot water from the tap. I let them sit in the warm bath for about 45 minutes or until the milk is about 85 to 90 degrees.
We place two collection bowls under the cream separator spigots and begin turning the handle. It really whirls! The milk can be poured into the hopper and the cream comes out one spout and the skimmed milk comes out the other. When the milk is almost separated, I pour a bit of the skimmed milk back through, just to be sure we flushed all the cream out.
In our latest batch of 2 and ¾ gallons of milk we got almost a half gallon of cream.
I poured off a cup of cream to make sour cream and the rest we shook into butter. Shake the jar back and forth until you see the butter globules form. Once the butter takes shape I let the jar rest for a bit. The butter floats to the top and forms a mass which makes it easier to wash.
Using my fingers as a sieve, I pour the butter milk off the butter, the pillow of butter rests against my palm and the buttermilk runs between. You can save the buttermilk to use in baking, etc.
I wash the butter by adding cold water to the jar with the butter and shake it. The more milk you can remove the longer your butter will stay fresh. I do this several times until the water runs clear. The cold water will also help the butter firm slightly and take shape.
Then I use our wooden butter paddles to drain the water from the butter. This helps the butter to become more solid like store bought. The paddles have tiny groves that smear though the butter and release the water droplets to run down the grooves. I knead the butter on a cutting board. I smear the butter between the two paddles and then tilt the cutting board to let the water drain out. You could also use two forks with a similar outcome.
Then I salt the butter to taste.
Goat butter is always pure white because unlike cows, goats absorb all the carotene they eat. Carotene is what gives grass fed butter that golden hue.