Madison, Wisconsin & Homemade Goat Cheese

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In September, we spent five blissful days in Madison, Wisconsin.  If you haven't visited, Madison is situated on an isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona.  There are cyclists everywhere and the city has a hip, urban feel combined with the surrounding area's focus on farming.  The Ironman was the focal point of our trip, but it didn't prevent us from exploring the city, the Wisconsin campus, and the surrounding countryside.  The Madison Farmer's Market (held on Saturdays around the Capitol Square) is not to be missed - I've never been to a bigger market, or one where there is such a defined flow of traffic!  We rode our bikes all around the university campus and worked up an appetite for the Babcock Dairy Hall Store  -- how did I not know there are universities with their own dairy store?  We patronized Madison Sourdough several times and enjoyed the beautiful and flavorful bread and amazing sandwiches, breakfasts and pastries.  I sat there for 3 hours the morning after the Ironman when I couldn't sleep and they happily refilled my coffee and didn't judge when I ordered a second breakfast.  As a stationery lover, a visit to Anthology was a must, and, similarly, as a beer lover we trekked out to the New Glarus Brewery.  On our way to the airport, we made a final stop for crepes at Bradbury's Coffee.  I think one of the highlights of the trip was riding bikes all over the city

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Another wonderful thing about Madison?  Our dear friends V and N live there.  Not only did they meet us at awesome local haunts like Fromagination and  A Pig in a Fur Coat, but V gave me and Rob a tour of the gorgeous farm where she works, Dreamfarm.  

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This was my first experience getting up close and personal with goats.  Man, are they cute!  They love to nibble on everything (particularly buttons) and were so social and sweet.  

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After visiting Dreamfarm, I was inspired to make goat cheese... it just took me a few months to get around to actually doing it.  I tried a very simple recipe from Food52 and am happy to report the process is straightforward and yields delicious results.  When Rob first tasted the cheese, he said it tastes "farmy" and I think that is an accurate description (albeit not a particularly flattering one) -- unlike much of the goat cheese you get in the grocery store that can be bland and flavorless, the homemade version has a complicated, fresh flavor.  The best part is that you can adjust the flavor of the cheese as you wish - I added just a bit of salt and pepper because I liked the simple flavor, but you could garnish it with any combination of herbs or peppercorns.  So far, I've enjoyed the goat cheese spread on crackers, on top of pizza, and on a roasted vegetable and kale salad.  I'm thinking next I might need to incorporate into a dessert....

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Homemade Goat Cheese

Recipe from Tasia Malakasis via Food52

Yield = 3 small logs (approximately 3" in length and 1.5" in diameter)

Notes - First, I was able to find goat's milk at Sprouts, Whole Foods, and In-Season Local Market in Denver.  Second, after heating the milk and pouring it into the bowl with the cheesecloth, I was struck by how much whey (liquid) was left.  Don't be alarmed if the cheesecloth "bag" is almost fully submerged in the remaining milk.  I've included a picture that illustrates this above.  I periodically drained off the excess liquid.

Ingredients

1 gallon goat milk

2 rounded teaspoons of citric acid (Available in some grocery stores but I ordered mine from Amazon)

2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)

Cheesecloth or cotton kitchen towel

Preparation

1. Mix the citric acid with 1/2 cup of water. In a heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot, combine the goat milk and citric acid to 185 degrees over medium heat, stirring continuously. Once it reaches this temperature, turn off the heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes. 

2. Lay out your cheesecloth in a bowl. Pour in the milk mixture. The curds simply resemble curdled milk at this point. Tie the ends of the towel together so it becomes a bag. Hang it on a wooden spoon and let the bag hang free. The whey should strain for at least two hours,  but for best results you can leave closer to 6 hours (I left mine for 6 and was really pleased with how dense the cheese was). This makes forming a log easier and results in a denser cheese.  Before taking the cheese out of the cloth, squeeze the cloth to extract more liquid from the cheese. 

3.  Transfer the cheese from the cloth to a bowl and season it with cheese salt to taste.  You can garnish with fresh herbs, peppercorns, or form a traditional log.  To shape into a log, simply place on a clean smooth surface and begin to roll out gently, like a Play-Doh snake.

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How could you not love that face?