I wanted my own goat for the milk. Should that be so hard?
Before Goodale Farms in Aquebogue started selling milk from its small herd a few years ago, you couldn’t find local goat’s milk on the East End. Pity the householder in that dark era who longed to make goat’s-milk panna cotta and goat’s-milk yogurt or goat’s-milk ice cream or soft fresh goat cheese. Maybe you have bought mass-produced goat’s milk at the supermarket and were put off by its barnyard flavors, a sign of age and indifferent handling.
Goodale milk, by contrast, is sweet and herbaceous with a mild lactic tang. If you are a lazy cook, you can pick up Goodale’s excellent yogurt and cheese at its farm shop and at farmers markets from Shelter Island to Montauk. Everyone else should lay their hands on some Goodale milk at once and have a go at making dairy products at home.
The only deterrent is the high cost of this precious substance, which retails for $28 a gallon—the most a doe will give in a day—and yields not quite a pound of cheese or two scant quarts of yogurt. But I’ve hit upon a solution that could serve as a model for would-be cheesemakers in our community: We must persuade the Goodale family to sell us goats.
To this end, with secret intentions I drove to the farm at the crack of dawn to meet Karen Danzer, the resident cheesemaker. From cramped quarters in the farmhouse just across from the milking shed, Danzer, a sturdy ex-hairdresser with a blonde bob, makes up to 600 pounds of cheese a week, including feta, ricotta and chèvre, together with plentiful strained yogurt and butter. Some of her products go to restaurants such as Sunset Beach, First and South, and Fifth Season, but most are destined for farmers markets, wineries and farm stands on the North and South forks.
By seven o’clock in the morning, she was pasteurizing 35 gallons of milk, preparing jars for yogurt and bringing a vat of runoff cow’s-milk whey to the correct temperature for ricotta. As if suspecting the real reason for my visit, Karen said, “Oh, I’m so glad I don’t keep goats! You should see what Hal goes through to keep that herd well fed, healthy and clean.”
Hal is Hal Goodale III, who owns the farm and runs the dairy with his business partner, Kevin Dunathan. Their herd has more than doubled in the past 12 months and currently consists of 60 milking does, 5 males and more than 150 kids.
“The other day some poor guy was here cleaning their hooves and shearing their coats,” she went on. “Took him eight hours to finish the job. Now that’s real work.”
Danzer stumbled into the trade five years ago when her son, Matt, at that time a co-proprietor of Reddings on Shelter Island, encouraged her to take a cheese appreciation class at the Artisanal Cheese Center in Manhattan so she could oversee his cheese counter. More interested in making cheese than retailing it, she learned the basics and before long was supplying cheese and yogurt to local restaurants. (Hal Goodale, whose 40-acre farm has been in the family since the 1800s, told me he’d been bootlegging cow’s milk to Karen before he got his dairy license and was so impressed by her cheese, he asked her to work for him when that permit came through.) Five months later, Goodale’s feta and chèvre took first place at the American Dairy Goat Association’s national convention, a success that owed much to the maker’s skill but also to the quality of her raw materials, which are free of hormones and antibiotics. Hal Goodale says the cleanliness of the herd, its diet—vegetable scraps, sweet feed and a hay composed mostly of alfalfa, timothy and orchard grass—and the freshness of the milk all influence the flavor, for better or worse.
The Goodale herd consumes 300 bales of hay a month, he told me. It was then I revealed my mission and inquired about a particularly adorable Nubian, a breed prized for the high butterfat content of its milk. Surely one little goat wouldn’t eat much? To cover overhead, I could sell any surplus on the black market.
“You’re looking at maybe 25 dollars a week in feed,” Hal said, and advised against getting a Nubian (“They like companionship and make a lot of noise whenever they’re upset or left alone.”). Instead, he proposed an independent-minded La Mancha, which he’d let me have for only 200 dollars! All I’d have to do was build a four-foot high fence around a 10-by-10-by-10 enclosure and a cold-weather shelter in which to keep her. The correctness of these dimensions and legality of the arrangement were later confirmed by an enthusiastic clerk at the Southampton planning department. Hal said, “You could get your La Mancha in the fall and she’d have her kids in March.”
“Yes, mmm, right, of course.” I’d forgotten about the babies.
“You might think about that,” Hal said gently. “Our first year running the dairy, I didn’t realize either that to give milk, they’ve got to be pregnant for most of the year.” He added if she didn’t work out, she would always be warmly welcomed at his farm.
One day soon I hope to adopt that La Mancha, but in the meantime, if anyone reading this is interested in sharing custody of a milking doe, do please drop me a line. I know where we can find a billy goat, too, should we decide we want one.
GOAT’S MILK ICE CREAM
Adapted from a recipe by Karen Danzer
In spite of the name, this goat’s-milk ice cream doesn’t contain eggs or cream.
1 cup goat’s-milk yogurt
1 cup goat’s milk
Scant ¾ cup of sugar
1 vanilla bean
A 2-inch strip of peel from an unwaxed organic lemon
Warm the milk and sugar in a saucepan over low heat. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the pan along with the pod, the cinnamon stick and the lemon peel, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and refrigerate the mixture overnight or until it is good and cold, then fish out the vanilla pod and the cinnamon stick and churn in an ice-cream maker. If you haven’t got an ice-cream maker, you can improvise a granita by freezing the base in a shallow pan until solid, scraping it into the bowl of a food processor, and whizzing it to a slush before serving. Though the texture won’t be as nice, the dessert will still be delicious. When the rosa rugosa are in bloom, you can make wild rose–flavored ice cream by eliminating the cinnamon and lemon peel and infusing a large handful of petals for 20 minutes in the warm milk before proceeding with the recipe.
Goodale Farms, 250 Main Road, Riverhead. Goodale Farms products can be bought at its farm shop; at the farmers markets in Shelter Island, Sag Harbor, East Hampton and Montauk; and at farm stands throughout Long Island (visit goodalefarms.com for where to find them). For information on half-day introductions to dairy farming and cheese-making, contact Hal Goodale at 631.901.5975 or Kevin Dunathan at 631.680.7499.
Laurel Berger is a writer and editor in Sag Harbor. Read more at laurelberger.tumblr.com