Baby Goats Are Budding!

On goat dairy farms, March is a pretty common time for kidding to go down. Kidding refers to the birth of baby goats. It's an exciting, energetic, and slightly stressful time of year for goat farmers. After all, for about 5 months (the most common gestation time for most breeds) farmers and does (female goats) alike have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of squirming little kids.

Even better than a collection of adorable baby animals to cuddle? Goats' milk! Once a doe has given birth (often to triplets, by the way) she will begin to produce milk. If she's milked continuously, she'll provide her farmer with 10 months-worth of delicious white stuff.

We love the tangy expression of goats' milk cheese at our cheese counters, so spring is an exciting time of year. It means we can begin looking forward to another round of some of our favorite cheeses from Vermont Creamery and other producers.

For lots of swoon-worthy photos of kidding season, check out Fat Toad Farm's website. They make the most luxurious goats' milk caramel, too, which we happily carry on our shelves. For an extra seasonal treat, mix their caramel into this St. Patrick's Day cocktail recipe:

irish_cream

GOAT'S MILK CARAMEL IRISH CREAM Yields 1/2 gallon to share | Adapted from Fat Toad Farm

1 cup heavy cream 1 cup whole milk 2 cups Irish Whiskey 8 oz Fat Toad Farm Goat's Milk Caramel 14 oz sweetened condensed milk 1/4 cup chocolate syrup 2 teaspoons instant coffee 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 teaspoon almond extract

Put everything into a blender and blend for 30 seconds. Pour over ice and enjoy!

[images]

The Year of the Sheep

Year of the Sheep “People born in the Year of Sheep are tender, polite, filial, clever, and kind-hearted. They have special sensitivity to art and beauty and a special fondness for quiet living.” —The Internet

Sometimes we like to wax philosophical behind our cheese counter. We spend our entire days surrounded by fermented milk. That’s kind of an odd sort of thing to do, no? But it’s a wonderful exercise to stop, think, and imagine where our fermented milk originates. And what better time to take stock than during Lunar New Year?

This Thursday is Lunar New Year and it so happens that 2015 is the year of the Sheep (we think). We love sheep’s milk cheeses at our cheese counter. I mean really love them. Several of our bestselling cheeses are made from sheep’s milk, quite the feat considering that the vast majority of our cheeses are cow’s milk and we might only have 3 or 4 sheep’s milk cheeses at any given moment.

Why so few sheep cheeses? The biggest reason is that sheep just don’t produce a lot of milk. A sheep produces milk seasonally—for about half the year (and not a lot of it while it is milking), whereas cows produce milk for up to 300 days of the year. That means a sheep cheese producer must produce all of their cheese for the year in just a few months.

French Manech Sheep

The most popular sheep cheese at our counter (and a staff favorite) is Abbaye de Belloc. It is a gorgeous cheese with a textured, dusty rind. Crack it open and you reveal a silky bone white paste. This is a monk’s cheese—meaning the recipe was developed by monks at an abbey in the Pyrenees mountains of France.  Abbaye de Belloc doesn’t hit your tongue with an immediate punch of salt or sweet, rather its richness builds and it releases subtle caramel and faintly grassy flavors. The texture is just killer. Not too dry, not at all waxy, just dense and perfectly chewy.

Monks and sheep, apparently, both have a special fondness for quiet living. The beginning of Lunar New Year is, however, a great time for celebration. We are more likely to think of fireworks or lion dances than we are to imagine meditative contemplation. One fortune prediction for the year of the Sheep 2015 is that it is a year to be tolerant of family. So perhaps a wedge of Abbaye de Belloc, a nice bottle of something from the Southern Rhone, and a trip to your cantankerous Uncle’s house are in order.

Happy Lunar New Year!

[purchase Abbaye de belloc] [original illustration by Nate Braun / sheep image via]

The Sharing Song

Happy Valentine's Day

It's mine but you can have some With you I'd like to share it 'Cause if I share it with you You'll have some too. Well if I have a cake to eat If I have a tasty treat If you come to me and ask I'll give some to you. --Raffi, The Sharing Song

If you were a child or parent in the late 80s and early 90s, you're familiar with this little acoustic tune. It's the perfect missive to being a good friend, the kind of song little kids start to mumble along with if you gently sing it to them enough times. And bonus! It mentions the word "cake." I remember the pink image of a generously iced, multi-layered birthday cake popping into my mind whenever The Sharing Song warbled from my parents' tape player. Yep. That would get me to share for sure.

But the loveliest part of The Sharing Song is its simple reminder. Sharing is inherently worthwhile. Its benefits and resultant fuzzy feelings don't even need to be explained; If I split that piece of cake with you, well then "you'll have some too." Because to own something is great, but to share it is an experience, a memory you knit between yourself and another (or many) human being. And anyway, if a cake is baked in the woods and no one is around to eat it with, does anyone enjoy it?

soft cheese with goat's milk caramel

Instead of mushy, glittered, cardboard-cut-out love, this Valentine's Day we're focusing on sharing. Especially food. As M.F.K. Fisher would put it, “Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.” When we offer the things that sustain and delight us to another person, then we show them true affection.

Here are a few yummy things that we love to share at the France 44 / St. Paul Cheese Shops:

-Green Hill // a small round of soft-ripened cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy that's perfect for two -Fat Toad Goat's Milk Caramel // drizzle it over everything, but especially that round of Green Hill cheese for dessert (pictured above) -Langres and Coupole // wrinkly button-shaped cheeses that are great with Champagne -Rogue Chocolate // a single-source bar of extreme quality; choose your chocolate partner wisely, because this one's a major treat -Baby jars of Pâté // little pots of silky duck or chicken liver to split with a buddy and some crusty baguette -Brownies, caramel corn, and toffee // sweet snacks for a Valentine's Day movie with a friend, perhaps?