Get Your Goat On

Hello and welcome to Week 6! Library Life Hack has officially been in existence for a month, so I thought I’d do a quick re-cap of what we’ve covered so far:

This week also introduces a new feature – the Check-Back. In Week 1, we built an imaginary stock market portfolio and it’s time to check in and see how our stocks are doing. You’ll find the first Check-Back here – and I have to say that I was happily surprised by the results.

And Now, We Conquer Cheese
This week’s post is a food hack: making your own goat cheese. As a bonus, I finally figured out how to get a slide show into the posts. If you read all the way to the bottom, you can see a short visual chronicle too!

Becoming a DIY Cheese-Mistress
Good cheese is one of life’s simple joys. And … this particular simple joy can be a little pricey. So, I hit up my home library to see if it was possible to make good cheese on your own.

The best resource I found was Barbara Ciletti’s “Making Great Cheese at Home”. It turns out that it’s possible to make cheese at home, but making hard cheeses like cheddar and provolone requires that you invest in a cheese press, cheese molds and a bunch of other stuff. Since we’re not doing a year-long study of cheese here, I refined my search down to soft cheeses, and then to goat cheese, which required almost no equipment and a whole lot less messing around.

In fact, the only tricky part was sourcing was a small quantity of cheese starter. It’s a long story, but I ended up buying the starter from Cottonwood Co-Op in Fort Macleod, Alberta (pop. 3000). Enough starter to make four batches of goat cheese set me back a mere $6.99 plus $4.00 shipping.

I really liked the idea of working with a co-operative. Co-ops, like libraries, are one of the great original life hacks and the kind folks at Cottonwood couldn’t have been more helpful. They even offered their resident cheesemaker as a resource if I ran into trouble.

So Easy, a Goat Could Do It
They actual making turned out to be dirt simple. Heat a gallon of goat milk up to 86 degrees F, stir in one packet of starter, put a lid on it and go away for 12 hours. When you come back, spoon your fledgling goat cheese into a pair of jelly bags and hang them up to drain for another 12 hours. When that’s done, just roll the drained cheese out of the bag and chill. It can then be salted and flavoured. One gallon of goat milk left me with 800 grams of cheese (about 1½ lbs.). It had a nice mild taste and the texture was lovely and smooth.

Yum-Tastic
I opted to flavour half the recipe with chives and the other half with cracked peppercorns and garlic. With salt and the other ingredients added, that nice mild goat cheese became yum-tastic! Just so fresh-tasting and creamy and … wow. Since I had a lot and it only keeps for a week, I took my cheese to work to poll my colleagues on their favourite flavour. It was a squeaker, but the peppercorn-garlic was the winner.

Now, the Numbers
The ingredients for one batch of goat cheese, including peppercorns and chives, came to $19.75. That works out to $2.47 per 100 grams. At the low end, Wal-Mart goat cheese is $3.28 per 100 grams. At the high end, a lite version of the fancy French Boursin is $5.60 for 100 grams. That’s an average of $4.44 per 100 grams. The verdict? You’re not saving a ton of money ($15.76) but the finished product is so much better than its commercial cousin.

The book isn’t available at amazon.ca, but it’s $22.95 at chapters.indigo.ca. Add that to the cheese savings and the total for this week $38.71.

Here’s the information on this week’s book:

Making Great Cheese at Home
Written by Barbara Ciletti
Published by Lark Books
Released Dec 31, 2001
ISBN 1579902677

And that’s it. Thank you for reading this week’s post! And extra special thanks to Trent at Cottonwood Co-Op for all his help with this week’s life hack. Come back next week, when we try breadmaking — without a machine and without all that kneading and punching.

One Last Thing: A Request
This week, I got a request to investigate a life hack for beef jerky. This came from Stackë, an avid hiker who likes to take beef jerky and dried fruit on extended day trips. Stackë writes that “Store-bought jerky is hideously expensive, even at Costco. Is there a way to make it at home — preferably without investing in a lot of equipment?” Stackë, I don’t know yet. But I’m excited to find out! Watch for the answer in the next few weeks.

Do you have a life hack you want to see me try out? Drop me a line at LibraryLifeHack [at] gmail.com. Have a great week and see you in seven days!

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