Life is full of patterns, many of them are simply our idle brains putting together completely unrelated facts and trying to find some relationship between them. Everyone does it, some better than others. I’m not one of the more observant ones most of the time, but when I see a “pattern” developing, I usually cannot let it go until I’ve explored it to the very ends of possibility. I have just about reached the end of possibility on this one, and thought I would share.
I was listening to a show on NPR called “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me“, when the subject of a tennis star cornering the market on donkey cheese. The story was humorous, and just so happened to have been played at a time when I was trying to figure out how to sneak a goat into my urban backyard so that I could milk her to make goat cheese. We had been at a Christmas party that had served some goat cheese, and found it to be fantastic, so I wanted to make my own. I had made cheese before (cow-based), so didn’t think that making goat cheese would be that much of a stretch.
So I started to research dairy goats, and found that it COULD be done here. The problem I kept arriving at is that goats are mighty smart, and seem to have a strong dislike for captivity. This makes them fantastic escape artists.
Now the last thing I want is an escaped goat annoying my neighbors. One escape, and the would-be cheese factory turned into The Fugitive escaping and eating my neighbors high-end rose bushes would be a disaster. I have found that I can only manage so much as a part time homesteader, and chasing an escaped goat across town does NOT sound like fun.
So as I decided to do without a goat for making my own cheese, I wondered if there were other possible mammals I could raise for milk. I had kicked around the idea of raising potbellied pigs for small hams and teeny slabs of bacon, would they work? I found this:
“It is notoriously difficult to extract milk from sows, which have an average of 14 teats, far more than their bovine counterparts. In addition, the duration of milk flow is only 10 to 20 seconds, which means the yield from a pig is often low and unpredictable.”
And since the wife was dubious about having a pig, I decided against that project as well.
A few weeks later, I was trimming the nails on my rabbits. When we got to the one doe that currently had a litter, I noticed her teats were swollen, full of milk.
My brain saw a pattern.
I tried various methods, some verging on ridiculous. What I found was that rabbits are NOT easy to milk.
The best method I found was to use a turkey baster to gently suck out the milk, a few drops at a time. In about thirty minutes, I was finally able to get roughly 3-4 ounce of rabbit milk.
I strained through three layers of cheese cloth into a pint jar, put a lid on and stashed it in the refrigerator. I did this for three days, much to my doe’s annoyance, and accumulated just over a pint of liquid.
At this point I simply followed a simple recipe of heating the milk to 185 degrees, added in a half a tablet of rennet crushed up, stirring to dissolve it all. As I was stirring, I added a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Within minutes it started to curdle.
As it cooled, I strained it through four layers of cheesecloth, and allowed it to drain in a colander for about 15 minutes. I then pressed the cheese cloth covered lump into a jelly jar. I placed the jar on a plate, and set a cast iron pan on top of that. I then placed a three quart bottle of water on top as a weight to press it all down. This was set in a cool spot out of the sun for four hours.
Here is the result:
Now, anyone with backyard rabbits can also produce their own dairy product. I’m very excited to be able to finally get this all together to post, it’s been several months of work and research on my part.
Who needs a goat?
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