Goats have a long and storied history in farming cultures. One of the first domesticated animals, goats are still vital to many cultures and cuisines around the world - except for the United States. But this is changing. Goat cheese has earned a place in foodie circles and restaurants, and goat meat isn't far behind. But a stigma persists. I recently mentioned that I was writing about goat meat in the Source Weekly offices and at least three staffers grimaced. Some said it was tough and tasteless, some were turned off by the animal itself. But goat is an incredibly healthy meat, with less cholesterol and as many calories as chicken. Furthermore, goat cheese is a tasty alternative for those who don't like or can't eat traditional cheese.
For those who haven't tried it, goat cheese has a tangy flavor that sometimes has a bit of musk to it. Most people are familiar with chevre (soft, spreadable cheese) or goat cheese curds. But goat milk also makes for some beautiful Brie and Gouda-style cheeses. Tumalo Farms has been producing goat cheese out of its Central Oregon dairy for the past five years and recently saw business shoot through the roof. I talked to Kristopher Powell, head cheese maker at Tumalo Farms, who is currently making nine varieties of goats' milk cheese.
"They don't have much of a 'goaty' flavor to them," Powell said. He attributes the mild flavor to herd management. "All you have to do is keep the boys away from the girls - it keeps them from producing certain hormones." Tumalo Farms sells their cheese to retailers across the country, as well as locally at Newport Market and restaurants like The Blacksmith, 10 Below and Deschutes Brewery.
I tried four varieties of Tumalo Farms' goat cheese. The Chivita, a traditional chevre spread, was tangy and smooth and didn't dry out my mouth like some other goat cheeses have. I tried four Gouda varieties, which are semi-hard. The Classico, a traditional Gouda, the Remembrance, made with rosemary, and the Pondhopper, created with Mirror Pond Pale Ale, which proved to be the mildest and creamiest cheese. The Remembrance was woodsy and earthy. The Classico had a more intense "goat" flavor, but was quite pleasant and is Tumalo Farm's bestseller. I recommend sampling them all in a cheese platter with a glass of light red wine.
For many, goat meat is less approachable than the cheese. It isn't hard to see why - the stigma seems to come from those who have eaten older goat meat, which is often tough and tasteless. But goat meat is the most widely consumed meat in the world and by far the healthiest of all red meats. In addition, raising goats doesn't cause as much destruction on grasslands - instead of tearing grass out by the roots like cows do, goats tend to act as lawnmowers, leaving the grass long enough to continue growing.
Patricia Moore and her partner, Cheryl Powers, own Sand Lily Farm in Bend. The couple moved here from San Francisco, where they ran a successful business managing the gardens of large estates. In an attempt to retire, they bought some land on the east side of town and started raising goats for their own use. But with the recession, they decided to turn their small farm into a business. They now have more than 100 goats and sell their goat meat, burgers and raviolis at Newport Market and local restaurants, including Chow.
Sand Lily Farm raises South African Boer goats, which are stockier than dairy goats. Their bodies resemble pit bulls more than goats. "They put on weight amazingly fast," says Powers. The goats are slaughtered at around 10 months of age, which keeps the meat tender and mild. Once the goats reach maturity they take on a stronger, gamier flavor.
While Sand Lily Farm has been selling prime cuts of goat meat and ground meat for a few years with success, they are branching out into prepared items. I had the chance to try their new creation, a goat meat, spinach and feta ravioli last week.
Moore, a former chef, prepared the mostly meat ravioli simply - boiling it until al dente and serving it three ways: with an Alfredo sauce, a tomato sauce and olive oil and parmesan. The ravioli was a wonderful introduction to goat meat. Not gamey or tough by any means, the goat meat was slightly sweet and tender. Sand Lily Farms sells their ravioli at Newport Market and plans to introduce bratwurst and meatballs in the near future.
64515 Mock Rd.
Sand Lily Goat Farm
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 lb goat meat, cubed in 1" pieces
1/2 Ib fresh, sliced mushrooms
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Ib fresh tomatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup toasted almond slices
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup chicken broth
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the goat meat and sauté until browned. Add the mushrooms, onions and garlic. Sauté for 2 more minutes.
Add the tomatoes, raisins, almonds, sugar, cinnamon, salt and allspice. Pour in broth and simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender. Add more broth if needed as it simmers. Serve the stew over couscous for a truly authentic dish.
From Get Your Goat: The Gourmet Guide by Patricia Moore