Mixed Milk Cheeses: The Tasty Joys of Combining Goat and Cow
But sheep- and goat-milk cheese producers blend milk for a functional reason as well: The animals don't produce milk year round. Sheep and most goats only breed during specific seasons (hence the concept of spring lamb), and pregnant animals don't produce much milk, because they have no new offspring to feed. It's a natural cycle.
Modern milkers have found various methods to "trick" or extend the cycle of their animals to ensure year round milk, especially cows, but sheep and goats seem less inclined to being manipulated. "Goats (and sheep) cycles are much more sensitive around the seasons than cows are," says Donna Pacheco, owner of Aachadinha Cheese.
At the recent Artisan Cheese Festival we found two great mixed milk cheeses worth adding to your cheeseboard. Both combine their animal's milk (sheep and goat) with local cow's milk. In one case the cheese was born of necessity, to extend the usable milk in the off season, in the other purely for flavor. Both are available directly from the producers and at area farmers markets and specialty shops.
The Quotes: "I don't mix milks because of seasonality. I mix milks because I like mixed milk cheeses," says Alissa, proprietress of North Bay Curds and Whey. "Other cheesemakers do make mixed milk cheese in winter when their sheep are pregnant, and they have very little sheep or goat milk. And pure sheep milk is so darned expensive"
The Notes: An equal blend of sheep and cow milk, the cheese is mild with the texture of gruyere or edam. There's a slight stretch in the center, firming at the edge. Mild, modestly nutty, with a grassy/herbaceous mid-palate and a very modest tang. Flavors leans more to the cow than the sheep, but the blend creates added complexity, which is most obvious in the lingering, still mild, finish. A nice snacking cheese, good for cubing for a board or thin slices. Likely well paired with a mild pear.
The Quotes: "Our goats produce milk year round, but much less in winter, than summer, Says Donna. "I can produce cheese year round with the cows milk."
The Notes: The blend of goat's and cow's milk produces a bit more assertive flavor than in the Pavia. Slightly cheddary, but to the mild side of cheddar over the sharp. Texture and appearance is also similar to an aged cheddar (Fiscalini aged, not cracker barrel). Nice, modest nuttiness and the richness of the milk coming through combine pleasantly. Again the cow wins out, but there's a modest amount of tang here from the goat milk. It's a goat's milk cheese for people that don't eat goat milk cheeses. Our pairing pick here would be a tart granny smith or pink lady apple.
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