I know, I know—you’ve heard that goat’s milk tastes nasty. Or you’ve tasted goat’s milk from the store and wondered what on earth happened to it to make it taste so … goaty. That strong flavor is not inevitable if backyard dairy goats are your dream. In fact, it’s completely avoidable if you follow proper processing. Here are some simple ways to ensure your goat’s milk is tasty and sweet.
1. Buy Registered Animals
The flavor of milk—any milk from any animal—is dependent on several factors. The first is genetics: The only real way to determine a dairy animal’s milk quality is with a pedigree, which you can obtain by purchasing a registered animal. The United States alone has several dairy goat associations, and a simple Internet search will provide you with their criteria and rules.
2. Handle Milk Safely
Once you’ve established quality dairy lines in your backyard herd, focus on cultivating clean dairy-handling habits. Establish good routines and strictly follow through with them every time you milk:
- Use proper equipment. Seamless, stainless steel milking buckets prevent dirt and bacteria from building up in the seams. A lid covers your milk as you bring it in from the dairy barn to the house.
- Wash your hands before you milk to prevent the spread of infection or disease.
- Clean the teats well with a quality solution.
- Use a napkin or paper cup to dispose of the strippings, aka the few squirts of milk released from the teat before milking. I like to use a cup so I can check for chunks or off-color milk that alert me to mastitis or other infections.
- When you’re done milking, dip each teat in disinfecting solution. I also apply a mild, homemade, herbal antiseptic salve to my girls’ udder and teats to protects against harmful pathogens and moisturize their skin. (Yes, I spoil my ladies.)
- Clean and sterilize all equipment after each use, including your filters if they’re reusable.
3. Chill Milk Quickly
Goat’s milk contains several acids that give it its characteristic tang, and when left warm, they increase the milk’s “goaty” flavor. Some people enjoy this flavor and leave their milk warm on purpose, while others put the milk directly into the freezer after filtering, hoping to avoid it. Cooling your milk in the refrigerator is not the best option if you want clean-flavored milk because it doesn’t bring down the core temperature low enough, fast enough.
In the heat of the summer, I take one of my children with me to milk so they can run the milk up to the house and filter it ASAP while I finish up with the animals. While we used to chill our milk in the freezer, I can’t tell you how many glass canning jars I’ve broken simply because forgot my milk was in there. After much trial and error, we arrived at the process below to save our jars and ensure the best-tasting milk possible.
Materials You’ll Need:
- a glass canning jar or a similar stainless steel container
- a bucket with a lid
The size of the bucket and jar you use will depend on your setup. If you’re using a half-gallon canning jar to capture your milk, then use a medium-sized bucket. The most important feature of the bucket is that it fit both the jar and your freezer. We use a food-grade bucket with a Gamma Seal lid. Mix about a gallon of water and 1/3 cup salt in the bucket until the salt dissolves. This will form a brine, which acts as an anti-freeze. You may need more or less salt depending on the hardness of your water.
Put the bucket of brine in your freezer. The salt lowers the freezing temperature of the water to produce a semi-frozen mixture that will cool your milk much quicker than the refrigerator or even the freezer can.
After milking, put your filtered goat’s milk into your glass canning jar, and pull the bucket of brine out of the freezer. Submerge jar of milk about halfway in the semi-frozen brine, making sure the solution doesn’t splash into your milk. To be safe, you can cap the canning jar. Because the chilling process doesn’t take long, I leave my bucket in the kitchen sink while the milk chills.
Allow the milk to cool to 60 degrees F. This would have taken about 45 minutes in the refrigerator, but should only take about 10 minutes in the semi-frozen brine.
When the milk is chilled, take it out of the bucket and store it in the refrigerator. Put your bucket back in the freezer until you need it again. You’ll want to switch out the brine every now and then to keep it strong.
We’ve tried so many other chilling methods and this is still our favorite because of its rapid cooling time. If you don’t have the space for a whole bucket in your freezer, you can keep frozen bottles of water. Before you go out to milk, submerge the frozen water bottles in a bucket of cold tap water. Once you filter your milk, follow the same procedure in the cooled water. It won’t work as fast and does require more water, but it takes up less space and will do in a pinch.
Remember, no cooling technique can cover bad genes or improper milk-handling practices. If you have a good handle on those two areas and would still like to improve the flavor of your milk, chilling it as quickly as possible will keep your milk sweet and tasty. Bottoms up!