Living in Canada you may not know it, but goat's milk is the most widely consumed milk in the world.
"The main difference between goat's milk and cow's milk is that goat's milk has 13 per cent less lactose in it, so if you are lactose intolerant, it has less lactose to begin with," says Diane Rourke, who along with her husband David, runs Oak Island Acres Goat Dairy in Minto, MB.
"The other thing is the fat particles... in goat's milk the fat particles are smaller, and their membrane is thinner, so it is easier for your enzymes to digest it," Diane continues.
Oak Island Acres Farm is the only commercial goat dairy in Manitoba. Milk from their herd of nearly 600 goats gets pasteurized and bottled at the Notre Dame Creamery and is available across western Canada at Safeway and Sobeys.
Their feta (used in the recipe below) and cheddar are made in the University of Manitoba's Dairy Science building and are available at reputable local grocery shops across the city. They also sell their goat's milk to Winnipeg's newest cheese facility, Whiteshell Dairy Foods, where it is used to make other cheeses.
George the goat quenches his thirst. (Mike Green)
On September 15th, they'll be holding an open farm day at the farm, so you can go meet their affable, hooved herd for yourself.
If you want to take part in a more involved approach to goats closer to the city, you should look no further than Louise May, whose Aurora Farm contains a herd of nearly 50 goats that she milks twice daily.
May's main business is making goat milk soap, which she sells at the St. Norbert Farmers' Market. "Goat's milk is naturally homogenized... so for the skin it is easily integrated as a moisturizer," she says.
But she also has another passion, teaching others how to breed their own herds. She'll even teach you how to milk the goats, like she did for me this past week.
"We do all the hands-on [training]," May says. "Learning how to trim their hooves, giving them their shots, giving them drenches, taking their temperature - all those practical things that make people nervous about having goats," she explains.
"So for a family that wants to have a couple goats and to become self-sufficient for their milk protein, this is an ideal way to do it."
She'll also show you the ropes when it comes to making fresh goat's cheese, from chèvre, to mozzarella, to paneer. (But it must be said, she makes them from non-pasteurized milk, so she can't and won't sell it).
Now when I think goat's cheese, I also think beets and balsamic, because for my food tastes, they are like the holy trinity. Below is a super easy play on beet poutine, which takes less than 15 minutes to make:Beet Poutine
2 large beets, peeled and cut into French fry shape
A handful of Oak Island Acres Goat Feta, crumbled into small pieces
A big splash of balsamic vinegar
Beet poutine (Mike Green)
Steam the beets in a pot over high heat until they can be pierced with a sharp knife with little force.
Once cooked almost all the way through, remove them from the steam basket, toss with walnut oil (or olive oil), and place under your broiler for around five minutes, or until the beet fries start to take on a darker, crimson colour. (Note: they won't get super crispy like a potato fry would).
Heat the balsamic in a saucepan on medium heat until the outside of the liquid starts to bubble.
Remove from heat and let stand until the vinegar starts to take on the thickness of syrup. (This won't take long, maybe four minutes).
To plate, stack the beet fries into a small dish then top with the feta. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar in swirls over top and serve.