The heading for my food and recipe section is: Having Friends for Dinner. You've probably realized by now that I mean something more than merely gathering congenial people around the table for an evening meal. Suggesting there could be friends both around and on the dinner table will seem provocative to some people. I don't say it lightly.
Though milk and cheese are common foods, the day-to-day realities of dairying are barely understood by most people. We civilized Americans have become almost entirely disconnected from the sources of our food. I can't count the number of times well-educated people have asked, "Must you breed your goats to get milk?" Of course, the answer is yes. Still, it's hard for people to imagine what this simple fact means to a dairywoman running a creamery. Work with me through the math. Imagine each year increasing a herd by two kids per doe. In just three years, 10 becomes 30 becomes 90 becomes 270. Yet I can only manage to milk 20 does. What do you suppose becomes of those other animals?
When this reality sinks in, outsiders to agriculture process it in different ways. Some are outraged. Some are sad. Some become vegetarians, and some are hardly bothered at all. But few people want to look too closely at the whole situation. Directly put, the inevitable result of dairying is slaughter. With a cheesemaking operation evolving in my own backyard, I find no way to avoid this inevitable fact. I've wanted to make my own choices about handling it, rather just than follow what others think and do. After all, it's down to me. I look each animal in the face, and then I decide their fate.
On my farm, every animal gets a name. Each one is loved and cared for as if it will stay here forever, even as I know full-well that not all can. I hold them when they're born, and I hold them when they die. As they mature, they are prepared as much as is possible for what's to come, just in case. When it's time, it's all over without stress, fuss, or fear. Most importantly, my animals aren't surrounded by the powerful human reactions to death that cause so many animals such anxiety at the end of their lives. Peace is the best I can offer. It's the way I've learned to live with this part of the job. Because live with it I do.
Using a few of these animals to feed family and friends is a common and somewhat accepted practice. However, emotions and tempers can run high when it comes to harvesting the young animals needed to make a homemade supply of rennet. These young animals are precious. I'll never treat them, as they often are, as useless trash. My kitchen skills have been put to this task. The posts in this section discuss how younger animals are processed. I also provide a collection of truly delectable no-waste recipes that put every beautiful, edible bite to delicious use.
These aren't recipes to be eaten out of guilt. You'll find my version of country terrine with prunes, a sweet and savory tagine, offal and meat crepinettes, manti with yogurt, and kefta with feta that's wrapped in caul fat and grilled. Meat and offal are brined in whey, marinated in buttermilk, and poached in lard for confit, then grilled, braised, seared, and very gently roasted. It might not be like what you've eaten before, but, plain and simple, it's the very best backyard food.