See Also: Goat Facts & Trivia
According to Greek mythology, Amalthea, the first recorded she-goat, suckled the mighty Zeus, for which she and her two kids were awarded with their own constellations.
Goat is a sturdy, stubborn animal that can survive and thrive in forbidding environments. In many mountainous regions, goats are raised for their meat, also for their milk, which may be processed to flavourful cheeses or consumed fresh. They were made scapegoats with the arrival of Christianity in Europe. Many painters depicted, goats as evil. People thought of these sturdy animals as destructive to the environment, and degrading the quality of evil up to the 20th century.
Goats have highly developed senses of sight, smell, salt, acid and bitter. Observations indicate their preference to bitter foods; they like to eat tender shoots, aromatic- and tough skinned plants. The taste of goat’s milk depends very much on the diet of the herd, and is clearly reflected in the resulting cheese. Goat cheese made in Canada, France, and Spain using the same recipe will differ in taste.
Goat’s milk fat globules are smaller than those of cow’s milk; it is more digestible hence its use for children and elderly.
In Europe Spain, Greece, and France sizeable goatherds are maintained. Elsewhere in the world, Caribbean countries and mountainous regions husband goats. This animal’s meat tends to be tough as the animals climb and walk all the time in search of food, thus it must be cooked for a long time. It also has a “high” smell and needs to be “tamed” with liberal amounts of spices. Caribbean cooks like to curry goat meat.
There are several goat species. Some are raised for their milk, other for meat, hide and hair. In Spain Murciana, Granadina, Malagena, Verata, Retinta, Canaria, Florida and Andaluza are officially recognized and catalogued breeds.
In Spain 30 percent of the country’s cheeses contain goat’s milk and/or are made using exclusively goat’s milk. Spanish goat cheeses are extremely flavourful due to their breeds, and “foods” the animals consume. Ibores, Majorero, Murcia are some of the best known. They are exported to both the U S A and Canada, and are available in cheese stores specializing in small-production cheeses.
Canadian goat cheeses are always cream-type and less pungent as farmers feed their animals with formulated feed in the winter and grass in the summer. Also the average Canadian palate prefers bland cheese over piquant.
French goat cheeses on the other hand are deeply flavoured, and imaginatively shaped, and packaged. Saint Marcellin, Pyramide, Sainte Maure, Banon, Rocamadur, Crotin de Chavignole come to mind. All are available in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu