Get your goat

From cabrito to chèvre and cajeta, goats finally grab the culinary spotlight

Susan France

Regrets? I have a few… including the fact that I didn’t get goat until late in my culinary life. Like a lot of folks I preferred to wrinkle my nose at the idea rather than actually taste it. Finally, I discovered chèvre, the creamy, spreadable fresh goat cheese that is tart and clean tasting. In other words, it didn’t betray any dreaded “goatiness.”    

It took me longer to venture sampling goat meat — the No. 1 consumed meat in the world — at a Jamaican eatery in Denver along with plantains in a hot gravy with really hot peppers. And all it took was one taste of sweet cajeta — goat’s milk caramel — to make me a fan. Perhaps the easiest goat introduction of all may be in the form of densely creamy chocolate goat milk fudge.

Susan France
Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy Head Cheese Maker Jackie Chang in the creamery.

Goats are finally having their moment in the sun, literally and figuratively. Once a rare imported commodity, local goat cheese fills shelves at almost every supermarket and atop salads at myriad restaurants. Goat’s milk is now widely available. Goat meat is on the menu every week at the Boulder County Farmers Market (even if the majority of shoppers are too scared to taste it). This spring saw the birth of a bevy of baby goat yoga classes and the summer ahead promises goat cheese-making classes and vacations on goat farms.

Here’s a quick go-to guide to local goat encounters of all sorts.

Goat’s Milk Cheeses to Sample

Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy: Soft-ripened First Snow, Buena Vista Bleu and Cheddar

Avalanche Cheese: Chèvre, goat cheddar, Midnight Blue and Cabra Blanca

Ugly Goat Milk Co.: Chèvre, feta, ricotta and soft-ripened Ugly Ash

Broken Shovels Farm: Chèvre with smoked salt, ricotta, Icelandic-style yogurt “cheese” and soft-ripened Dark Moon

Goat cheese-making classes

The Art of Cheese school at Haystack Cheese in Longmont offers hands-on workshops including a Farm-to-Table Cheesemaking Class and Goat Farm Tour.

Dances with Goats

Susan France
Mountain Flower Goat Dairy Farm Director Michael Montgomery cleans up the bottling room.

Like lilacs, baby goat yoga is primarily a spring thing, which is when most kids are born. Experts tell us that you really don’t want an adult goat jumping on your back. However, Colorado abounds in other goat encounters. Boulder’s own Mountain Flower Dairy at the iris gardens on North Broadway sells raw goat milk shares and offers field trips and tours of the goat farm.

The Avalanche Cheese Company’s Paonia farm and dairy rents a four-person cabin through Airbnb. Guests do chores such as feeding chickens and milking goats with the stunning backdrop of Mount Lamborn.

Buena Vista’s Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy offers another dramatic mountain setting with farm and creamery tours. Opportunities available on summer afternoons to help with milking.

Visitors can schedule an opportunity to milk goats, make chèvre and have brunch on a goat farm south of Colorado Springs.

The Other Other Red Meat

El Regalo Ranch near Salida bring its cabrito — goat meat — every week to the Boulder County Farmers Market. Goat has a great nutritional profile: lean, high in potassium and iron, and a fairly mild taste somewhere between lamb and venison. Goat can be roasted very low and slow, quickly braised in stir frys, and in stews like green chile and other traditional preparations from southern Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Latin America.

You can sample goat meat on local menus if you know where to look. Goat curry is on the menu at Gurkhas Restaurant (Gunbarrel) and Namaste Nepal Restaurant (Boulder) along with Goat Meat on the Bone in Punjabi-style Curry at Azitra (Broomfield). In Denver, braised cabrito tacos are available at Linger and roasted cabrito is at Work and Class.

Sweet on Goat’s Milk

Goat has a sweet side including cajeta, the caramel-like sauce made by boiling down goat’s milk. It’s a close relative of the cow’s milk confection, dulce de leche. Keenesburg’s Ugly Goat Milk Co. produces pounds of chocolate walnut fudge, an old family recipe that starts with super-creamy fresh goat’s milk. The fudge is available at Denver’s New World Cheese, Wine and Whey, and Il Porcellino Salumi. Better yet, schedule a visit to the farm, the cheese, the goats and the fudge.

The following dessert recipe comes from Longmont’s Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy.

Haystack Mountain Chèvre Cheesecake

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter

12 ounces Haystack Boulder Chèvre
12 ounces cream cheese
3 cups dairy sour cream
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
Zest and juice of 1 orange

To make the crust, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter and press into a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until crust sets up. To make the filling, combine the chèvre, cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, eggs, and the zest and juice of lemon and orange, then cream in mixer until fluffy. Pour gently into pre-baked crust and bake at 275 degrees for two hours until puffed and cooked in center. Let it cool completely before removing from pan. Refrigerate for several hours prior to serving. Plate with fresh berry compote, lemon curd or cajeta.

Local Food News

Opening this summer: French Quarter Brasserie, 1207 Pearl St., former site of Woody Creek Bakery, Paradise Bakery and one of my long ago employers, Potter’s.  … The latest location for Boulder’s The Kitchen will be the fifth Kitchen Next Door restaurant opening this summer in Longmont in the Village of the Peaks. … The Colorado-based Einstein Bros. chain is offering the novelty Espresso Buzz Bagel containing 32 milligrams of caffeine. … A recent issue of the Wall Street Journal listed six “canned beers with cachet” including three from Boulder County: Upslope Imperial IPA, Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale and Left Hand Milk Stout. … The Wednesday night Boulder County Farmers Market on 13th Street between Canyon and Arapahoe in Boulder is open for the season including a beer garden and live music plus the usual asparagus, bok choy, honey, plant starts, pea shoots, rhubarb and greens. … Boulder Culinary Gardeners’ annual plant sale is 8 a.m.-3 p.m. May 13 at 988 N. 75th St. featuring local organically grown plants including heirloom and hybrid vegetables, flowers and herbs. 

Words to Chew On

“We need to talk about more scratch cooking. I actually met with Sen. [Michael] Bennet in Colorado, where (some) schools have moved over to scratch cooking. So of course, they’re using more local produce and vegetables. It’s a real boon to the local farmers.” — Chef and advocate for ending hunger Tom Colicchio

John Lehndorff is the former Dining Critic of the Rocky Mountain News. He hosts Radio Nibbles 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM,