Thismilk is f-f-f-fab-b-b-bulous

Published on Thu, Jul 28, 2005 by ara Nelson & Sam Abrams

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This milk is f-f-f-fab-b-b-bulous

By Tara Nelson & Sam Abrams

Grace and Tim Lukens, owners of Grace Harbor Farms, a small 55-dairy goat operation in Custer, have a reason to celebrate. This July, they received the first license in Washington State to sell raw, unpasteurized grade A goat milk products such as cheese, yogurt and milk.

Tim Lukens, who was raised on raw milk as a child, said the license is difficult to obtain because of strict guidelines for health of the animals, cleanliness of the facility and temperature control of the milk.

He said many farms attempt to bypass this costly license by selling “shares” of a cow or goat that don’t require department of agriculture inspections of that standard. Lukens, however, doesn’t think of the license as a burden. He said he thinks of inspections as government-paid quality control, which is especially important given the goat milk’s special handling requirements.

Lukens milks the goats twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening. The entire process takes about one and a half hours.

After each milking, the milk is almost instantly transferred to a cooling vat. This step is critical in keeping the milk from spoiling because goat milk has a naturally-occurring enzyme that, if allowed to flourish, will create the notorious “goaty” flavor and odor.

“Temperature control is critical for quality and flavor,” he said. “We have a simple rule: Keep it clean and keep it cold.”

Other factors that affect flavor include diet and health, he said.
The strict adherence to cleanliness and refrigeration is reflected in the raw milk feta, which has a soft, almost lemony flavor with a clean after-taste and a creamier texture than domestic (cow milk) feta. The raw goat milk was virtually free of any “goaty” odor although it did have a mild aftertaste that took a bit of getting used to.

Lukens’ wife, Grace, said her favorite recipe for the chevre, a milder form of goat cheese, involves simply warming the cheese in the microwave and using as a vegetable dip – particularly with asparagus.
She said she also experimented with goat milk fudge and goat milk cheesecake through a partnership with Chuckanut Cheesecakes but they were too expensive.

“It was wonderful,” she said. “But in order for us to get value out of it, we had to charge something like $22 a cheesecake. That was too out there for most people.”

The Lukens also supply Beecher’s handmade artisan cheeses in Seattle with the goat milk.

Grace said the move from pasteurized goat products to raw goat milk products was spurred by an increase in demand for health foods, which included a demand for raw milk products.

“People who are interested in raw milk are so interested and passionate about it,” she said.

Why raw?
For the Lukens, a diet full of unprocessed and raw foods plays equally important roles in spiritual and physical health.

Grace said she became more health-conscious to accommodate her children’s special nutritional needs during their youth: Her oldest daughter was allergic to nitrates and both daughters were hypoglycemic. Also, after she read the book “Sugar Blues,” which links sugar consumption to depression and other health complications, she said her entire paradigm began to change.

“I cut out all the sugar for the hypoglycemia, but weeding out the nitrates was close to impossible,” she said. “All bread and cereal products have nitrates added, so I had to start not only making all of our bread, but also grinding the flour because you couldn’t buy flour that was not enriched with various chemicals.”

Her husband also had a background in health food, she said. He was raised on raw milk and food from the garden. His family was vegetarian and he didn’t eat meat until he was 18.

To the Lukens, making their own raw milk products just seemed like a natural progression.

“In 1999 when we got the goats we were already eating from our garden and making our own bread,” he said.

Grace Harbor goat milk products are available at the Community Food Co-op, Terra Organica and the Fairhaven Red Apple Market in Bellingham; The Homespun General Store in Lynden; and directly from their farm on Birch-Bay-Lynden Road near Custer. They can be reached at 366-4151.