What: Outstanding goat's milk, goat cheese, and goat's milk yogurt from a salt-of-the-earth couple that raises a lot of kids.
Tim and LeeAnne Carlson never intended to be dairy farmers or cheese makers. In fact, they moved to the country simply to have enough room to raise their expanding brood of children -- they have 12, after all. Twelve. They purchased a few goats to provide milk for the family, to teach the kids about caring for animals, and maybe to show one off at the Houston Livestock Show. But when Tim Carlson took time off to care for his wife's dying father, the ever-expanding family was suddenly without an income. We all know what to do when life hands you lemons, but what can you do with a small herd of goats?
"Well, when all you have is milk, you'd better make yogurt and cheese," says a straightforward and determined LeeAnne Carlson. So the Carlsons took a few cheese-making classes and sought the advice of some nearby goat breeders. They learned how to best care for their goats, how to make curds, and how all of this could be a complete character education for their children. Today every member of the Carlson family is involved in the process -- from caring for the animals and milking them daily to making the cheeses and helping at the markets.
And the family flavor is evident from the start: With one bite you'll notice that Swede Farm cheeses and yogurts taste fresh, clean and undeniably pure. That's because the Carlson kids are in charge of making sure their "kid" counterparts are as happy and healthy as possible, a tremendously important job. After all, happy goats make better milk, which then makes better yogurt and cheese. And everything is done in house. No one takes care of the goats but a member of the immediate family -- no one else milks, and no one else handles the milk. Exquisite quality control results in an outrageously delicious final product.
Haven't tried goat milk yet? It's closer in protein structure to human milk than cow milk is, so many who are allergic to cow's milk can drink goat's milk with no problem. "We often have people tell us they're eating cereal for the first time in 20 or 30 years thanks to goat milk," says LeeAnne Carlson. Goat milk is also higher in calcium and vitamins, and lower in lactose. It's a fabulously healthy byproduct from a fabulously outgoing family of 14. Flock to it.
Where: You'll find Swede Farm goat cheese, goat milk, and goat's milk yogurt at the Urban Harvest, Rice University, and Eco-Green farmers' markets. They've got plain chevre, plus lemon-blueberry, habanero, smoky, and garlic goat cheeses. They also sell plain ricotta and ricotta with sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Got a craving for something sweet? Swede Farm goat milk is the magic ingredient in the goat buttermilk pecan pie at Haven. Mmmmmm!