Sunday, May 27, 2012

A bunch of crying babies around here

This outstanding recipe for cajeta (a.k.a. dulce de leche) is adapted from My Sweet Mexico by Fany Gerson.

1. First you will need a goat. Can I give you one of mine? In fact, I will give you all of mine. Think of the cajeta. Mmm, cajeta.

2. Milk the goat until you have a quart of milk. No need to pasteurize, though straining is always a good idea. Put the milk in a pot with 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon light corn syrup, a big pinch of kosher salt, and the seeds and pod of a vanilla bean. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

3. Dissolve 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in 1 tablespoon water. Stir into the milk mixture. Return the pot to the stove and simmer gently for an hour or so, stirring occasionally, until you have a thick caramel sauce. Pull out the vanilla pod, lick clean, discard. Pour cajeta into a jar. Eat with a spoon, spread over crepes, drizzle on ice cream. Store in the refrigerator.

This a cajeta so superior you will never think of putting a can of condensed milk in a pot of boiling water again. I have done that many times and while the can never exploded, the cajeta was never this delicious. Gerson says you can use cow's milk for this recipe, but that "the goat's milk has a distinctive grassy, musky flavor. . . "

Don't you want a goat now? I think you do.

Thanks to Oz for the suggestion.

I made Fran Gage's vanilla bean shortbread this week, and the cookies are lovely, but more fragile than these cookies from Food52 which I made a few weeks ago and which are very similar in flavor. Make these. They're fabulous. My only change to the Food52 recipe would be to omit the colored sugar topping, but if you have children or really want sugar topping, try dipping the bottom of the juice glass in water. Also, let the cookies rest for 2 days. They got better. They got dangerously better.

We were busy this week, so not much other cooking happened, and what little did was not from Bread and Chocolate. It's a tiny boutique of a book and doesn't have dishes for every occasion. My cousins Luis and Ana Maria came to dinner on Friday, and they are in their seventies, Guatemalan, and gastronomically conservative. I couldn't see feeding them Fran Gage's oyster stew or crayfish gazpacho and Ana Maria is gluten intolerant, so the pasta with saffron cream sauce wouldn't work, though it sure sounds good.

Instead, I turned to The Essential New York Times cookbook and made the chicken country captain which was a dream, mostly because it was easy, but also because it was delicious. (This is not the exact recipe, but it is very similar.)  I served the chicken with salad, the so-called perfect pot of rice (also from NYT book) and caramelized endives. Very happy with the meal, though I realized afterwards that I had dredged the chicken with flour, which I hope did not make Ana Maria sick.

Getting back to goats. I try to be mostly honest in this blog, so I will say that lately the goats have had a disastrous effect on my mood. At least I think it's the goats. I feel exhausted and blue and that my life is out of control and everything is too much for me. Which is funny, because rarely has my life been so under control.

Except there's this. Every morning at 5:15 Sparkles has a noisy tantrum. It's like she feels exhausted and blue and that her life is out of control and everything is too much for her. The sun comes up and she looks around and sees that her kids are needy and misbehaving and why is this yard such a mess? Where's the grain? Who overturned the water bucket? Why is her irritating half brother still humping his sister even after he was emasculated? Gross. Calgon, take her away! So she starts yelling.

I get out of bed, prepare milking ablutions, put on manure-caked Crocs, go outside, give Sparkles grain, milk her, right the water bucket, and restock the hay. She settles down, but because now I'm up, I milk Natalie, let the chickens out, and rake the compost pile. If I lived in the country, I would roll over and let Sparkles holler. But we have neighbors.

Then I come inside. By now it's 5:45 a.m. and my husband is grumbling because the goats woke him up and I notice we're out of coffee and what the hell am I going to do with all this goat's milk? Jeez, this rug is filthy. I can't live with it one more day! But of course I will. Gosh, I wish Owen had friends, even though he seems happy enough. . . oh no. NO! Sparkles is yelling again.

And I want to have a tantrum of my own. Sometimes I do. Ask my poor husband.

Update: Sparkles and her babies are gone. An hour ago, the Craigslist ad and my dreams were answered.


  1. Actually, I don't want a goat. Sorry. I have more on my plate than I can can say grace over already. The cajeta sounds so wonderful that I will try to make it with cow's milk. I empathize with your feelings of being blue. I have been feeling that way myself lately, but I am sure it was a result of having too many projects going at one time and feeling powerless to assert any control in my life. I have finally brought some things to conclusion, so I am feeling a little better. I hope that happens for you soon. I hate to hear that you are feeling blue. Yeah, you can ask my husband, too! I have had some impressive frustration rants lately. It's just too bad that I only feel marginally better after I have them!

  2. Hi Jen. Glad the cajeta came out great!


  3. Oh, I also meant to tell you that I have a recipe for caramel paletas (ice pops) using cajeta. I haven't made them yet, but plan to do so. Just thought it might be another way to use that goat's milk. If you are interested, I will send you the recipe.

  4. Oz -- it was so good.
    Beckster -- Sure! Send it along. I just made more ricotta, for dumplings, but there's only so much ricotta we can eat.

  5. Lack of sleep is the source of nearly all grumpiness and health problems for me. I hope you can sleep a lot now that Sparkle and family is gone. It takes a long time to catch up on sleep so give it time!

    That's the problem with homesteading. To grow your own food efficiently, you would have make way more than your family can consume. It would actually be wasteful if every family had a hen house, tomato plants and a goat. Farmers' Markets are the way to go for necessary food.

    I do grow strawberries, artichokes, blueberries, apples, tomatos, edamame, etc. but just as a hobby. They couldn't actually support my family.

  6. I made cajeta one time when we lived in Korea--I actually baked the milk in a water bath...worked really well but yours sounds way better. Thought of you yesterday when we saw a little boy walking a goat :) Owen and Sophie sound like kindred spirits--not many friends around but never seems upset about it. Glad your life got marginally easier thanks to Craigs list

  7. For some reason my browser doesn't like your link to Food 52. Anyone else having that problem?

    I started cooking out of the NYT cookbook when I was about nine years old and country captain was the first dish I made out of it. I remember it was curried chicken in a tomato sauce with raisins and it was pretty good.

    Ancient Harvest makes a really delicious corn and quinoa pasta that I have taken to substituting for regular wheat pasta just because it tastes good and is more nutritious. I highly recommend it for gluten intolerant guests.

    As for the cajecta, I had goats milk cajecta in Mexico and it was indeed an amazing thing to eat!

  8. Sleep deprivation is considered torture under the Geneva convention for a reason. I am hopeful your mood will improve without the goats. May they live a long happy noisy life on the farm that adopted them.
    Smitten Kitchen's goat cheese "crouton" was superb tonight. We thought of you and wondered if you could make goat gouda for these yummy creations.
    Sleep well.

  9. Congratulations on your diminished herd. I'm glad to hear that you look just as frumpy milking as I do.

  10. OMG Sparkles is gone...??? What did Owen say?

  11. Mary -- Owen got a chunk of the proceeds and he was very cool about it. We sat and waited for the new owners to turn up and then we helped them put Sparkles (now called Delilah) and babies in the backseat of their car. They were lovely, lovely people who live in a more rural area. We still have Natalie and her babies and Peppermint, and it is a little sad and empty out there, but BETTER.

  12. I have two sheep and I know exactly what you mean about not being able to let them bellow because of wonderful neighbors who put up with more than they need to already! Some days i want to give them away, even though I have only two and no one to milk right now! (But soon, as she is pregnant).

  13. I used to make cajeta for a brunch menu, and I made it exactly like you described, but with goat's milk from Trader Joe's, not my back yard. Then we treated big, thick hand made tortillas as if they were french toast (dipped in custard and griddled), folded them around sliced bananas, and drizzled them heavily with the cajeta. I dubbed them Tortilla Flats. It was our second most popular brunch item for years.

  14. I tried to make cajeta today and after 2hours of simmering, I had a thin almost milk consistency very wonderful sauce....what did I do wrong?

  15. DHG -- I don't know! Shoot. What kind of milk did you use? How gently/vigorously did you simmer it?

  16. I used cow's milk and gentle simmer, slow break of bubbles. I have an electric cook top so I was afraid it would burn if I let it go too high. It did occur to me that a very small slow cooker set to low overnight might me the answer.

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