The Old Windmill Dairy, in Estancia, NM is a well-hidden treasure worth looking for. I have been enjoying their wonderfully-flavored award-winning chèvres and other specialty goat and cow's milk cheeses for many years, and plan to carry some in our market and (of course) use it as an ingredient in our food. This is an old-fashioned, artisan, hand-crafted cheese-making operation right outside of Albuquerque. I find Old Windmill products at our local growers markets and also at La Montanita and Whole Foods. To find the dairy itself, we headed east from Albuquerque and then south from Moriarty to Estancia-- then turned down a long dirt road heading west again. Eventually we came to Paso Ranch Road, where we turned north, and then looked for the green cheese-making building and the red barn on the left. At that point, it was hard to miss all the goats!
We headed out there for a Mother's Day weekend adventure, last Saturday, to visit the baby goats and see where the cheese is made. The kids ran up to us immediately-- very friendly and rambunctious and totally ready to eat my shirt. Their moms were mostly pretty mellow (and the dads even more so)-- but the babies were literally bouncing all over the place!
Ed and Mike, who started the business back in 2002, welcome visitors to their goat farm. They are happy to share the experience of spending time with the goats and-- if you show up at feeding time-- helping them to feed the babies. This spring over 300 babies were born. The girls stay on the farm to become future milk producers, while the boys all find new homes as pets for other lucky people.
These Nubian goats (who all have names) have the highest butterfat ratio of any breed in their milk, which is why it makes the best cheese. They eat a healthy, nutritious diet and enjoy life on an eco-friendly farm that supports our local economy in many significant ways. The young goats are hand-fed almost from birth, which helps make them more comfortable with people and ensures that they all get enough to eat. The various cheeses and flavors of chèvre made here reflect the mission of the dairy and the unique characteristics of the state of New Mexico-- think Holy Chipotle, Chile 'n' Hot, Sandia Sunrise Smoked Gouda or Turquoise Trail Triple Cream Cambozola, to name but a few.
I have a favorite recipe using chèvre... the one I like best for this is the Holy Chipotle from Old Windmill, but many others could work equally well. Here is how to make Squash Blossoms Stuffed w/Goat Cheese: Only hard part about this recipe is finding squash blossoms. In the spring you can often find them at farmer's markets, if a grower has the patience to collect and sell them. If you grow summer squash yourself, then you are in luck-- avoid having too many zucchinis to ever eat by harvesting a lot of the blossoms right when they open and saving them for this dish. I grow some in pots by the kitchen door. In the late summer you can replant and keep collecting blossoms well into fall, since they won't really have time to turn into squashes. Store the just-opened blossoms lightly wrapped in a damp paper towel in a container or bag in your refrigerator until you have enough to make these...
These make an awesome appetizer or a side dish with eggs & potatoes-- or a topping on a bed of fresh local greens! 1) Carefully spoon a small amount (and I really mean small-- use a 1/2 tsp measuring spoon, a demitasse spoon or even a sharp-nosed grapefruit spoon) of soft chèvre into each open squash blossom, and twist the end shut. 2) Make a mixture of beaten eggs, a pinch of salt and a splash of milk (about one egg per 6 blossoms) in a shallow bowl. 3) In another shallow bowl, place flour or finely ground cornmeal or breadcrumbs about one inch deep. 4) Carefully dip each stuffed blossom into the egg mixture and then into the flour, coating entire blossom each time. 5) Gently rest on a plate until all blossoms are prepared. 6) Heat enough olive oil over med heat to cover bottom of sauté pan about 1/4". 7) When oil is hot, carefully lower each blossom into oil, and do not crowd them. 8) They will turn golden brown on one side fairly quickly, so roll them over with tongs to brown the opposite side. 9) When crispy and golden brown, remove from pan, taking care not to squish them. Drain on a paper towels, and serve warm. DON'T feed them to the goats!