How Bedouin prepare goat milk, butter and cheese

preparing goat cheese bedouin style

After winter and early spring rains passed by, the desert comes a life. Different types of plants start to grow, turn green, and bloom. The season of ‘desert abundances’ finally arrived again. So, it is time for us to take our herds of sheep and goat out into the desert to graze the desert’s green valley floors. Soon lambs and baby goats are born. We let the youngster enjoy their mother’s milk for the first months.

Once they are big and strong enough, our women start to milk the sheep and goats. In spring, their milk is delicious because of their diet in this period. We milk our animals until early summer. We use the milk for drinking or turning it into butter and cheese. In this blog, we give you an insight into how Bedouin prepare goat milk, butter, and cheese.

Goat milk; tasty and healthy

In our hot desert climate, it is essential to consume or process fresh milk as soon as possible or at least the same day. We prepare the goat milk for drinking by first heating it in the fire. We boil the milk together with some salt and thyme. Once it is hot, we leave it in the fire for a couple of minutes. Now it is safe to drink. Sometimes we drink it while it is still warm. Other times we let it cool down first. We drink the pure milk of use it in our tea. We also use it to dip our morning bread. That tastes so delicious.

Do you wonder what goat milk tastes like? In general, it is slightly sweeter than cow milk. But a lot depends on the goat’s diet. And on how the milk is handled and prepared. Goat milk is an excellent alternative to cow milk. Goat milk contains less fat, sugars, and cholesterol than cow milk, and more vitamins, calcium, and phosphorus.

How to make goat butter

We use part of the goat milk to make butter and cheese. Traditionally this is done by our women. To separate the fat from the milk, they put the fresh milk and some salt in a bag. Preferably a bag made from goatskin. They hang the bag, and for about half an hour, they move it back-and-forth. By experience, they feel when the milk fat is thickened enough. Time to let the bag rest for a while. Then they push the thick curd-like fat together and open the bag to scope it out.

They store the fat and add dried desert herbs and saffron to improve the taste and to give it color. We use this tasty fat/butter for cooking purposes. And we also use it to garnish dishes.

How to make and use hard goat cheese

What is left in the bag, after getting the fat out, will be put in a pan. Our women carefully heat it in the fire. Once it cooks, the liquid starts to extract and evaporate. A thicker substance emerges. After a few more minutes, they take the pan from the fire. They put the substance in a cotton cloth to separate it from the liquid. They will hang it to let more liquid evaporated. What is left is a firm cheese ball. They take it out and make small balls out of the big one. These will be put in the sun to dry for a while. Then they will be placed in the shade to dry further. After 3-4 days, the balls are completely dry. The hard cheese balls have a strong but pleasant, salty taste. The hard cheese balls last longer in the hot desert. Once we want to use them in meals, we need to re-hydrate them.
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2 Responses

  1. Hello Amy,
    Thanks for your compliment and question. We add about 2 spoons of salt to each liter of milk.
    Warm greetings from Wadi Rum,
    Team Wadi Rum Nomads

  2. About how much salt is used in making butter per liter of milk?
    Great article. Thanks for sharing!

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