In praise of old goats

When you’re lactose intolerant – which I may or may not be – the older the cheese, the less the discomfort.

The science of it is simple: Over time, enzymes used in the cheese-making process break down lactose into lactic acid, which is easier to digest. Many kinds of cheese are naturally lactose-free – Prima Donna is one of my cow’s milk favorites, as are Beemster XO and Gouda pittig.

Related: Gouda pittig: Loves me like a rock

Goat milk cheese also falls on the lactose friendly side, but for different reasons. While cow and goat milk have about the same lactose levels, the smaller molecules in goat milk are easier to digest.  I’ve never been able to get past the “goat tang,” that gamey, little-bit-of-barnyard flavor.

That off-putting quality all but disappears in aged goat cheeses, and I’ve recently met two beautifully made wheels that have won my palate and heart:

Honey Bee®

Encased in near bullet-proof plastic, this six-month-aged wheel may be the best goat cheese ever made for people who don’t particularly care for goat cheese. The delicate drizzle of honey and the naturally aged nuttiness tone down the goaty flavor.

A sweet, smooth finish makes Honey Bee® a delicious snacker with crackers and fruit or all by itself. It’s a good melter, too – check out this Cheeseland, Inc. grilled cheese video:

Extra-Aged Goat

Sartori Extra Aged GoatLight caramel notes developed through 10 – count ’em, 10 – months of aging significantly drop the tang level (and the lactose) in this delicate and savory cheese. In a 2015 press release, Sartori Master Cheesemaker Pam Hodgson told the story behind its creation:

“When starting with the creation of this cheese, our hurdle was to understand how to craft a hard goat’s milk cheese and stay true to our Italian roots.  We decided to partner with LaClare Farms to source the freshest, highest quality goat’s milk.  From there, we created a hard goat’s milk cheese and aged it.  It’s the steps within the cheese making process that allowed us to continue within our tradition of hard-style award-winning cheese.”

Sartori recommends pairing with Chianti, Riesling or a red Zinfandel. In fact, they’ve published a handy pairing guide for all their cheeses:

Just one complaint: The cheese needs a better name. I thought something simple, like “Old Goat”.

But maybe that’s not better.