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Ever have a Toggenburg taco?

By Staff | Apr 2, 2010

Melissa O'Rourke and husband Joe Skoda show Osceola County 4-H’ers O’Rourke's vinegar cheese and explain the process of making it.

ROCK VALLEY – Passing three times over Sioux County’s Dry Creek, which is actually full of water this time of year, brings people to a little goat farm called Dry Creek Acres.

This farm is the home of Melissa O’Rourke and her husband, Joe Skoda.

O’Rourke and Skoda have been raising dairy goats since 1994 when the couple purchased four crossbred does.

O’Rourke said that at the time she didn’t know much about goats, but did know what to look for in a good breeding animal.

“I did my undergraduate work at Illinois State University – and I have a minor in agriculture, and took quite a bit of animal science/livestock management coursework.”

Some of the couple’s current herd descends from those first four animals. They now show American Toggenburg and American Nubian goats nationally. They have earned numerous ribbons and awards and also finished 21 permanent champion goats and have had many best of breed, best in show and premier exhibitor awards.

Skoda works as the postmaster in Rock Valley. O’Rourke, an attorney, is on the board of the Greater Sioux Community Health Center in Sioux Center.

The couple also enjoys gardening and O’Rourke is a master gardener. In the fall she teaches gardening classes at Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon.

Teaching others about goats and farm life is another passion shared by the two.

“Both Joe and I have family farm backgrounds,” O’Rourke said. “We both spent lots of time on grandparents’ farms while growing up. Now, we have five grandkids up in the Twin Cities, and they love to spend time on their grandma and grandpa’s farm.

“It’s more and more unique for kids nowadays to have that experience.”

During the spring, the couple is busy with goats that are kidding. The does are milked by hand unless the number of goats to milk reaches 15. In this case they are machine milked.

The milk is then pasteurized and fed back to the kids to prevent caprine arthritis encephalitis. This disease can be passed onto kids through the dam’s milk. In January 2009 the entire herd tested CAE negative.

The process of hand-raising kids, Skoda and O’Rourke said, creates a healthy and people-friendly animal.

The extra goat’s milk is used for drinking, making cheese and ice cream. They do not pasteurize what O’Rourke calls their “people milk.”

“We find that cooling our milk quickly and leaving the top of our container open helps to keep the milk tasting it’s best” she said.

Goat’s milk is more easily digestible and less allergenic than cow’s milk.

Extra buck kids are wethered and sold or used for meat. “All the red meat we eat here is goat.” O’Rourke said. “We don’t even think about it, but our guests are sometimes surprised to find they have just enjoyed a juicy grilled goat burger or taco. They really can’t tell the difference.” Goat’s meat is lower in total fat, saturated fat, calories and cholesterol than other red meat.

O’Rourke has shared a few of her favorite recipes containing goat products.

You can learn more about Dry Creek Acres by visiting the Web site at www.drycreekacres.com.

Secret ingredient


Combine the following ingredients and shape into 50 to 60 bite-sized balls:

2 pounds ground chevon (goat meat)

1 medium onion, grated

1 large raw potato, grated

1 large egg

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Make a sauce by combining:

1 jar grape jelly (6-8 ounce jar)

1 bottle chili sauce

1 bottle water

Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Place the meatballs in the sauce, cover and cook 1 hour.

Serve immediately in the hot sauce, or they freeze very nicely for future use.

Cabrito Mexico

meat filling

1 pound ground chevon (goat meat)

1 medium onion, chopped finely

1 teaspoon salt (optional)

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon cumin

Brown meat together with chopped onion. Drain any excess fat (although it is quite lean). Add the dry spice mix to the meat along with 1/2 cup of water. Heat and stir, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Either use as a filling immediately, or freeze for future use. Also, the spice mix can be made ahead and stored in sealable bags for later use.

Caprine ice milk

1 quart fresh goat milk

1 package instant vanilla pudding

1/2 cup sugar (or equivalent amount of sugar-free sweetener)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Combine these ingredients and process in an ice cream maker. Substitute instant chocolate pudding for a rich chocolate dessert.

Basic goat cheese

Heat 1 gallon of fresh goat milk to 185 degrees. Remove from heat, and slowly pour 1/2 cup of vinegar into the milk.

Stir slightly, and set a timer for 10 minutes and leave it alone. Small curds will have formed. Carefully pour curds and whey mixture into a cheesecloth, tie and hang for 30 minutes to 2 hours. The longer you allow it to hang, the drier and more crumbly it will be.

An alternative to the cheesecloth method is to pour the curds and whey into a fine-sieve colander, and use a spatula to work the whey through the sieve, leaving the curds.

The curds can then be salted with 1 teaspoon of salt, and seasoned as desired. Some combinations include:

  • Garlic and dill -1 tablespoon dried dill weed plus 1 to 2 teaspoons garlic.
  • Classic herbs – 1 to 2 teaspoons each of rosemary, thyme and basil, plus a little garlic.
  • Southwestern – 2 teaspoons dried red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons garlic, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 2 teaspoons dried oregano.

Notes: There are a variety of methods to make basic goat cheese, and I do buy cultures from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. That Web site is:


The curds can be left unseasoned and in a consistency similar to cream cheese and used to substitute for any recipe calling for cream cheese. The next recipe is one example.

Lemon chevre bars

1 yellow cake mix (pudding type)

2 large eggs

1/3 cup oil

8 ounces chevre (soft goat cheese)

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine the dry cake mix, plus 1 of the eggs and oil until crumbly. Reserve 1 cup of this crumbly mixture.

Pat the remaining mixture into an ungreased 13-by-9-inch pan, and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, then cool slightly.

Beat together the chevre, sugar, lemon juice and 1 egg until the mixture is light and smooth and spread over the baked layer.

Then sprinkle the reserved crumbly mixture over the top, and bake for another 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

You can contact Robyn Kruger by e-mail at rangerob@hickorytech.net.

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