by Fiona Flores Watson
Today an increasing number of people prefer alternatives to cow's milk in their coffee or cereal - intolerance to dairy can be helped by drinking goat's milk, which is lower in allergy-causing proteins and other ingredients, and are easier on the stomach. In Spain, demand for this product is constantly rising.
Goat's milk has the same nutritional value as cow's milk, but doesn't cause the symptoms often experienced in dairy intolerance such as eczema, asthma, digestive problems and catarrh; it also has less alpha S1 casein, the protein in cow's milk which most often causes an allergic reaction. Goat's milk has less lactose (so is better for those with lactose intolerance), has more easily digestible fats and proteins, and is 30-40% lower in cholesterol, while still having plenty of calcium.
The region of Andalucia, with its countless mountain ranges, has thousands of flocks of goats tripping over the hills, their tinkling bells heard before they're seen from miles away, producing 28% of the region's total milk production. You may come across them when out hiking, on small country roads or on the edges of towns and villages. Many of them graze in the wild and their varied diet of hillside plants and herbs, as well as grass, comes through in the delicious flavour of their milk. The provinces which produce most goat's milk in Andalucia are Malaga and Almeria (the latter had 110,000 head of goats producing 42 million litres of milk in 2014), with production rising every year.
You can buy goat's milk in many supermarkets such as Mercadona, Carrefour and El Corte Ingles, as well organic versions in specialist food stores.
Many supermarkets also have goat's cheese and yoghurt, with some organic products too.
Goat's cheese is popular in Spain, sometimes a blend of goat's and sheep's milk I used, due to the strong taste of the goat's milk.
Andalucian goat's cheese producers which are particularly recommended are La Cabra Verde in the Sierra de Cadiz, which makes goat's cheese and yoghurt (see lacabraverde.es); and Payoyo (see payoyo.com), also in the Cadiz hills, which is both an award-winning brand of cheese, and the name of the goat breed which produces it. Payoyo cheese comes in goat, sheep, or a mixture of the two, as well as goat's yoghurt. The cheese is available in cured (120 days) and semi-cured (75 days).
In the Sierra de Aracena of Huelva, Doña Manuela and Monte Robledo are both small producers who make excellent organic goat's cheese.
Many of these farms can be visited, and at some you can even milk the goats and make cheese yourself - a great day out for families, as children can see around the farm, meet the animals, and get hands-on and see where their food comes from. Other activities include tastings of both cheese and wine, as well as lunch.
Andalucian goat's cheese has a trademark, Queso de Cabra de Andalucia, both pasteurised and unpasteurised. A promotionial iniciative, overarching the various relevant trade associatioin goes under the name Cabrandalucia.