Olé Cajeta!

A Delicious Caramel Treat

Olé Cajeta!

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Cappy Tosetti 

Like magic, a simmering pot on the stove can transform a few simple ingredients into a rich and creamy caramelized concoction that has people clamoring for more. Whether you prefer a dollop or a drizzle of the delicious sauce, you’ll look for ways to serve it morning, noon, and night.   

Depending on the sauce you choose, the end result is a tantalizing treat that adds flavor and fun to a variety of foods — ice cream, crêpes, pancakes, cinnamon rolls, cheesecake, scones, fresh fruit, cheeses, and more. Some folks stir it into their coffee, while others like me enjoy a generous spoonful straight from the jar! 

Caramel sauce: a popular selection at the ice cream shoppe. It’s especially yummy when served warm with a dish of vanilla ice cream, or poured over apple slices. Caramel sauce is made with sugar, water, butter, and heavy cream. The longer it cooks, the thicker it gets. 

Dulce de Leche: Spanish for “candy milk,” a Latin American caramelized sauce prepared by slowly simmering cow’s milk, sugar, baking soda, and vanilla. It’s served much like caramel sauce, but some folks like to spread it on layer cakes or add it to bread pudding. A favorite holiday tradition is preparing a glazed ham made with dulce de leche, mustard, garlic, and cayenne. Savory or sweet, it’s a winner! 

Cajeta: a mouth-watering confection made with sweetened goat’s milk, originating in Celaya, a bustling city located in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. The name derives from the little wooden boxes that merchants used for displaying the sauce in their shops. Cajeta is gaining in popularity in the United States, especially with goat farmers looking for creative recipes for the family table or a specialty food item to market locally or online.   

Fresh from the Farm 

 Tucked away on five acres on Marrowstone Island northwest of Seattle, Washington is Mystery Bay Farm, a small-scale family farm owned and operated by Rachael Van Laanen and husband, Scott Brinton. Together with their children, Cora and Quince, the couple enjoys a tranquil yet busy life with their herd of 40 American Alpine goats. 

“I first fell in love with the breed years ago,” Rachael recalls, “thanks to my friend, Dee Harley of Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero, California. Her knowledge helped foster an appreciation of Alpines that continues today. Besides being an excellent milk producer, our goats are very docile, responding to their names with delight.” 

Rachael and Scott rotate the herd on their property, plus an additional 20 acres leased from neighbors. This rotation from one grass and brush pasture to the next helps maintain a sustainable land that’s not overgrazed. It also reduces the dependence on hay during spring and summer, allowing the goats to munch on blackberries, roses, trees, ivy, and other plants. This diet is better suited to their digestive systems than just pasture grass. During the fall and winter, the couple adds hay harvested from the farm, along with seaweed and organic grain. 

“Our goats produce a sweet, creamy, and delicious milk that goes into our farmstead products of artisan cheeses, yogurt, and cajeta,” explains Rachael. “We’ve been a WSDA (Washington State Department of Agriculture) certified Grade A Dairy since 2009, selling our products here at the farm and locally at select locations. Farmstead means we make all products using only the milk from our goats. In addition to milk production and our products, we enjoy providing tours and tastings for the public to learn more about farming, goats, and sustainable living.” 

 The idea of producing cajeta happened eight years ago with one of the farm’s interns discovered a recipe in a favorite cookbook, Chefs from the Farm, from Quillisascut Farm School of the Domestic Arts, a goat dairy, farm, and school in Rice, Washington. They decided to serve it up for dessert that week. 

Everyone loved the taste and consistency, inspiring Rachael to stack more jars in the pantry for family meals and gifts. After some serious thought and planning, she began producing cajeta in the dairy kitchen to see if the product was worth the time and effort.   

She didn’t have to wait long for the results; people lined up, grabbing every jar off the shelf with great gusto. Initially, during the first few seasons, production was just in the autumn, but soon it became apparent that cajeta was a year-round favorite. 

“It’s a simple recipe, but it takes plenty of patience during the cooking process,” advises Rachael, “so it’s important to carve out a good amount of time while stirring the pot. That’s when I do my bookkeeping or attach labels to jars, sitting at a table next to the stove with my big spoon. It’s a peaceful time, filled with the aroma of sweet caramel in the air.   

Certain foods conjure up feelings of comfort and contentment. Imagine swirling summer strawberries in the decadent sauce, or drizzling it warm on some farm-fresh chèvre topped with toffee bits — served with apple and pear slices. There’s no end to the different and delicious ways to enjoy the versatility of goat’s milk. It’s a treat to try at home, or as stocking stuffers this holiday season. You’ll soon discover friends and family will return with empty jars, asking for more cajeta! Viva el caramelo

Cajeta Recipe 

Yield: 2.5 pints 

  • 1 gallon of goat’s milk 
  • 3 cups sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 cinnamon stick or vanilla bean 

Use large heavy-bottom stainless steel or copper pot. 

  1. Bring milk, sugar, and cinnamon to a rapid simmer on medium heat.
  2. Watch pot closely — stir — do not allow to boil over. 
  3. Continue simmering until liquid reduces to half.
  4. In a separate pan over medium heat, combine one cup of the hot milk mixture with the baking soda, stirring briskly. Mixture will rise and get frothy.Pour mixture back into a large pot on medium heat, stirring every ten minutes — approximately an hour. 
  5. Keep stirring until mixture is rich amber-brown and thick enough to coat back of the spoon. 
  6. Once done, remove cinnamon stick/vanilla bean. Let cool. Pour in airtight, sterilized glass jars.
  7. Enjoy!       

The Inside Scoop on Sugar 

Rachael at Mystery Bay Farm explains that any granulated sugar works in the cajeta recipe. She prefers using organic sugar — evaporated cane sugar (sometimes called cane juice). It’s a completely natural sweetener made from sugar cane. Because it is not processed as much as table sugar, evaporated cane sugar retains more of the nutrients from the sugar cane. It is sometimes referred to as raw sugar or cane sugar. In processing, common white sugar is stripped of all traces of molasses, while evaporated cane sugar still contains some, which enhances the flavor and appearance of cajeta. mysterybayfarm.com  

“Curious and eager to learn more in life” best describes Cappy Tosetti, a magazine writer with 30 years of assignments under her belt. She also writes for educational publishers specializing in children’s books for libraries and schools. Cappy lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her three rescue dogs that help her with Happy with Cappy Pet Sitting. She’s putting things in motion to someday crisscross the country in a vintage travel trailer visiting draft horse and goat farms. cappyt@att.net 

Originally published in the November/December 2019 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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