Goat milk caramels: one Love Bite at a time

MacLaren Scott has a cottage industry for the sweet stuff called Love Bites — hand-crafted, chocolate-drizzled, sea-salted goat milk caramels made right on her small-scale farm in Ranchos de Taos.

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The first batch of caramels MacLaren Scott made came out black and burned. But her husband happily ate the first-try caramels and called them “Cajun smoked.”

The next time she followed the recipe. Eventually, she managed to make her caramels with near perfection.

Scott now has a cottage industry for the sweet stuff called Love Bites — chocolate-drizzled, sea-salted goat milk caramels.

The artisan caramels are all organic and made with non-genetically modified ingredients. The chocolate is dark — 100 percent cocoa. And they are made right here in Taos.

Scott moved to Taos 22 years ago and started a bike collective. She since moved on from that business, starting a family and establishing a sizable backyard farming operation, Back Porch Farm in Ranchos de Taos.

What started as a few chickens five years ago turned into a small herd of Nubian goats and a host of loving farm animals.

The farm has been one of the Scotts’ biggest sources for their own food. MacLaren collects the chicken and turkey eggs, and turns goat milk into cheese. They eat the meat from buckling goats and extra roosters. And certain areas are lined with crocks and jars of fermented foods — kim chi, sauerkraut and water kefir, an effervescent drink in the same flavor-family as kombucha.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Back Porch Farm was also the origin of the Scott’s caramels, the sweetest thing in her portfolio of handcrafted foods.

She first made caramels for a Waldorf School bake sale. She wanted something more than cookies and brownies, something new and different, as well as something she could make from the milk made right on her farm. It took a lot of research to find all the organic and non-GMO ingredients. But when she did, Scott struck upon something of a revelation.

“When it started,” Scott said, “I would just sit on the tailgate of my truck and sell to parents right out of the cooler.”

Over the holidays, however, business picked up. Scott sold over 200 boxes of caramels to friends and family on Facebook. With over three orders a day, Scott found it a full-time a job keeping up with the holiday demand.

Scott doesn’t sell retail since her operation is a cottage industry. But retail might not be too far off. Scott thinks the heart-shaped, artisan caramels could be the key to finally making their farm financially sustainable.

Back Porch Farm is an arc of diversity. The biggest animals, and the best-producing, are their three Nubian goats with their long floppy ears. Not all are producing milk at the moment, especially during the winter, but Scott says they produce more than enough for the family’s needs. In the same pen roam chickens of all varieties and a flirtatious, speckled-grey Royal Palm turkey (a little-known and somewhat-threatened heritage breed).

Though Back Porch Farm sits at the back of a residential road, the surrounding neighborhood is alive with the yammering of animals.

A neighbor across a small field of sage also has a herd of goats. Scott’s veterinarian lives next door and their donkey Jay-Jay carries on conversations with Scott’s turkey throughout the day.

For several years, their farm “felt really doable,” but it was supported by her husband’s income.

“My rule is this — we’re not getting animals unless they pay rent,” Scott said. “They are all contributing something financially.”

“They give a lot that’s not defined by money,” she said. “A farm is its own form of therapy and meditation. We stop at the gate and say ‘this is our practice’ and go into the pens with a lot of care. The goats butt against our legs lovingly and nuzzle us … it doesn’t matter what sort of day I was having before. When I’m with the animals, it’s a good day.”

“You have to keep petting them or they’ll nibble you,” said Isla, Scott’s 5-year-old daughter.

“The most important aspect of the farm is for my daughter to understand where her food comes from. For her to know how to raise and care for animals,” Scott said. “It’s also important we know our food is safe.”

When Scott’s husband went out Sunday (Dec. 28) morning, the temperature hadn’t yet broken 1 degree. The Scotts cut down the size of their milking herd this year, though still have to milk the goats for one hour in the morning and the afternoon.

Between caring for the farm and beginning to homeschool Isla, Scott is working to get Love Bites caramels to the next stage of development. Along with her business and homeschooling partner Tracey Miller, Scott is looking into grants and crowd-sourced funding for money enough to build a full-scale commercial kitchen at Back Porch Farm.

She’s incubating the idea and perfecting the product. Scott hopes to turn the modest Love Bites endeavor into something big — big enough to sustain the farm that sustains the family.

Contact MacLaren Scott through lovebitecaramels.com or the Back Porch Farm Facebook page.

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