Goats are wonderful creatures, aren’t they? From the time I first laid eyes on a goat, I knew that I was looking at a very special creature. They entertain us with their antics, act as a composting device for our kitchen scraps, provide us with manure that can be used to fertilize garden beds, and best of all… they give us milk!
If you haven’t tried goat milk, you are in for a treat. However, either buy the milk at a grocery store or try milk from a farm or CSA that does NOT have the billy goat on the property or is at least kept far away from the nannies. (The billy goat’s proximity to the milk goats is what gives goat milk a particular ‘twang’ that some find unappealing. This ‘twang’ is also known as tasting ‘bucky’.) Goat milk from the grocery store will not be bucky, nor milk from a responsible CSA or dairy.
We are fortunate to have access to two quarts of goat milk every week. Now while you may think that is a lot of goat milk, we can easily polish it off in just a few days. However, rather than drinking the milk, I would rather make one of my favorite cheeses… chèvre.
Yes, chèvre is one of the classic French goat cheeses. And for all of you aspiring cheesemakers, it is one of the easiest cheeses to make in your own home. Don’t let the name intimidate you, it really is easy to make.
The recipe I am using is adapted from Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheese Making Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses. This recipe is my favorite way of making chèvre. NOTE: in this recipe, I include the use of cheese molds so I can get the ‘log’ shape.
- Heat 1/2 gallon goat milk gently to 86F.
- Once the temperature reaches 86F, add 1/2 the chèvre direct set starter packet (available from www.cheesemaking.com/) by sprinkling over the top of the milk. Allow the starter to rehydrate for two minutes, then stir into the milk.
- Pour milk mixture into a crock pot set to low. Check the temperature of the milk in the crock pot. When the milk is at 86F, turn off the heat and place the lid on the pot.
- Let the milk mixture set at 72F for 12 hours (the temperature will gradually drop in the crock pot, If the temperature drops quickly, wrap the crock pot with a towel to help maintain the desired temperature.) If the curd is still quite loose, let it set for a few more hours. I generally start this recipe in the late afternoon and that way, the curd can form overnight.
- After allowing the curd to form and set for 12 hours, line a colander with butter muslin and place the colander over a large pot so you can collect the whey when it drains.
- Once the curds have drained for 3 hours, place a cooling rack over a large pan with a rim. On top of the rack, place a mat such as a bamboo mat used for rolling sushi or a plastic mat with a fine grid pattern. Place two goat cheese molds on top of the mat.
- Gently scoop the mostly drained curds and ladle into the molds. (For 1/2 gallon of milk, two molds that are approximately 4″ high will hold the curds.) You may need to let the curds settle and drain slightly to fit all of the curds into the molds. NOTE: if you do not have molds for cheese, simply allow the curd to drain to your desired consistency in the butter muslin.
- Allow the curds to drain for another 3 – 4 hours. Unmold the cheese to see if it holds the shape from the mold, if not, place back into the mold and allow to drain longer.
- When the cheese holds its shape after being taken out of the mold it is ready to be eaten. If desired, salt lightly and/or roll the cheese in dried herbs, such as thyme. Cheese salt is a smaller grain than kosher salt, though if you don’t have cheese salt, kosher or sea salt are fine substitutes.
- Wrap the cheese in cheese paper and store in the refrigerator. Pleas do not use plastic wrap. The cheese needs to breathe and plastic does not allow that to happen.
- This recipe makes 10 – 14oz. of cheese.
This cheese is best eaten fresh within the first week, but will keep for up to two weeks. If you have the opportunity, try eating it the day it comes out of the mold. It is a sublime treat. The flavor and texture are different than what you will find in chèvre from the store. It is great on its own or use as a topper for crackers. It also makes a nice topping for pizza. Please note that chèvre does not become stretchy like mozzarella, but just takes on a soft texture that melts in your mouth when heated.
So friends, don’t be afraid. Get yourself some goat milk and culture. With the internet, you can have supplies at your doorstep within a week. Or if you have a homebrew supply store in your community, they may have the culture (starter) on hand. With a little planning and some patience, fresh chèvre is within your culinary grasp. Your efforts will be greatly rewarded!