Beyond Chèvre: Cabécou Cheese

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I consider myself lucky.  On our urban homestead there are chickens, bees, vegetable gardens, mature fruit trees, and a husband who is willing to do chores.  But one of the things that I am most thankful for isn’t something that I can’t simply retrieve from the backyard.  Instead, my husband picks up two quarts of goat milk each week from our goat milk share!

cabécou

cabécou

Oh… those days he comes home with the half gallon container, I am already thinking about what that milk could become.  Ice cream?  Chèvre?  A pool for cereal?  While those are all good choices, one of my favorite creations is cabécou, a French goat milk cheese.  Even though the name may not trip off of your tongue, it is an elegant looking, yet easy to make cheese at home.

My favorite recipe is from the book Artisan Cheese Making At Home by Mary Karlin.  The recipes are detailed and the photography is beautiful.  In fact, her photos give me the inspiration to make the cheeses within the cover.

Cabécou Recipe

  • 2 quarts goat milk
  • 1/4 tsp. powdered mesophilic starter culture (MA 011 or C20G)
  • 1 drop liquid rennet diluted in 5 tablespoons cool, nonclorinated water
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbl. herbs de Provence
  • 2 tsp. whole mixed peppercorns (black, white, pink, green)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 C. fruity extra virgin olive oil

NOTE: this cheese is made using the water bath method rather than directly heating the milk on the stove top.  The water bath method tends to provide greater control over raising the temperature to the desired mark.   Also the cheese cultures can be purchased online from  New England Cheesemaking Supply.

Use a container that will hold at least one gallon, plus it is wide enough to set a container inside which will hold the milk with room to spare.  With a third pot, heat up approximately two quarts of water.  When the water reaches 85F, pour it into the large container being careful not to get water into the smaller container set inside.  Add milk to the smaller container.  Gently stir the milk to help uniformly distribute the heat, the cover the container with the milk.  Once the milk reaches 75F (takes about 10 minutes) remove the container with milk from the water bath.

Sprinkle the starter culture over the milk.  Allow it to rehydrate for approximately five minutes.  Stir with a whisk to combine the culture into the milk using an up and down stroke.  Next, add the diluted rennet and also whisk in using the up and down motion for twenty strokes.  (Rennet is what will cause the development of curd.)

Cover the milk and let it set for approximately 18 hours at 72F.  (I usually pour the milk into a crock pot that I have heated using hot water (can use the water from the water bath if the temperature has not dropped into the low 70s).  Remember to pour the water out of the crock pot before adding the milk.

After the curd has formed, place 4 crottin molds over a rack set over a container to catch the whey.  (If you do not have crottin molds, use a narrow cheese mold that has a bottom or if the mold does not, place a very fine mesh under it.  The idea is for the curds to drain in the mold.  If the rack or mesh is too large, curd can pass through and reduce the volume of cheese that is created.

Spoon curds into the molds.  You may have to allow for the curds to drain slightly in the mold to fit any remaining curd into the molds.  Cover the molds with a towel (to prevent any debris or pest from getting in the cheese).

cabécou disc

cabécou disc

Unmold the after two days.  (The cheese should be firm enough to hold its shape.)  Salt the cheese and then place them in the lower shelf of the refrigerator for two days on cheese mats, turning once per day.  Do not cover as they need to air dry.

Slice each of the 4 cheeses into 1 ounce discs (approximately).  NOTE:  2 discs will fit into a half pint jar.  If you have more cheese than what will fit into 4 half pint jars, simply use more jars and increase the total quantity of herbs, peppercorns, bay leaves and olive oil.

Sterilize half pint jars.

Divide the herbs, peppercorns, and bay leaves evenly.  Alternate layers of herbs and peppercorns with two discs per jar.  Place 1 bay leaf on the top disc of cheese in each jar.  Pour enough olive oil into each jar to completely cover the cheese.  Secure lid on each jar.

Place the jars in the refrigerator for one week.  This will allow the cheese to pick up the flavor

layering cabécou with herbs

layering cabécou with herbs

of the herbs and peppercorns.

NOTE: the olive oil will solidify in the refrigerator.  This is normal.  When you remove the jars from the refrigerator, the olive oil will return to its liquid state.

After you eat the cheese, save the olive oil from each cheese.  It will pick up flavors from the cheese and herbs, making a wonderful dressing for salads.

So friends, embrace goat milk!  Cabécou is easy to prepare, but you must be patient.  Your actual time of work is approximately 30 minutes, the rest is attributed to draining, drying, and developing flavors.  This cheese also makes a great gift since it is packed in a jar.  Just remember to tell the lucky recipient to store this cheese in the refrigerator and should be eaten within a week.

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8 responses »

  1. do you cut the curd after it has set? i made it and the instructions in several recipes didnt specify, so i was left with a large circular curd disk and wasnt sure where to go from there?

  2. Wonderful post! I have never heard of this type of cheese before, and I LOVE cheese, so I look forward to trying this recipe out! How do you use this cheese? Do you just put it on bread/crackers? Do you have a specific recipe that you use it in? Thanks for the good read!

    • I was a little apprehensive at the start, but this is something that you can do at home. I initially started with fresh mozzarella, then cottage cheese and ricotta. Patience is your best friend when it comes time to make cheese. Your actual amount of ‘work’ time is not very much, but then it is a waiting game. Waiting for the curd to form. Waiting for the curd to drain. Waiting for the cheese to air dry. The flavor and texture is unlike anything you can get in a store. Making cheese at home is as fresh as it can get.

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