Tag Archives: chevre

Make the Basics Part IV: Goat Cheese

lucky cat

I’ve written before about how easy it is to make goat cheese, but it is worth another post, especially one with pretty pictures! For a few years now, I’ve made goat cheese to give as holiday gifts to close friends. After getting rave reviews from recent recipients, I was reminded again that people should know just how incredibly easy this is to do. It may sound and look impressive (and maybe I should keep people in the dark so they continue to think I’m amazing!), but really, a monkey could do this.

fresh milk
milk in pot

The biggest hurdle (and it’s not very big) is getting the main ingredients: goat’s milk and the chèvre culture. Other materials you will need are a thermometer, colander, slotted spoon and butter muslin (or cheesecloth). If you’re lucky like me and live in Maine, you can likely get fresh unpasteurized goat’s milk at your local farmers’ market (I get mine from Mainely Poultry for $5 per 1/2 gallon) or possibly a health food store/co-op/purveyor of local foods. Culture can come from a number of different sources. I use New England Cheese Making Supply. It works well to start a batch before going to bed at night and then letting it drain over the course of the next day. By that evening, it’s ready to eat! Just so you can see how easy it is, here are instructions based on those from New England Cheese Making Supply (I’m not sure why they left out the “let your spoiled cat lap up the leftover milk” step):

1) Heat 1 gallon of goat’s milk to 86° F.

2) Add 1 packet C20G (the culture) and stir.

3) Cover and let set at 72° F (it will still come out fine if it’s a bit cooler than this) for 12 hours.

4) Ladle curd gently into a butter muslin (or cheese cloth) lined colander.

5) Hang and drain for 6 to 12 hours (depending on desired consistency).

slotted spoon
goat cheese draining
goat cheese draining

Yup, that’s all there is to it. Once the cheese has drained, you’ll want to mix in a teaspoon or two of sea or kosher salt per gallon of milk to bring out the flavor (and slow the growth of bacteria), and you can add other herbs or spices too. For the holidays, I sprinkled rosemary and red pepper flakes on the surface of the rounds for a festive feel. If you’re giving them as gifts and want to get all Martha Stewarty, you can create a cute label and package too!

adding herbs

Probably because it’s so much fresher than what you would buy from the store, the taste is remarkable. And if you find a reasonably priced source of goat’s milk, it’s definitely financially worth it to make your own…especially when you have a bit of a cheese addiction. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything. A gallon usually makes 5 or 6 rounds about 2½ inches in diameter. I doubt it will still be sitting in anybody’s fridge for very long, but it seems to hold up very well even 10 days later. Give it a try! It’s easy and satisfying, and you’ll impress the hell out of your friends.

Got Cheese?

‘Tis the season! For what, I don’t know, but that’s what everyone is saying. In this country it seems like it’s the season of excess. Even in this recession, people are out of control with buying inane stuff. I’m all about getting and giving useful, particularly perishable, gifts. This year I made organic Maine blueberry jam and rosemary and cracked pepper goat cheese. It’s incredibly easy to make both of these things. You can find instructions for any type of jam in a box of pectin. My favorite is Pamona’s Universal Pectin because it is activated by calcium instead of sugar, which means you don’t end up with sickeningly sweet jam. Basically, you heat the fruit, add a sweetener of your choice (honey and maple syrup are good non-sugar alternatives) and pectin, cook for a short while, put it in a canning jar and then boil the jar until it’s sealed. Simple as can be. (Sorry, no photos!)

The cheese takes longer, but is just as easy. Ever since Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle came out—detailing the ease with which one can make cheese—DIY cheesemakers have sprung up all over the place. I got the few necessary items needed for soft cheese making (hard cheese is indeed more complex and time consuming and I haven’t ventured into that territory yet) for my birthday and have enjoyed several batches of fresh soft cheese since then. The supplies are easily obtained through New England Cheesemaking Supply. Essentially, you heat milk, add some rennet, let it sit overnight and then drain it during the next day in butter muslin (fine cheesecloth). It’s that easy! It’s a great feeling to be able to serve and eat cheese you made yourself.  And if you can find a local source of fresh milk, all the better. I am lucky enough to know some local goat farmers that can supply me with fresh goat’s milk on demand! (This time around 2 gallons of the milk made 7 of these approximately 3-inch-in-diameter rounds.)

Making soft cheese in Maine in the winter is a bit challenging because it’s supposed to be over 70° when you’re letting the curds form and drain. On the day I made my holiday chèvre it was 11°. So I rigged up these little draining devices and put them on a radiator in the bathroom with the door closed. It worked quite well. The curds seemed to be the right consistency after about 8 hours. I extracted them from the cloth, mixed in some fine Maine sea salt, shaped the cheese into rounds and patted in festively colored fresh rosemary and cracked multi-colored pepper. Voilà, a perfect holiday gift!