Monday, November 12, 2012

How to make Goat Cheese (Chèvre)

Chèvre is all the rage these days, and for good reason. It is delicious and easy to make. Chèvre is French for 'goat'. Since we use just the milk, shouldn't the French have called it fromage de chèvre (cheese of goat)?
If you don't have access to fresh goat's milk, try to use fresh cow's milk, but then you must call it "Fromage Blanc" (French for 'white cheese').

Equipment needed: cheese cloth, a bungee cord, 1 gallon stainless steel pot with lid, dairy thermometer, and an eye dropper. 
Ingredients: rennet and mesophilic culture (order here), salt, and of course, a gallon of milk.

This is Rachel our Oberhasli dairy goat, on the milk stand:

To prepare for milking, her udders are wiped clean of any hay or dirt (our girls are super clean).

Then she is milked by hand (no milking machines here - we like it old school).

The milk is filtered through clean muslin into a pail:

And then into the house to pasteurize (or not).

After milking, the choice to keep it raw, or pasteurize, is up to you. This pasteurizer probably goes back to the 1950's and still works. (Found it on Ebay)

Our high tech machine heats to 145 Degrees for 45 minutes, then turns off automatically. Wow you say.

You will need to cool the milk down quickly by putting it in a sink full of ice water until it gets down to 78 degrees. (I used really cold water cause my icemaker had quit me)  

If you don't pasteurize, just cool the milk down right after milking. (Fun fact: The temperature right from the udder is around 102 F). 

Pour the milk into the pot, and add 1/2 teaspoon of the mesophilic culture. It is freeze dried and looks like powdered milk. Let it sit on top of the milk to dissolve before stirring it in.

Measure 1/2 cup of cool, unchlorinated water into a measuring cup, and add one drop only of the liquid rennet. Add this to the pot of milk.

Now you get to stir for about a minute, it is fun.

Put the lid on, and , to quote an infomercial,'Just set it and forget it!'  All day and night, for about 18 hours or so at room temp. Assume your room temp is like mine, which is around 70 degrees or so...whatever.

Abracadabra! Here is the cheese nicely curded up floating in a wonderful whey bath. You can drink this for powerful muscles, or feed your plants or go to this website for more ideas.

Me? I pour it down the drain to feed my septic tank. "Yum" says the tank.  (Note the nice large chunk of curd in the pot).

Now drape your cheesecloth into a colander (which I forgot to picture in the equipment list - sorry) then put THAT inside a large bowl to catch the whey. Or place it inside your sink if you don't want the whey.

Just pour the curds -glob glob glob, into the cheesecloth lined colander.

Then tie it up with a bungee cord. Since I discovered the bungee cord method, it makes me so happy! I used to use wire, and that was a pain.

Now hang for a day, or a night. It depends actually on your humidity. In my dry state of Colorado, it needs about 24 hours to hang until the right consistency. Your mileage may vary. 

Here is a photo of half of the contents from the bag. I already had started divying it up into 4 portions. Thats an old fashioned word huh? Divy. I like it. 

Sprinkle salt about 1/2 teaspoon per each portion.Knead it in there. Some might say salt is optional, but it improves the flavor, and helps preserve the cheese.

 Rolled into a traditional log shape.

Or a ball. Not very symmetrical.

Get creative with seasoning, herbs, flavorings. Here's my latest passion - Tajin, a Mexican seasoning made from chile peppers and lime. Oh gosh I had it on my omelete this morning...yum!

Another favorite of mine - Dill. If you have it growing in your garden you are one lucky person. Mine is from a jar so you can feel sorry for me. It's still pretty darn good though.

Let your imagination run free here people! Roll into chopped nuts, pour sundried tomato or basil pesto over the cheese and serve with crackers. Mix in some jalepeno jelly or marmalade, citrus fruit zest, candied fruit, heck just about anything. Sweet or savory. Use as cream cheese, put it in an omelete, make your best friend a salad.
Wrap well and use within a week, or freeze for later. OKAY you can DO this!
NOTE: If you don't think you want to invest in the bits and pieces of equipment, or would enjoy doing this with a group of friends, I do classes on making goat cheese all the time to guests who stay with me at Mountain Goat Lodge!