Ok. So I spend a lot of money on goat cheese. Probably more than one person should. I joke with my husband that one day he’ll come home to a couple of goats in the backyard. In reality I’m really not kidding all that much. They probably wouldn’t cost much more than my goat cheese addiction. And I might not have to mow the lawn anymore. So, given my predilection for goat cheese…and lack of my own goats…I set off to make my own supply of goat cheese. I set out with all the excitement and fervor any good chevre lover should have and immediately hit a roadblock. Goat’s milk can be difficult to find unless you know someone with goats. Luckily I found a farm down the road a piece that offers raw goat’s milk and in case of a major I-need-goat-cheese-now impatience, a local store that sells pasteurized goat milk (not ultra-pasturized or homogenized). First road block tackled! Little did I know, a seemingly insurmountable number of roadblocks were to follow.
So, I’d like to say everything went swimmingly and making chevre was super duper easy. But, I’d also like to think that I’m pretty honest so I won’t lie to you. I had several failures. Several starter cultures didn’t seem to work, the milk wouldn’t set to curd, the curd wasn’t hard enough to hold together, and the resultant cheese wasn’t quite dry enough. I nearly gave up, and then I quit trying so hard. I put down my fancy schmancy artisanal cheese making book and turned to the ‘world wide interwebs’ (as my friend Drew likes to sarcastically call it) and Youtube. I’m a firm believer in sharing knowledge, the legacy of non-professional knowledge, and that Youtube can indeed be used to learn things and is not just for watching some random dude smash his goods while attempting physics-challenged skateboarding tricks. After a quick search, I found what seemed like a bazillion videos on making cheese. Being I had already read an entire book on making cheese, I watched a few and set to work. Finally, fresh chevre. Perfect!
I actually used the same technique for the first step in making cottage cheese curds and then processed them like I would for most other soft or semi-soft spreadable cheeses in my repertoire. Easiest, fastest, and super delicious. This recipe starts with 1/2 gallon and produces about 14 ounces of drier (like the store-bought kind) chevre. The milk cost me about $8. So, for my fellow chevre addicts, this recipe gets you your fix for about 1/2 of the regular price per ounce.
- 1/2 gallon goats milk (raw or pasteurized)
- 1/4 tsp veal rennet in 1 cup cold, non-chlorinated water (spring water)
- 1 cup cultured buttermilk (must contain live cultures)–you can also use mesophilic cultures but I’ve never had luck with those
- 1 tsp or so quality sea salt
- any herbs you’d like mix into or press into the exterior of the set cheese
- Stainless heavy bottomed pot with a smaller stainless pot that nests inside (helps to hold heat when you’re done)
- Large stainless spoon
- Instant read thermometer capable of measuring as low as 80 degrees
- Stainless strainer
- Butter muslin, double cheesecloth, or cut off white pillow case (from new; my favorite method)
- kitchen twine
First, sterilize all of your non-reactive (stainless) materials. I run them through the dishwasher despite my fancy schmancy book stating I should soak them in a 10% bleach solution. I’ve never died. After all, people all over the world are making cheese that don’t have access to bleach. That being said, I don’t dabble in long aged cheeses and I eat mine up pretty quickly.
Place your smaller pot with the 1/2 gallon of milk in it inside of your larger pot and fill the space in between the two with water (like a double boiler of sorts). Place on low heat. Slowly heat the milk to 80 degrees. This should take 15 or so minutes. Note that 80 degrees will not pasteurize raw milk, so if you’re afraid of bacteria or don’t know your raw milk supplier you may want to look into pasteurizing techniques.
When the milk reaches 80 degrees (you don’t feel a chill when a very clean finger is inserted into it and yet it does not feel warmer than you), remove the pot from the burner. Add the 1 cup of live-culture buttermilk and stir, making sure it is well mixed, for 30 seconds or so. Next add the 1/4 tsp rennet dissolved in 1 cup of cold water and gently stir for 30 seconds, making very sure it is evenly distributed. Put your lid on the pot with milk and put it in your oven. Turn on your oven light. Wait.
Now the waiting part seems to take forever so I like to do it while I’m sleeping. You want to wait until you have a nicely congealed curd, like a very firm custard. You’ll see liquid in the pot with the curd–that’s whey (just like Ms. Muffet’s curds and whey). This process takes about 12 hours depending on cultures in the buttermilk, your milk source, and temperatures. When the firm curd has formed and the whey has separated, cut the curd.
After the curd is cut, gently spoon it into your butter muslin/cheesecloth/pillow case-lined strainer. Let it drain the whey for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the curd with about 1/2 tsp salt and mix it in well. Gather up the edges of your material, encasing every bit of curd in the material, and gently twist to drain more whey. Tie up the top of the material securely and hang your bag ‘o cheese curds from an upper kitchen cabinet knob, placing a bowl beneath it to catch the whey. Wait again. To get spreadable goat cheese, you may only have to wait 6 or so hours. For a drier one like you’d buy in the store, I usually have to wait about 12 or as much as 24 hours. Trust me, it is so worth it. If this freaks you out, hand it in the same manner in your fridge. Again, I’ve never gotten sick, the good bacteria do their job, and the end result is more tangy.
Once the cheese has reached the desired consistency, remove it from the material and press into any bowl that has a good shape. Refrigerate. Once it is good and cold you can pop it out of the bowl and sprinkle it with any herbs. Garlic, rosemary, fennel, dill, cracked pepper, and/or sun-dried tomatoes work well and I use various combinations of them often. You could mix herbs in before you put the cheese in your makeshift mold if you’d like. My cheese generally never makes it the stage of being put into a mold. And frankly, I’ve never shared it so I’ve had no need to make it pretty. You’d probably draw back a bloody nub if you got your hands a little too close to my, I mean, this cheese. Hey, I told you I had an addiction to chevre!
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