Easy Chevre

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Creamy, delicious goat cheese straight from the farm to your kitchen!

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.

Simple Chevre:

  • 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.

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Heat the goat’s milk to 80 degrees. Don’t mind the thermometer here…I was making yogurt which requires higher temperatures. The set-up is the same. Heavy pot, milk, thermometer or pot nestled in hot water bath and thermometer (I like the second choice better).

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.

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Prepare your strainer to get rid of excess whey-dampened butter muslin, two layers of cheesecloth, a tea towel, or a cut off white pillow case will work.

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.

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Cut the curd.

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Drain the curd to release excess whey.

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Gather up your material, tie it off, and hang from the kitchen cabinet over a bowl (to catch the whey).

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.

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Voila! Homemade goat cheese!

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Look at that! You just made some taaassteee goat’s cheese!

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!

Enjoy!

The Best Beet and Chevre Salad

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Beet Salad

The Queen Beet

Ahhh, the beet. My first memories of the beet are not those fond memories my husband has of jars of super delicious, unforgettable pickled beets. My first memory of the beet, in any significant way, is chopping what seemed like a ridiculous quantity of industrial canned beets (ACME brand??) into a near-paste to put on the daily lunch salad of an elderly woman I took care of after high school. Ummm, no thanks. Fast-forward to 1998 when I met my husband, the beet-eater. Slowly but surely he, and beets, won me over.

So, now that a decade has passed and farm-to-table is popular again, it would seem as though the Queen Beet has been overdone when it comes to pairing with chèvre. Some form of this salad can be found just about everywhere. You’d think this would be a bad thing, but I’ve come to dearly love my little beet brethren and they’re super healthy to boot. I’m guilty of trying just about every iteration of this salad everywhere I eat. I’ve had a LOT of beets people. And this particular beet salad reigns as my fave. You’ve got caramelized beets, creamy chèvre, roasted pecans, lightly sweet vinaigrette, and diced salty hog jowl bacon that fries up like little meat croutons. Need I say more?

Beets and Goat cheese

caramelized beets, creamy chèvre, roasted pecans, tangy vinaigrette, and crispy little hog jowl bacon croutons.

Best Beet and Chèvre Salad (serves 2-4)

For the Beets:

  • 3 medium, or six small, washed (read: scrubbed), peeled, and wedged beets. Use the greens, if they’re still attached, to determine freshness. If they look like they’ve been sitting in a dumpster for 3 days, move on and find a more fresh source.
  • 1 TBSP Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil for coating beets
  • 1 TBSP raw, local honey
  • 2 TBSP Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil
  • 3 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste (after beets cool)

For the rest of the salad:

  • 1/2 cup pecan halves, coarsely chopped
  • 4 ounces good chèvre (or make your own-a post coming soon about that!)
  • about 6 handfuls of torn lettuce of your choosing (yes, that’s how I measure it-but it probably equals around 6 -8 loose cups!). I like oak lettuce for its mild flavor and tango lettuce for its texture (slightly curled leaves) and hint of spiciness-Boston, butter, and/or arugula would work too.
  • 2 TBSP finely diced sweet or vidalia onion
  • 1 cup diced hog jowl bacon (make sure you remove any tough skin-it doesn’t crisp well and ruins the texture as it’s a bit leathery).

For the rosé vinaigrette:

  • 2 TBSP finely minced sweet or vidalia onions (use shallots or red onion for a bit more bite)
  • 3 TBSP rosé wine vinegar (you know a post about making your own is coming!)
  • 4 TBSP Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil or try substituting 3 TBSP with roasted pecan oil. For a much nuttier flavor you can add a couple of drops (seriously, it can over power easily) pumpkin seed oil.
  • 2 TBSP rendered hog jowl bacon fat from frying

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly toss beet wedges in oil and arrange on parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, flip with spatula, and roast 20 minutes more or so until a fork pierces with gentle pressure. Remove from oven and place in any pot or pan that will fit them, with enough room to stir gently, and place over medium heat. Add the 1 TBSP honey, 2 TBSP extra light tasting oil, 3 TBSP Balsamic, and thyme. Stir to coat. Give them a swirl every few minutes until the liquid is absorbed almost entirely and the beets are very dark purple.

As beets are on stove top, place diced bacon in a stainless or cast iron skillet and cook over medium-high heat, shifting frequently, until crispy on all sides (it will release its own fat for frying, plus some). Don’t forget to stir the beets! While those little meat croutons are cooking, gently roast pecan pieces in a dry pan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until beginning to brown slightly. Arrrghhh-stir the beets! Remove salty, smoky little meat bits from pan with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Try not to eat too many. Remove nuts and set aside.

For the vinaigrette, place the vinegar, oil, jowl fat from frying, and onion in a flat-bottomed container that will accommodate the head of an immersion blender (a pint-sized Mason jar works well). After the ingredients settle, pulse blender about 6 or so times. Then, while intermittently pulsing, move the blender head upward, slowly incorporating more oil to the emulsion. And voila! you have a sweet-tangy rosé vinaigrette. Simple and tasty.

Arrange a couple of handfuls of lettuce on each plate. You’re making 4 salads, so each plate gets a fourth of all the items. Spoon the beets over the salad and sprinkle with diced onion and pecan pieces. Dot with pieces of goat cheese. Resist licking your fingers and eating more meat croutons. Toss some of the fried hog jowl bacon on top. Finish with a drizzle of the vinaigrette.

If you like beets you’ll love this-lightly sweet, tangy, smoky, salty, and earthy. If you don’t like beets, it just might convert you!