As I've now got goat milk coming out my ears (figurately speaking, thank goodness, now that I've mastered a better aim at the milk pail ;), I thought it was time to try to make some cheese!
My amazing Home Cheese Making book has over 75 recipes, but I wanted to start easy with a soft cheese and also first try a cheese that is specifically made with goat milk.
I decided to begin with Chevre (as this is a French word, it is intended to have a doo-hicky over the first "e" but I can't for the life of me figure out how to do that in Blogger. Oh, well. It is pronounced "Shev"). Chevre is French for "goat." This spreadable cheese can be used many different ways, including as a substitute for cream cheese or ricotta in cooking. It's really remarkably simple to make! Even if you don't have a goat in your backyard, you, too, can make a cheese. Even store-bought milk can be used to make most cheeses (so long as it's not ultra-pasteurized. Click here to see why.) Now, harder cheeses take more equipment and have to age for long periods of time. I may work up to those later; but, for now, I thought I'd just show you how simple it is to make a soft cheese.
Bring one gallon of pasteurized milk to 86 degrees. Then, remove from heat and thoroughly mix in a packet of Chevre culture. (I bought my culture from Cultures for Health, which a fellow blogger recommended. I love the Cultures website. They have a good selection and a low, flat rate for shipping.) Cover the pot and leave mixture to culture for 12 hours at approximately 72 degrees.
After 12 hours, the cheese should look like yogurt, solid when tipped but still relatively soft. Here, you can see from the ring around the pot that the whey has separated from the curd.
Place a piece of butter muslin (it has a tighter weave than cheesecloth, is used with most soft cheese recipes, is reusable, and is available from Cultures for Health for $2.99) in a colander in the sink.
With a slotted spoon, gently spoon the Chevre into the cloth.
Gather the corners of the cloth up and tie knots to secure. Hang the cloth over a bowl or the sink to strain. (I installed a hook over my kitchen sink for this purpose, but you could also hang it from a cabinet knob.) Allow it to strain for 6-12 hours. The longer it strains, the thicker it will be. I let mine strain overnight and got a consistency similar to cream cheese.
It came out of the muslin looking like this.
Then, I mashed it up and put it in the fridge. I wasn't sure whether I was going to add anything to it, but I wanted to give it a first taste test after it had had time to chill.
In its pure form, it would've been a great substitute for ricotta. I, however, wanted to use this first batch as a cracker spread, so I stirred in some cheese salt and Herbs de Provence for flavor. Delicious! It should stay fresh in the fridge for up to a week.
Now, if I could just get my yogurt to set up. . . .