Thursday, May 16, 2013

A New Adventure Into Cheesemaking... Chèvre!

For years I tried goats milk cheese (chèvre) and tried to like it...I really did. Honestly, the only two foods I could not stand were lamb and goats milk. It always looked so tasty served with fresh fruit and gourmet crackers. Every time I tried it, I secretly wanted to spit it out (I admit sometimes I did, as politely as I could). I knew that taste buds change over time and that just like children, I may not like a food right off. So I kept trying it. One day I was at the local farmers market and tried a sample, and not only did I tolerate it, I liked it.  Ever since, I buy it fairly regularly at the farmers market. The brand that got me hooked was Blue Ledge Farm based out of rural Leicester, Vermont! 

After I made homemade mozzarella cheese I wanted to venture onto something new. Since I had been regularly buying chèvre, it just seemed right. When I looked up recipes it seemed easy enough so I ordered the culture online at Cultures for Health

It was easy, although it did take longer than mozzarella to make (about 24 hours total) but the flavors and textures were better than I had hoped! I used the recipe at the Cultures for Health Website since I had no clue how to begin and I think I will stick with it in the future. There was a little bit of cost savings by making it myself, but not much. I do like the fact that I know what is in the food I am eating and I get to season as I see fit (I used parsley, marjoram, and salt this time). I did not add salt during the process, and just sprinkled a tiny amount on the finished product, making it a low sodium cheese. 1/2 gallon of local goats milk was ~$9.00, but it did make 2 good size pieces of goats milk AND when I serve it, I can say I made it. Which is the best part of it all! :)

Homemade Chèvre
Makes 8 oz of cheese

  • Large pot with lid
  • Food Thermometer
  • Slotted spoon
  • Colander 
  • Large Bowl
  • Chevre shaping mold (optional)
  • Butter Muslin (very tight knit weave cheese cloth)
  • 1/2 gallon whole goats milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1 drop of vegetable rennet*
  • 1/16 tsp mesophilic starter culture*
*You can purchase Chevre starting culture packets instead of the rennet/mesophilic culture. If using this process please refer to website for directions. 

Step One: Culture the Milk (using a Mesophilic Starter Culture and Rennet)

1. Heat your milk to 75°F ( if using raw milk, this process will not pasteurize the milk).

2. Remove the milk from the heat and allow the mesophilic culture to dissolve on the surface of the milk for 2-3 minutes.  Once dissolved, thoroughly incorporate the starter culture into the milk.

3. Add the rennet mixed with water.  Using up and down strokes (don't stir!), incorporate the rennet into the milk.  Do not over mix.

4. Cover the pot and allow the mixture to culture for 14-16 hours at approximately 72°F (generally kitchen room temperature).  After 14-16 hours, the cheese should look like yogurt (solid if tipped but still relatively soft).  You may see some whey separating from the cheese.  

Step Two: Strain the Cheese

5. Place a piece of butter muslin (doubled) in a colander in a bowl.  Gently spoon the Chevre into the butter muslin.  Gather the corners of the muslin up and tie knots to secure.  

6. Hang the butter muslin filled with the Chevre over a bowl so the whey can drain.  An easy way to do this is to tie the butter muslin around a cupboard handle so the bowl to catch the whey can rest on the counter underneath.

7. Allow the Chevre to drain for 6-12 hours to reach the desired consistency. 6 hours will yield a very soft spreadable cheese (similiar to cream cheese). 12 hours yields a soft cheese that holds its shape. 

8. Flavor Chevre with herbs if desired.  You can mix in fresh or dried herbs.  Alternatively you can mold the Chevre and then roll it in the herbs.

How to Use/Store: Fresh chèvre should stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 1 week. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap to keep it fresh! Spread it on fresh bread or crackers. Sprinkle it on salads or pizza. The possibilities are endless! 

Nutrition facts: 1 oz
75 calories, 5 g protein, 0 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat, 80 mg sodium

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