Goat cheese, also known as "chevre," is a really easy cheese to make. The only cheese that is easier, in my opinion, is paneer cheese. To make paneer cheese all you do is add lemon to cow's milk for it to curdle and then you squish out the whey. You can use it right away. I make Sag Paneer, which is an Indian spinach and cheese dish.
I live in an area where there are a lot of back yard goats. I didn't want to keep any goats of my own because we're too busy fixing this place up as you already know! So when I made friends with a neighbor who keeps goats and she offered me fresh milk I jumped at the chance.
Here's how I make it. This recipe makes about a pound of cheese.
- Large stainless steel pot, heavy bottom is good, with lid or something to completely cover it.
- Butter muslin or fine cheesecloth or a clean single layer of a clean pillowcase.
- Large spoon for stirring, measuring cups and spoons, colander. (All stainless steel: these can be boiled to make sterile).
- Cheese thermometer (I got mine from New England Cheese makers).
- Optional: Chevre molds (I've never used them because they are a little expensive, but if you want little cylinder shapes they are great).
I made this at night so my photos are a little dark.
- 2 quarts goat milk (can be pasteurized store bought. If you buy fresh milk make sure it is from a person who keeps everything REALLY clean).
- 1/8 tsp MM100 (mesophilic) culture (Look online for this unless you know of a handy place. There's New England Cheese makers, for example. I get my culture at Mountain Garden Supply in Ben Lomond, CA).
- 1/4 cup cool water.
- 1 or 2 drops rennet (can be vegetarian or non-vegetarian type. Non-vegetarian is made from the lining of the 4th stomach of a new born calf. Some people object to that. Vegetarian is made from fermented soybeans).
- Salt to taste.
- Fresh or dried herbs to taste.
- It's best to pasteurize this milk at a low temperature because it's going to sit on the counter for a few hours to culture. I do this so I don't worry about it going bad. Also doing this makes the cheese last longer in storage. Up to two weeks in the fridge. If you decide not to heat it make sure you keep everything clean. That's why I suggest all stainless steel equipment so it can be sterilized.
- Pour milk into pot and using your thermometer heat it to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. I am not so lucky as to have a gas stove, but if I keep a real close eye on the thermometer and when the electric coils start to get hot and the temperature is approaching 145 degrees I turn it down. Keep it at 145 degrees (5 degrees more or less) for 30 minutes.
- Cool milk to 80 degrees. To speed up the cooling process you can put the pot in cool water or even an ice bath.
- If a "skin" formed on the milk while it was heating just stir it in and then sprinkle the MM100 culture over the top of the milk. Let it re-hydrate for two minutes. Stir it in gently.
- Drop 1-2 drops of rennet in the 1/4 cup of cool water. Remove 2 tablespoons of the water and mix it into the cheese. Discard what remains of the water.
- Cover the pot and let it sit at room temperature for 8-12 hours. I make my cheese in the early evening. It cultures while I sleep. The longer it sits the drier it will eventually be.
- In the morning a soft curd will have formed if everything goes right. Like thin yogurt. There will also be clear whey on top. It will smell like tangy yogurt. Yum!
- Drape the butter muslin over the colander which is set in a large bowl. Carefully decant the curdled milk into the center of the colander. The whey will drain into the bowl for other uses. Another trick is to gather up the bag by the corners and tie them. Then hang the bag from your cabinet doors over the catchment. Let a good deal of whey drain out and then lift up the corners of the muslin and tie around a stick which you can suspend between cabinet handles.
- If you've decided to use chevre molds carefully ladle the curds into each mold that are set over something to catch the whey.
- Drain cheese for another 8-12 hours. Like I said before the longer you let it drain the drier it will be. If it is very hot out, I put it in the fridge after six hours or so. The curd is ready when the whey stops dripping. The cheese will be the consistency of cream cheese. If you want a "harder" soft cheese let the cheese age and further drip whey out in the fridge for a day or so.
- Blend the salt in, about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon for a pound of cheese according to your taste. Start with a little, taste it, and blend in more if it's not enough. You can't take it out! It's fine not to use salt at all. I use herbs. It's up to you what tastes good to you. The resulting cheese will keep, covered in a glass container or packed in olive oil, for about a month in the refrigerator. It also freezes really well. Bon Appétit!
Author's Note: I'm taking a break from thinking about what it's like to renovate an old ranch. My neighbors gave me some fresh goat milk so I just have to make some goat cheese!
Photos property of Renee-Lucie Benoit.