I love cheese, but I had never tried to make cheese myself. I decided I needed to try to make goat cheese, since it’s amazing. I bought the rennet/starter culture packets and French plastic cheese molds from culturesforhealth.com and I also bought a oven-capable probe thermometer to help me with temps (too hot is bad, too cold won’t make anything happen). I bought my first quart of goat milk from Whole Foods, hoping to find one that wasn’t too pasteurized – apparently high pasteurization kills things needed for cheesemaking.
I heated the milk to the appropriate temperature and put it in a preheated (but not still heated) oven overnight. In the morning I was shocked to see:
A huge circle of cheese floating in my pot! Especially because the temperature in the oven wasn’t that high (more on this later). I scooped pieces of the cheese out and into my molds:
I put the mold on top of the cheesecloth over a bowl, and let gravity do its magic for another 12 hours. Eventually this is what I got:
I decided I wanted to go a little nuts and put a bunch of herbs in it. I mixed in rehydrated diced onion, garlic powder, salt, pepper, dill weed, basil, and caraway seed. Then I put it back in the mold to make it look pretty again:
(OK, so it didn’t look as pretty as before!) To gussy it up a bit I did some decorating:
That’s a chive flower from our garden (which are edible). The flavor of the cheese was lovely (though a bit more herby than goaty) spread on toast in the morning for breakfast.
Overall, it was a resounding success, and I’ve repeated it since. I pre-heated the oven higher (the cheese seemed more solid when I took it out in the morning), used a pyramid-shaped mold, goat milk from Trader Joe’s vs Whole Foods and rolled it in herbs instead of mixing them in. I can’t decide if mixing or rolling is better (I certainly wasted less with mixing) but the solidity was certainly better with my more aggressive oven pre-heating/different milk.
I’ve recently discovered that a local market has raw goat milk (for a premium). I have to decide if I’m willing to drop the dough to see if it imparts a more goaty flavor to my cheese!
Here’s the recipe, courtesy of culturesforhealth.com:
What you need:
- 1 gallon Goat Milk (do not use UHT/UP milk) [I used a quart and it made quite a bit of cheese]
- Butter Muslin (very fine weave cheese cloth) or a tight weave dish towel [I just used a cheesecloth from the supermarket]
- A large pot with a lid (if metal, be sure it’s non-reactive such as stainless steel)
- A wooden spoon
- A Thermometer
- A Chevre Shaping Mold (optional)
- 1 packet Chevre Starter Culture (this product is a ready-to-use packet which includes both starter culture and rennet)
Step One: Culture the Milk
- Heat your milk to 86°F (please note, if using raw milk, this process will not pasteurize the milk).
- Remove the milk from the heat and thoroughly stir in the packet of Chevre culture (please note, these ready-to-use packets contain both starter culture and rennet).
- Cover the pot and leave the mixture to culture for 12 hours at approximately 72°F (generally kitchen room temperature).
- After 12 hours, the cheese should look like yogurt (solid if tipped but still relatively soft). You may see some whey separating from the cheese. The whey is a mostly clear liquid.
Step Two: Strain the Cheese
- 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.
- 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. [I just rubber-banded a cheesecloth to a bowl, and set the mold on top – this worked fine, though I couldn’t see how much had drained until I took it apart]
- Allow the Chevre to drain for 6-12 hours to reach the desired consistency (see below).
- 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.
- Generally speaking, Chevre will stay good in the refrigerator for up to one week.
- You can choose not to drain the Chevre at all which will leave you with a delicious and thick yogurt. A small amount of draining (less than 6 hours) will yield an even thicker yogurt-type of food.
- Drain the Chevre for approximately 6 hours for a soft, spreadable cheese.
- Drain the Chevre for approximately 12 hours for a cream cheese consistency.