Plain, Bagged, Molded & Moldy
I have found that when I say "goat cheese" to people, they think only of Chevre. Chevre, means "goat cheese" in French. It is a soft, molded, fresh cheese, but by no means the only cheese you can make with goat milk. It is quite simple to make and doesn't take a lot of special utensils. It also doesn't take a lot of milk or time to make. There are many variations of this delicious cheese but let's first just concentrate on one of the simplest.
You can make this cheese as "bag cheese" or molded. If you wish to mold it, you will need molds (as in containers with holes in them, not like in moldy bread) to make this cheese. You can buy molds from a cheesemaking catalog, or you can make your own. I'm always trying to save money, so I made my own. When making your own cheese molds, you must keep in mind that they should be made out of non-corrosive, food grade materials.
This is one way you can make your own molds. Buy a set (5) of medium to large plastic tumblers. Use a butane torch to heat a small nail until it is red hot, be very careful doing this (definitely not a project for the kids). Use the hot nail to punch out drainage holes in the tumbler approximately every inch or so.
Once you have your molds, you are ready to make your very own Chevre.
Chevre/ Fromage Blanc
- 1/2 gallon of fresh goat (or cow milk) (I use raw, unpasteurized milk)
- 1/8 tsp. mesophilic DVI Culture "MM"* or 1 oz. mesophilic culture (from a mother culture)
- liquid rennet
*The DVI cultures I use are EZAL cultures from France purchased from Get Culture Inc..
- 5 Chevre molds
- Fine cheese cloth (butter muslin)
Remember to sterilize all your equipment before you begin.
In a stainless steel pot, warm the milk to 72°. Actually, when I make this cheese, I just pour the milk I just strained from the morning's milking into the pot and don't worry about the temp. I find this works fine for me.
Add the culture and stir well. Now you need to add 1/5 of a drop of rennet. I know you're saying to yourself, how the heck do I do that. Well it's easy. Measure out 5 Tablespoons of water into a small cup. Add to the water 1 drop of liquid rennet and stir well. Now measure out 1 Tablespoon of the rennet dilution (this one Tablespoon contains 1/5 of a drop of rennet) and add it to the milk. Stir well.
Cover the milk and place the pot somewhere that it can sit undisturbed and will stay about 72° for about 18 hours (sometimes I let it go 24 hours). What I do is place the pot in the cold oven until the next day. Try to remember that the milk is in the oven and don't plan on doing any baking that day.
When the milk has coagulated (it will look like thick yogurt) you are ready to drain the curds or mold the cheese.
To make Fromage Blanc or "bag cheese":
Pour the curds into a cheesecloth lined colander. Tie up the ends and hang the bag and let drain 6-8 hours. When it is thickened, salt to taste and enjoy. I sometimes will bend the heck out of this soft cheese in my food processor and make "sour cream". yummmm. Unblended, this cheese substitutes nicely for cream cheese.
To make Chevre or molded cheeses:
Pour off any whey that has separated from the curd. Place your molds on a rack over a large baking pan. A lot of whey will drain from your cheese, and you will need a large pan to catch it. Carefully ladle the curds into the molds.
If you want to make your cheese fancy at this point, you can add seasoning to the curds as you ladle them into the molds. You could put in a couple scoops of curd in the mold and then sprinkle on some herbs, freshly ground pepper or garlic. Then ladle in the rest of the curds. You don't need to worry about salting anything at this point.
Let the curds drain for two days. I do this at room temperature. You could drain the cheese in the fridge if you have room (I never do). I cover the molds to keep out any unwanted "nasties."
After the cheese has drained you can carefully unmold them into your hand. Sprinkle all the sides of the cheese with a little Kosher salt and wrap them in plastic wrap. The cheese will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge.
The best way to enjoy your homemade Chevre is on crackers. It can also be used in any recipe calling for "goat cheese" and can be substituted for cream cheese.
Once you have making Chevre down, why not try something really fun. getting moldy. Once you try this moldy Chevre, you may never go back to plain again. The mold we'll use is the same kind of white mold that is used in Brie and Camembert. It causes the cheese to develop a wonderful flavor and creaminess. I will tell you where you can get this mold at the end of this column.
Follow the recipe above for Chevre, when you add the culture, also add 1/8 tsp. of white mold powder (Penicillium Candidum). When you unmold the cheeses, they may already have started to develop their fuzz. You should let them age to develop a good covering of mold.
For this aging, you'll need some sort of draining mat. I use two different kinds of draining mats, depending on the cheese. When I need a smaller weave in the mat, I like to use a plastic craft "canvas". You can get these in the craft department of "Big Box" stores. It is very easily cut and is cheap, about 30 cents per sheet. When I want a larger hole in my drying rack, I like to use "egg crate". This comes in a large sheet (2'X4') intended for use in suspended ceilings. It's the stuff they put over where the fluorescent lighting fixture goes. You can get this at your home improvement store. It can be cut to size with wire nippers. I use these two "mats" separately and in combination to dry and age all my cheeses.
To age your Chevre, place them on a drying mat cut smaller than a large gallon size ziplock freezer bag. Slip the mat with the cheeses into a gallon ziplock bag, blow up the bag and seal it. Now you have a little aging "cave". I let my cheeses age on the counter for a few more days and then move them into my cheese aging fridge. Here they continue to fuzz up for a few weeks. You can eat your little fuzzies at any time, but try to let them age a couple weeks if you can wait that long.
I buy my cultures, lipase and molds from Get Culture Inc. The mold I use for my Chevre is called "Neige" but they carry 8 different kinds of white mold.