Friday, June 6, 2014

I Make it Myself: Goat Cheese

I own my own goats.   We drink the milk and make our own cheese....well, I make my own cheese and everyone else eats it.

Today I am going to share how I make my own chevre.  I also have made paneer, feta, brie, mozzarella, and ricotta.   The Hoegger Farm Yard website has a great cheesemaking section with videos that are very helpful if you want to get into making more complex cheeses.   I thought I had blogged about making brie, but I think I must have just posted it on Facebook.  I also recommend Mary Jane Toth's book, A Cheesemaker's Journey, she is the woman in the Hoegger videos.  The book is very clear and recipes are rated by level of difficulty.  

To make chevre you will need:
• 4-8 quarts of fresh goat milk 
• 1/4 c. cultured buttermilk  or 1/8 t. mesophilic Aromatic type B culture (I have used both.  I finally just cultured my own buttermilk and always have a jar in the fridge. When I get low, I use the last of it to make more - add 2 T to a clean jar, add fresh warmish milk, leave covered securely on the counter for about 12 hours until thickened, refrigerate.) 
• 3-5 drops of rennet (I use vegetable-based liquid rennet.)
• A large pot
• A metal spoon to stir with
• Cheesecloth
• Colander  

First, sterilize your pot.  I just put about an inch of water in the bottom and let it boil for a few minutes. I stick my spoon in too.  I have forgotten to sterilize my pot and my cheese was fine, but I guess it will prevent anything funky from potentially growing if you are not a very good dishwasher.

Pour off the water and put the spoon on a clean surface.  I usually wash the top and rest it on the top for the time being.

Gather your milk.  We usually have goats whose milk flavor we prefer to others, so I use the milk from the less-favored goat milk to make my cheese.   This is just under 2 gallons of milk.  Not every jar is full.  You don't need to be exact.  If you are using a lot less milk, I would just reduce the amount of rennet you add.  Pour all of your milk into the sterilized pot.

Warm the milk to about 68º F.  Again, it doesn't have to be exact.  You just don't want it scalding or too cold.  If you are paranoid about using raw milk, you can pasteurize it first and let it cool to about 68º.  I don't and I have been eating raw cheese and drinking raw milk for several years now, along with my whole family.  We just follow clean practices in handling our milk.

Once you have reached about 68º remove the milk from heat and add your 1/4 - 1/3 cup of buttermilk. I don't think it matters exactly how much, as it just gets assimilated no matter what.  I would use 1/4 c. for a gallon of milk and 1/3 c. for a larger amount.  Stir thoroughly with your clean spoon.

Then add 2 - 5 drops of liquid rennet.  2 drops for less milk, 5 drops for more.  If you add too much rennet, it will coagulate more quickly and may produce a drier, crumbly cheese.

Stir thoroughly with that same spoon.

Cover and set aside on your counter (not on the stove) for 24 hours.  
It is hard to see, but below is the curd with the yellow-liquid whey on top. 

Cut the curd into cubes with a large knife.  I just do a criss-cross pattern across the top.

Place your cheesecloth (not crafting cheesecloth, but real cheesecloth) in a colander.  I bought this through Hoeggers. 3 HUGE cheese cloths are included in their 3 pack.  I cut them in half and sold a couple to a friend.  You could just get the single, I didn't know they would be so big.  If you want to save your whey, then put the colander over a large pot to catch the whey.  I have been feeding my whey to my dog (new blog post:  I make my own dog food coming up soon) and to my chickens.  I was tossing most of it before....shame on me.

Pour the curds slowly into the cheesecloth and colander.  It will splash if you go too fast!  For two gallons of milk, I usually do about half of the curd in one cloth and then put down another cheesecloth to drain the rest.

Wrap up the ends and hang the cheesecloth over a pot for the rest of the whey to drip out.   I usually leave this on my counter for several hours to drain.  Below are my two cheesecloths tied together and hanging over the pot to drain.

After several hours, if I have room, I will put the cheese in the cloths in a bowl in my fridge. It makes it easier to unwrap from the cloth after it has chilled.

After it has chilled, I unwrap it and spoon it into plastic containers or add seasonings to it and serve.
Sometimes I just add flavoring with a spoon and stir/mash it together, other times, I have put it in my food processor.  If it seems too dry, you can add back in a little whey to smooth it out in the food processor.

Some flavoring suggestions:
• one clove of garlic pressed and salt to taste
Wildtree dip seasonings (we particularly like the Hot Chili Pepper and Garlic Blend and the Jalapeno Pepper blend.  These are links to my friend Dawn Webster's rep page....I hope.  She is rep # 2618.)
• 1-2 tsp of dill weed and salt to taste
• carmelized onion and salt to taste.  I have never made this, just guessing that it would be tasty.


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