So allow me to go full on food nerd for a second.
OMG GUYS I MADE GOAT CHEESE!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
Ok, I feel better. But for real – I made goat cheese, and it turned out Ahhh-mazing! To say that I knew what I was doing, or that I could easily repeat the feat would be a bit of a stretch, but the fact remains: I made goat cheese.
Now you may be thinking, for someone who barely touches dairy, and is currently cutting it 100% from her diet, I seem a little overly excited by this. You would probably be correct. However, I made an exception for this stuff. (My diets have always been a bit flexible lol). Plus, I limit dairy for health reasons, meaning, when I drink store-bought cows milk, or eat a cheese loaded pizza, I feel sick. I also know that the milk is loaded full of hormones and antibiotics meant for an animal that weighs many times my size, and I’m not interested in drinking that!
That being said, I knew from the start when I first got my mind set on making chevre that I wasn’t going to be willing to make it with store bought goats milk. I needed something fresh, sustainable and local. So of course, I called my mom – she is basically my go to whenever it comes to something natural, unprocessed and sustainable – if it’s out there, she knows how to find it! Within a few days she called me back saying that she had obtained a gallon of fresh goats milk for me, and a ‘starter’ to get things going – I’m telling you, she has connections!
I was still a bit scared to start my cheese in the middle of the week, as I wasn’t sure how in depth and time consuming the process was going to be (in retrospect I could have easily done it during the week) so I decided to wait till the weekend to kick things off. I’m glad I did! Last weekend we were very thoroughly snowed in (broke the record for April!), and there was literally nothing to do BESIDES make goat cheese, so I’m glad I had the distraction!
I got my pots and pans sterilized, set up my bain marie, poured in my milk – and realized I had a problem.
All of the recipes that I could find called for heating the milk to a certain temperature (around 86F typically) and then sprinkling a starter culture, and a drop of rennet over the top of the milk. I didn’t have either of those things because I had the ‘starter’ which had been given to me. Leave it to me not to think things through, but I guess I had just supposed that I’d be able to find a recipe on the internet that utilized this starter instead of the powdered culture. I looked and looked and googled for nearly an hour, but the only thing I could find was a brief article on a fermentation website that talked about creating a ‘mother’ for chevre and how 4oz to 1 gallon milk was a standard measurement. That was it though. No directions on how to mix it in, no steps on when to mix it in, or how hot the milk should be. Not even a picture to help me determine if what I had was really this ‘mother culture’ or something else entirely.
So I decided to wing it.
I heated my milk to 86 degrees and then held it there in the hot water bath. I opened up the ‘mother’ and broke off about 4 oz. Using my fingers to crumble it as small as possible I scattered it over the surface of the milk and let it sit for about 2 minutes to soften. I then took my spoon and very gently stirred the milk and starter together. I did my best to eliminate all the lumps from the starter, but there were a few still in there that I just couldn’t get out. After about 2-3 minutes of stirring I covered the pot with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight. (I think it was about 13 hours)
At 5:30am the next morning I hesitantly uncovered my pot, slightly scared, and yet hesitantly excited to see what the morning had brought – and lo and behold – nestled under a thin layer of milky why was a thick chunk of curd! I was so excited, I legit considered waking up my husband to gloat – and instantly thought better. Goat cheese is not on his VERY short list of things-worth-waking-up-early-for! 😛
I skimmed off as much whey as I could and stuck it in the fridge to use for something else (sauerkraut anyone??) I then cut up the curd and placed it into a large strainer that I had double lined with cheesecloth. I lightly covered the curd with plastic wrap, and then folded the cheesecloth over that and stuck it in a warmish corner of the kitchen to start the draining process.
After about two hours the cheese still needed some serious draining, so I removed the plastic, tied the cheesecloth closed, and hung the bundle from the handle of one of my kitchen cabinets, over a large bowl. In this way I was hopeful that gravity would encourage more draining.
It did! When I checked the cheese a few hours later it was slightly crumbly, but still a little moist. Basically perfect! Since I won’t be around much the rest of this week, I’ve actually frozen most of the cheese (pre-salt) however I did save a bit back that Alex and I munched on last night. It was divine. Sweet and soft and just a bit of tang. I’m already planning all of the amazing things that I am going to make with my cheese (arugula, caramelized onion and tomato tartlets are on top of that list!).
Please please please, if you have access to fresh goats milk (ask around!) give this a try! It was so easy, and so worth it! Literally I could have done this over the work week, it’s that hands off! And tell me what you’re favorite goat cheese recipes are, I need ideas of what to do with all this now!! 🙂