making cheese at home: chevre

February 4, 2013 § 1 Comment

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store-bought chevre is wonderful. in fact, i am quite confident that aine and i became such close friends in large part due to our shared love of the stuff.

store-bought chevre is wonderful, and this is better.

and yes. i realize that cheese-making sounds kind of scary. and, judging from the cartwheels involved with some of the recipes i’ve seen, it certainly can be. but not chevre. it’s low-stress and largely hands-off. it’s low-tech. you no doubt have all of the tools you need in your house; with the obvious exception of the culture, which is inexpensive and very easy to track down. and delicious. did i mention delicious?

the stuff:
1 gallon pasteurized goat’s milk*
sea salt (non-iodized– and this is important. iodized salt interferes with good bacteria).
1 package (1/2t) C20G mesophilic starter culture, which you can pick up locally at eggplant or midwest , or which you can order online from new england cheesemaking supply
optional (and I usually skip it): 2 drops of liquid (you can get vegetarian) rennet dissolved in 1/4c water (can be obtained from the sources listed above)
cheese cloth or butter muslin
a kitchen strainer
a big stockpot
a good kitchen thermometer (i have this one, and like the remote probe, but anything accurate will do.)
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the how-to:
1. clean your equipment well, because poisoning people is no fun.
2. pour the goat’s milk into your stock pot and, over low heat, bring it up to 86 degrees (here’s where the remote probe is nice, because you can just set the alarm to go over when the milk hits, say 84 degrees, and walk away). this ends up taking somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes.
3. when the milk is at temperature, sprinkle the culture over the top of the milk. five minutes later, make 20 vigorous up and down strokes to incorporate the starter.
4. *IF* you are using rennet (which will help the curds to firm up), add it with the water approximately 4-5 minutes after adding the culture, and stir to incorporate.
4. cover and let sit for 12 hours. ideally, you’re trying to keep the temperature of the milk in the mid-seventies, so keep away from windows. some people wrap their pots in bath towels, etc to try to help it maintain heat.
5. after 12 hours, you should have something that looks like yogurt (the curds) surrounded by a slighly yellowish liquid (the whey). this is WAY less exciting with chevre than it is with other cheese (because the chevre curds are relatively soft).
3. line a kitchen strainer with cheese cloth or butter muslin and ladle the curds into the muslin (again, because chevre curds are so soft, you’re going to end up ladeling a lot of whey, too. don’t worry about it).
4. lightly cover the curds in the strainer with the top of the muslin and let it sit over a bowl (to catch the whey). (you could also just make a bag out of the muslin and hang it over the sink to drain– that just seems to me like a mess waiting to happen). it usually takes about 12-24 hours to drain. i usually give it a healthy shake of sea salt somewhere in here– probably 1/4-1/2 tsp. it’s drained when it’s no longer a wet mess, keeps its shape and resembles, um, chevre. flip and salt the un-salted side.
5. store in the fridge in an airtight container to help prevent it from drying out. eat within one week.

variations: you can also roll it in herbs de Provence, lavender, or freshly ground black pepper, and i have no doubt you could also add honey, though i will have to look into that further.

* i have heard that making chevre with unpasteurized milk is a whole new level of awesome. that said, it could also be a whole new level of food poisoning, not to mention illegal if it isn’t purchased directly from the farm. this summer, when raw milk from the farm is more plentiful, i’ll take one for the team and let you know how it turns out. in the interim, you have my assurances that this is a not-so-shabby substitute.

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