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From the Farm to Your Table: The Making of Chèvre

Chèvre or goat cheese boasts of a rich flavor that offers a wealth of sweet and even savory dishes, if you are armed with a few delectable recipes. It can range from simple recipes that are easy to make – from whipped, creamy cheese topping for breads to simple spicy salad – to more complex, but nevertheless unforgettable creamy cheesecake and soufflé. If there is anything that makes it a little more complicated, it is about where to get your supply of chèvre. The trick is to learn about chèvre-making so you’ll never run out of supply.

This cheese, fortunately, is something you can do at home. The process is easy and does not require too many supplies or equipment to make, which explains why it can be easily made in farmsteads with enough supply of good quality goat milk. Basically, it just requires a few simple steps – bring the milk to room temp; add a drop of culture plus a couple of drips of rennet; give it a quick stir; put the lid on the container and set aside; wait for 2 days at most for the milk to curdle. Drain through cheesecloth fitted in a colander, and then add a bit of salt and voila … your own homemade chèvre!

That does sounds too easy for anyone. Not so fast, though… there are a few more facts you would like to know for a successful chèvre–making. Read more about Chèvre from this a post in this webpage Cheesemaking that offers more facts that goat cheese fans would love to know.

A Bit of History

Chèvre literally means goat in French, and that’s where the story of the humble goat cheese begins. It was called goat cheese recipe“chèvre” for hundreds of years until the word that goes with the unique taste spread beyond France. The authentic artisanal method of chèvre making has been handed down to the next generations of French and Italian farmers from then on.

Chèvre just got introduced in the New World in 1980 when Laura Chenel presented her version to Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, Berkeley. Many were charmed by its unique flavor. With the demand came the supply; soom small farmsteads started growing or increasing their herds to have ample supply of goat milk to make chèvre.

Not too far behind are bigger cheese makers who expanded to chèvre to get a bite in the pie. Though a Johnny-come-lately, America came was a major influence in the fast rise of this star in cheeseries. These days, chèvre is synonymous to the American version of mild, fresh goat cheese.

Variations in Style

There are many variations in the appearance, packing, creaminess, etc. of goat cheese. “Besides the easily found loose packed goat cheese you may find so many other choices:”

  • Chèvre is a white, creamy cheese made from goat milk.
  • Fresh goat cheese should have a clean, acidic edge and a lemony aroma.
  • It can be sharp, or it can be mild.
  • It can be moist or it can be dry.
  • It can be a fluffy pile of curds or it can take on a compact shape when formed in molds
  • It can be very fresh or aged for a bit to develop character.
  • It can be presented in its unadorned persona or dressed up with herbs/spices or even with natural surface molds for greater aging potential.

“… the steps in making soft cheeses are always basically the same and getting a different cheese is simply in the details…

The Basic Process of Chèvre Making

For chèvre, a curd is formed once the lactose (sugar found in milk) is converted to lactic acid and as the pH goes low at about 4.8. Whether rennet is added or not, the curd will develop, but a small amount of is commonly added to improve the process. Without rennet, the cheese will be soft; it is known as “Lactic Acid Coagulated.” With rennet, the chèvre will be hard; it is known as “Rennet Coagulated.”

Typically, chèvre are smaller when made because their curd structure is weaker compared to other cheese types. The curd can be processed without using pressing weight making the final product loose. With a bit of pressing, you get a more compact chèvre.

From Milk to Chèvre

The post offers a simple recipe for 1 gallon of goat milk. Here is a breakdown of that recipe:

Step 1: Assemble what you will need to make chèvre

1 gallon of fresh, good quality milk

1 packet of chèvre culture

Salt (non-iodized cheese salt)

Calcium chloride

Clean and sanitized:

Thermometer

Knife

spoon or ladle

colander

muslin cloth

Step 2: Acidifying and heating the milk

Warm the milk to 68-72F (20-22C). Note the adjustments to be made depending on the season. Then add the chèvre culture over the surface of the milk. Allow about 2 minutes before giving it a stir.

Step 3: Coagulation

Let it sit for 6 to 12 hours for the culture to do its work. During this time the rennet will coagulate the curd.

Step 4: Draining and releasing the whey

Once you see the whey, the liquid that separates from the curd, the curd is ready to be drained. Transfer the curd to a colander lined with a muslin cloth. Drain the curd for about 6 hours or longer in a room with 68-72F temperature.  Draining can affect the taste and softness. Less than 6 hours is required for a sweeter and creamier chèvre, and longer for a drier, tangier cheese.

Step 5: Salting and finishing

Add about 1.5-2 tsp. of salt. This will stop the bacteria from further converting lactose into whey; it will also improve the flavor. This is a food time to make your chèvre unique with spices and fresh herbs. Store and chill in a container with cover. It is good for 7 to 10 days.

Love more challenges?

If you’re a real chèvre aficionado, you will love this last part of the post. There are suggestions offered to make your cheese more unique and cut up to your taste. If you can’t have enough of chèvre, learn the technique for “using the larger culture packs and a few drops of liquid rennet.” If you intend to sell and presentation is a concern, pick up tips from “molding the chèvre.” Again for that “moldy” presentation (that does make it so French/Italian), learn about “surface treatment and aging.”

Have fun making your chèvre the artisan way. Maybe your love for it will bring you luck and money as you improve the quality and presentation of your own chèvre.

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