Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I fantasize about things that may not be considered normal for a girl living in the middle of Los Angeles. I like to imagine starting each day by gathering eggs from backyard chickens, ending my weekly trips to the farmers’ market (even though I love them so) because I have every vegetable and fruit already growing in my backyard, and, as of late, having my own herd of goats. I’m a big fan of goat cheese, well any cheese really, but I love the tang of goat cheese that makes it the perfect addition to so many salads and the occasional savory or even sweet tart, so the idea of having my own herd and fresh goat milk available for cheese making sounds too good to be true. Since I still rent and have yet to acquire my own flock of chickens, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the goats will have to wait. However, I recently discovered that the homemade cheese does not.
After a successful attempt at homemade ricotta, I started looking around for different cheeses that I could try my hand at in my own kitchen. It turns out that making goat cheese is a relatively simple process. Heat the goat milk, add the culture, let sit, drain, hang and let sit some more and that’s it! The active time needed is really only about 30 minutes and the taste is definitely worth the effort (allow two days for the sitting and hanging times needed). I really wasn’t prepared for the creaminess of the homemade chevre. I had to stop myself from eating the majority of it straight out of the bowl. You can salt and season to your liking, but so far, I’ve found the tart creaminess perfect as it is. I have enough that I may make an herbed version to serve with bread or to use as the cheese on a rustic pizza. Experiment with different flavors and let me know how it goes.
If you’re in the LA area, I got my chevre culture at Surfas. If you don’t have a good gourmet shop or restaurant supply store in your area, there are online sources including this one. I got my goat milk in one quart containers from Whole Foods.
2 quarts pasteurized goat milk
1/2 packet of chevre culture meant for 1 gallon of milk
Lots and lots of cheesecloth
Heat the goat milk in a stainless steel pot to 86* and whisk in the chevre culture. Remove from heat and let sit at room temperature for 12 – 24 hours. I let mine sit for about 20 because I kept waiting for the curds to form. It turns out that hard curds will not form, but you will notice a much thicker, creamier texture to the milk. When you see that thickness, drain the milk in a colander lined with lots of cheesecloth set over a bowl. Rather than pouring the milk through the colander straight from the pan, use a ladle to gently pour it in. You may only be able to fit half the milk in at a time. That’s fine. You’ll hang the first batch before laying out more cheesecloth to drain the second.
After the milk has drained slightly and you see some whey collected in the bowl, gather the cheesecloth together and secure with twine (as shown in the picture above). Use the twine to hang the cheese where it can continue to drain for 10 hours. Do not try to rush the draining process, it takes time. Repeat until all the milk has been drained and is hanging. After 10 hours has passed, open up your cheesecloth packets to find creamy, tart, fresh (!) goat cheese. Salt and season to taste or use as is.