How to Make Chevre (Goat Cheese)
Please handle and consume raw milk at your own risk.
Please research about sterilization of equipment used in cheese making before starting.
When we first started milking our dairy goats in 2010, making cheese was one of the things I was most excited to try. I LOVE goat cheese! I love the tang and the salty, creamy flavor. I love it on crackers with hot pepper jam, I love it on salads, toasted bagels, pizza...it’s just good!
I’ve learned a lot over the years and feel like I finally have this cheese recipe down to a brainless process. But it took a lot of time, trial and error and a bit of a knowledge seeking before I got to this point. So it’s my hope that if you are starting out with dairy goats, or with cheese making, that I can save you some time and effort.
The first thing I learned is that raw goat milk is sweet, rich and nothing like the store-bought goat milk I’ve tried in the past. Store bought goat milk has a tang that is similar to Greek yogurt. I actually like that flavor, but I can see why some people (who are looking for a cow’s milk replacement) would be put off.
That tang develops in the pasteurization process required by commercial dairies. Fresh, raw goat milk, when handled properly, shouldn’t have that tang. Or if it does it is very, very mild and at most, a slight aftertaste. As goat milk is heated, or as it ages, that tang deepens in flavor.
When I first started making cheese, I looked up a basic recipe and found that a lot of people made goat cheese by heating the milk and adding an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. This will cause the milk to separate into curds and whey and when you strain this you get a simple, albeit bland, farmhouse goat cheese. But it doesn't taste like the goat cheese I've had in restaurants or from the deli.
I must have made the recipe a dozen or more times trying to get that familiar goat cheese flavor and no matter what I tried it didn't happen. The cheese would get slightly tangy from the residual vinegar or the lemon juice, but not in the same way that store bought goat cheese tasted. I wanted that feta-type flavor, not salted vinegar.
Over and over I tried. I tried pasteurizing the milk first, I tried using older milk to see if I could get that aged taste, and while it would hint at that flavor, for the most part, it was pretty bland.
Then, in 2015 I attended the Mother Earth News Fair in Wisconsin and learned about mesophylic cultures. It was in a presentation by Elizabeth Rich, How to Milk a Goat, Make Raw Milk Cheese and Stay Out of Jail. Being a lawyer, her knowledge of the raw milk laws were extensive, valuable and well credited. But the part that stayed with me the most was the information about the cultures she was using.
After the fair, I buzzed around the New England Cheese Making Supply Company website looking at different cultures and researching recipes. I realized that making cheese was a lot like making sourdough bread, a process that I was pretty familiar with.
You introduce cultures, and let them do their thing. The flavor comes in the waiting.
The recipe pretty much comes from reading the directions on how to use the mesophilic culture and the rennet. If you stick with these simple suggestions, you'll get a fairly consistent product each time.
Butter muslin bleached and washed
digital food thermometer (candy thermometers often don't go down to 86 degrees)
A place to hang the cheese to strain (think dowel suspended over a bowl)
2 gallons goat milk
Animal rennet (you can use vegetable rennet but the results aren’t as consistent)
1-2 tsp. Non iodized salt
1. Figure out your time table
Before you start this cheese, do a little planning. This cheese is not hard, and doesn’t take very much active time, but it does have to sit for two-12 hour periods.
So if you start this cheese at 2:00 in the afternoon, you’ll be ladling curds at 2:00 in the morning, and then salting at 2:00 pm the next day...so just figure that out before you begin. I usually do 9:00am, then 9pm, then 9am again.
2. Heat Milk to 86 degrees using a double boiler
A lot of recipes that I’ve read that make a basic chevre also suggest that you use a double boiler on the stove. I’ve found that if I fill my lower vessel with hot water from our tap and let it sit for a few minutes, when I pour the milk in, it heats to right around 86 degrees. I’ve tried the stove top and the milk gets too hot too fast. So I recommend you start off the stove, take the milk temperature and see if you need to heat it further.
Since I make this cheese using 2 gallons of milk at a time, I use a large stock pot inside my canning pot. It works great!
3. Sprinkle on Mesophilic culture, let sit 5 minutes
After 5 minutes, gently press the culture down into the milk until it is mixed in.
You can deviate a bit from the recipe with mesophilic cultures and get different tangs. But a good rule is ¼ tsp to 1 gallon of milk. The packets that you get from New England Cheese Factory are measured for 2 gallons.
4. Measure your rennet solution in a separate bowl
Rennet should be used at 1 drop to 1 Tbsp. unchlorinated water per gallon of milk. So because I’m using 2 gallons of milk, I will mix 2 drops of rennet into 2 Tbsp water. This creates your rennet solution.
Add this to the milk and mix with the same, gentle, up and down motions.
How to measure rennet for smaller milk batches:
If you were using say...¾ gallon of milk you would measure out 1 tbsp water + 1 drop rennet, mix, and then add ¾ Tbsp of this rennet solution to your ¾ gallon of milk.
5. Wait 12 hours
Remove your pot from the double boiler set up. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and set aside for 12 hours. Ideally in a room with a temp of 68-72 degrees. Don’t disturb.
6. Straining the curds
12 Hours Later…
By now your milk will have separated into curds and whey. Set up a strainer over a bowl and line with butter muslin. Gently ladle the curds into the butter muslin layer by layer.
Gather the corners of the muslin and tie in a knot. Hang this to strain over a large bowl or pot. I hang mine from the cupboard door knob above my stove and set the pot on the stove underneath.
7. Let it strain for 12 hours. Less strain time will give you a creamier cheese.
12 hours later…
You now have chevre!
I make this cheese in 2 pound batches. I salt a pound to eat now, and I leave a pound unsalted to freeze and eat later. This cheese freezes well if the salt is left out. You will want to salt it after you unthaw it in the future. I salt around 1 tsp salt to 1 pound of cheese. Sprinkle it on and mix it in well. Taste it and see if it needs more. Refrigerate.