The Local Food Report: making goat cheese

Goat cheese is magical. Take what it does to this salad, for instance. You pile up a heap of spinach, one warm, sliced beet, and a bit of chevre. The goat cheese melts into the warm beets, coats the spinach with a thick, oozy glaze, and with a sprinkling of sea salt, a drizzle of olive oil, and a little bit of vinegar, suddenly, there's a meal on your plate.

But what's truly magical is making goat cheese. I learned how the other day.

Jen Holloman from Ocean Song Farm in Cummaquid taught me. She brought in two gallons of fresh goats' milk from the farm, poured them into a stainless steel bucket, and heated them up over the stove. When they started to steam, we began to whisk, and after a few minutes the milk was pasteurized. We turned down the heat, and made an ice bath in the sink.

From there, the work was quick. We stirred in a bit of rennet—the enzyme that separates the milk into curds and whey—and added a bacterial culture to give the cheese that distinct, chevre taste. Thick, soft curds came together into a ball, and we poured the liquid down the sink through a cheesecloth bag. (You can use whey in some recipes for biscuits and bread—but we had enough on our hands for one day.) What remained was a malleable, creamy ball of cheese—the first chevre I'd ever made.

Sadly, as I discovered when I went to eat the cheese three days later at home, we messed the process up. We didn't let the curds and whey cool for long enough after adding the rennet—usually Jen lets them sit overnight, but since I was there, we rushed things a bit—and my cheese turned into a rubbery ball. But that wasn't the important part. The important part was that I learned the basics, and now, whenever I please, I make magic on my own.

You can too. I'm might be a bit biased, but I recommend you start by listening to this week's show, which condenses an hour of step by steps into a mere four minutes—live! Once you've heard that, you can move on to the recipe below. Just don't forget the beets and spinach—the combination of the three is far and away the best part.


recipe & step by step thanks to Jen Holloman

2 gallons goat milk
1/8 teaspoon mesophilic culture
1/2 tablet junket rennet
1/2 cup cold water
1 heaping teaspoon of salt (table or kosher)

Pour goat milk into a VERY large saucepan. Heat to 160 degrees F, and hold it there for about 45 seconds. Cool in an ice bath—or by allowing time to pass—until it reaches 90 degrees F. Add mesophilic culture and stir until completely dissolved. Dissolve rennet in water and add to milk. Add salt, and then stir, stir, stir!

Allow this mixture to sit in a nice warm area, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 6 hours. It will separate into curds (solids) and whey (liquid)—that's good. Line a colander with a cheesecloth bag and pour the curds and whey through. Once most of the whey has drained out, put the whole shooting match in the fridge—leaving the bag full of curds in the colander with a big pot beneath to catch any remaining whey drips—and let it age for three days, or up to a week. The sour taste will mellow out of the cheese a bit, and it will form a soft, creamy ball, ready to eat. Enjoy as you would any old goat cheese.

For more on the upcoming Slow Food goat cheese making class, click here.


Sara said...

I was just thinking about making goat cheese tonight as I was putting some on my pizza. I haven't tried my hand at cheesemaking quite yet, but this summer might be the right time to try.

Bie said...

Elspeth; you make me sorry I am in a retirement place where all my meals are provided.How I would love to make goat cheese.What a great addition to spinach salad. One of my favorites! hugs,biee

Elspeth said...

Biee, we will cook up a big meal when we see you in June! Maybe we'll even make goat cheese in your apartment. Love you lots, xoxo E

Andrea said...

How about sources? Anyone local selling the goat milk?

That is, until we get our own goats! First up, chickens. Then bees. Then hopefully goats! :)

Tea said...

Oooh, I'm jealous. I've never made goat cheese and would really like to. Here's the nudge I need.


Elspeth said...

Sara, you'll have to let me know if you give it a whirl. I must admit I haven't tried my hand solo yet, but I'm thinking next week will be a good time. Pizza sounds like a very good idea!

Andrea, I'm working on tracking down some local goats milk, so I'll let you know just as soon as I do! (I just told you this in a comment on my last Seattle post...only to realize I was writing to you in the wrong spot! Forgive me. Brain cramp.)

Tea, do it! I can absolutely promise you won't be sorry, and it really doesn't take very much hands on time. It's more of a hurry up and wait type of thing.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful week---


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