Chevre takes about two days to make. But for most of that time, the cheese is making itself in the background. Compared to other rennet cheeses, chevre doesn’t require much attention at all. All it needs is a little guidance.
Chevre falls into a different category of cheeses known as lactic-body cheeses, as it is halfway between a lactic cheeses, aka dream cheese, and a soft body cheese, aka soft rennet cheese. The method of making this cheese is very similar to the process of making dream cheese, except that rennet is added as an aid which speeds up the process, and makes a slightly firmer cheese.
Here’s a summary of the process: Warm goats’ milk is cultured and lightly renneted. The curdling milk is left at room temperature to ferment for a day or longer. The smooth curd is then ladeled into a cheesecloth bag, hung for six hours, then salted. That’s it.
The long period of fermentation is particularly well suited to goats milk, which flourishes under this cheesemaking technique. The same cheese can be made with cows milk, but this ‘neufchatel’ is not nearly as interesting: cow’s milk does not benefit from a longer fermentation period the way that goats milk does.
——–Are you ready?——————-
1) Warm up your milk
Warm up one gallon of goat milk to 90F. Be sure that your milk has not been subjected to the destructive forces of homogenization or else your chevre will not set. Goat milk is naturally homogenized, and does not separate to the same extent as cow milk does. Nevertheless, many goat milk producers homogenize their milk as unprocessed goats milk milk shows signs of inconsistencies that might frighten consumers. Seriously. Many folks believe unhomogenized milk to be rotten: little do they know it’s the homogenized the milk that should be avoided!
2) Stir in cheesemaking starter culture
Use only a quarter cup of live kefir, and mix in thoroughly. You can also add in buttermilk, whey or freeze dried starter cultures, aka DVI’s (direct vat innoculants).
Because of the long fermentation period, there’s no need to wait an hour to ripen the milk before adding the rennet. Proceed to the renneting right away…
3) Stir in a small amount of rennet
Chevre is a very soft, smooth cheese. Using a full dose of rennet will yield a chunky chevre. So we will use only a half dose of rennet for this recipe. Add in one half of the recommended amount of rennet, dissolved in cold water. Mix it in thoroughly.
Note that the rennet dose greatly affects the texture of the chevre. However, it’s not just the rennet dose that matters, but also the quality of the goats milk. Well raised, unpasteurized goats milk will form a very nice curd with a tiny dose of rennet – 1/4 of a regular dose. Whereas pasteurized goats milk, or goats milk from goats that do not get much browse, needs a half dose of rennet to form good curds.
4) Leave at room temperature for around 24 hours.
Because we want the milk to ferment slowly, we don’t have to keep the pot warm. There’s no need to pay attention to the temperature of the pot, or even to wrap it in blankets.
Let the pot of milk ripen at room temperature for a day or longer: the longer you let the goats milk ferment the better your chevre will taste. Don’t wait too long, though, as a film of white mould may begin to grow atop the whey in the pot after a week!
The curd in the pot will set after two hours. After a day it will have shrunk considerably, and will sink to the bottom of the pot.
If your curd floats, it may also be due to unwanted bacterial growth in the milk. If you’re using raw milk, be sure to use it quickly – within one or two days. If you’re using store-bought, be sure that your milk is nowhere near its best before date! Bacteria that cause a curd to float may flourish in pasteurized milk thats one to two weeks old, even when kept at a low temperature.
5) Ladle the curds into a cheesecloth
Line a big bowl with a double layer of cheesecloth. With a slotted spoon, slowly scoop the curd from the pot into the cheesecloth. Bring three of the four corners of the cheesecloth together, and with the fourth corner, wrap around the other three and tie the cheesecloth tight. Stick a wooden spoon through the knot and let it hang over a pot to drip, or tie the cheese to a chandelier and let it drip into a bowl below.
Don’t be tempted to refrigerate your cheese at this time; refrigeration will stall the cheesemaking process and expose your cheese to off flavours. Your cheese needs to be at room temperature to evolve.
6) Drain about 6 hours
The curd will begin to drip whey through the cheesecloth, which, drop by drop, will become chevre. After six hours, the curd will have stopped dripping entirely. It’s okay to leave this curd to drain longer than six hours, if need be. Proceed with salting whenever is convenient, waiting no longer than 24 hours.
7) Salt the curds
Take the cheese down from its perch and open up the bag. Sprinkle a teaspoon and a half of fine, non-iodized salt over the surface of the cheese. Mix it in lightly with a spoon. Close the bag back up and leave again to hang.
8) Drain one or two hours longer
The cheese, which had previously stopped dripping, will begin to drip again as the salt pulls moisture out of it. After one or two more hours of draining your chevre will be ready to eat. Keep this cheese in the refrigerator if you don’t eat it right away. It will keep for at least two weeks.
This chevre can be eaten without having been salted. The salting will help to preserve the cheese and improve its flavour. An unsalted chevre will have to be kept in the refrigerator and eaten within a few days.
yield: you’ll get a bit more than a pound of chevre for every gallon of goats milk.
*If you wish to flavour your chevre, the best time to do so is after step 8, the second draining. If flavourings are added too early in the process, much of their flavour will drip out with the whey.