The typical beginner's cheese is a simple chevre. Technically, any cheese made with goat milk is a chevre. Some people will try to tell you they make cow or sheep chevre, but they are technically wrong. That being said, the term chevre most commonly refers to a type of cheese. In America, it is usually a white, very mild, soft cheese that is eaten fresh. In France, it is typically a very musty and strong cheese (smells like the buck). Crafters and artisans will frequently roll fresh herbs into the cheese to make delightful creations. This batch was my first, so I just made it straight-up with nothing fancy. I really needed to know what the base-line was so I would know my starting point.
Nothing I read called for this, but I decided to use a double boiler to warm the milk. I'm using raw milk, and I want to retain all the goodness that comes from maintaining the raw state. Since I had to heat the milk up to 86 degrees, I wanted it heated gently so as not to hurt any of the little good guys in there. This summer when I have more time and higher production, I'll bring it in freshly milked and have to cool it to 86 - won't that be a treat!
I don't actually own a double boiler, but I have two different stock pots made of stainless, one fit inside the other. Fill the outer pot just below the milk line of the inner pot so the inner pot doesn't bob around floating on top of the water.
I used a med-low heat, and brought the milk up to 86 degrees. Then I added a packet of direct-set starter. I am very intrigued by New England Cheese Making Supply. I would like to find a local company that does the same. Anyway, I stirred all that in and let it be. The various instructions I read gave a range of 6-36 hours to let the curds form. The best instruction I saw said to wait until there was about a quarter inch of whey on top of the curds, and the curds were beginning to pull away from the sides of the pot. I don't know for sure, but I expect that the amount of time this sets with have an impact on the flavor.
Ok, so anyway, 6 hours later I had a quarter inch of whey on top and the curds were pulling away from the sides. I placed a 4-layer piece of cheesecloth in a strainer and scooped out my curds into the cheesecloth.
The whey was recovered and stored in the fridge. Turns out there are tons of things to do with it, I'll talk about that later. The next step is to let the cheese drain for 6-24 hours in the cheesecloth. Mine was over-done in 3. It actually came out like feta-cheese. I tried rolling it into a log, but it was too crumbly. So I put it all in a ziplock bag, squirted some of the whey back in and mushed it all around. Worked like a charm!
Some of the instructions suggest salting and adding herbs to the cheese at this point. They say the salt helps to slow or stop some of the culturing that is taking place, which will serve to preserve the current flavor. That may or may not be the case, I think it just made my cheese salty. Next time I will only use half what they suggest.
There's really nothing to this cheese. It is quick and easy, and hopefully spreadable much like cream cheese. If you get a feta consistency, toss it on a salad! Or do like I did and mix some of the whey back in.
For dinner, I took this one step further. I did the same toasted bagel with my fresh chevre (which was much more the consistency of cream cheese this time), and drizzled some of Tani's blueberry jam from last summer over it.
No, I'm not sharing. Well, maybe just a little if you come to visit. Now if you'll excuse me, I feel the urge to go cut the cheese.
If you've made cheese before, or even if you haven't, what kinds of herbs or spices do you think would be good in this?