Homemade goat cheese! So easy, so impressive to those who have never made their own.
I started making cheese about a year and a half ago, soft cheeses only (as mentioned in the Resolutions post, I am not equipped for hard cheeses yet), and I loved it. There was an immense satisfaction in making even the simplest of simple cheeses, ricotta and mozzarella, a real feeling of accomplishment in making something that had always been a product rather than a recipe, and in the case of mozzarella, something smooth and shiny, a texture I never dreamed I could create in my very own kitchen.
Making cheese instantly became my very best party trick. And so, in the week leading up to my thirtieth birthday, I trotted off to pick up my raw Amish goat’s milk. I rifled through my freezer in search of the culture I have always used for goat’s cheese and found none. I improvised with the cultures in my freezer, and I pulled off my favorite party trick in time for my birthday party. I hesitate to even reveal how easy this trick is, because it’s such a treasured secret, but I also believe that the world gets a little better with every batch of homemade cheese, so here I go. It can be your party trick, too, but let’s keep this between us.
Step 1: Procure goat’s milk. Honestly, this is probably the trickiest step. All of the goat’s milk I’ve seen in shops is ultra-pasteurized, which is not good for cheesemaking. Raw milk is awesome, but not legal where I live. If you dig around on the Weston A. Price Foundation web site, it should ultimately point you in the direction of some good milk resources near where you live. Here in New York, for instance, I look to some great Amish farmers in Pennsylvania. I also found this resource online recently, though I have not used it myself. You could probably make something ricotta-like with ultra-pasteurized milk, or maybe you have regular pasteurized milk available where you live? Check your health food stores and farmer’s markets. See what you come up with.
Step 2: Warm up your milk and add some culture. I get my cheese cultures from New England Cheesemaking. They sell a chevre starter, but I have never used it. I have used their fromage blanc starter with goat’s milk and had good results many times. As I did not have any fromage blanc starter, I used a very small amount of mesophilic starter and a very small amount of vegetarian rennet, mixing them both with a little bit of cold milk before adding them to my pot of gently heated 72 degree milk.
Step 3: Wait. The culture will do all of the fermentation, the rennet will help the cheese set up. You don’t have to do anything! I make mine at night and check it in the morning. You can generally leave it for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. Mine looked like this after 12 or so:
See? It’s like a block of cheese sitting in whey. Don’t worry if yours is not a perfect disc pulled in from the sides of the pot. As long as you have some solids, you’re good.
Step 4: Drain your cheese curds. I pour mine into a strainer lined with butter muslin. Butter muslin is like cheese cloth, but a little finer and thus more effective for this type of thing. Cheese cloth would work, too, layered up more.
That’s it! Let it drain for a few hours, add some salt if you want, and you’re done. I didn’t snap any pictures of my finished product. Really, I just piled it in a bowl, and people scooped it out onto crackers. You could mold yours in a bowl or other mold, or you could shape it into logs or little balls to roll in herbs or peppercorns or any number of fancy things.
I was feeling slightly less than fancy (and slightly overambitious where the rest of the menu was concerned), so I did not go the pink peppercorn or herbs de provence route, but, really, it’s tough to beat a pretty bowl made by a good friend piled up with tangy, fresh goat cheese. People seemed to think it was fancy anyway. This perceived fanciness is what makes homemade goat cheese my very best party trick. And now it can be yours, too. Happy cheesemaking!