Spread creamy chèvre on a French baguette or stuff this fresh cheese into sweet cherry tomatoes. Only made from goat’s milk, chèvre is a perfect cheese to make for the beginning cheesemaker. Janet Hurst’s Homemade Cheese: Recipes for 50 Cheeses from Artisan Cheesemakers (Voyageur Press, 2011) provides a simple chèvre recipe and other recipes for artisan cheeses. This excerpt is taken from Chapter 1, “Understanding Cheese.”
We will begin with a simple, fresh cheese, chèvre, which is one of the most basic of cheeses and a classic from France. Chèvre is only made from goat milk, so make an acquaintance with your local goat farmer. Chèvre is French for “goat.” According to my French auntie, Elaine, the proper pronunciation is “chev.”
This cheese is commonly produced in France by farmstead cheesemakers. This Chèvre recipe can be made with a minimum of skill, ingredients, and equipment, which makes it a perfect project for the beginning cheesemaker. A few purchases will be required to begin cheesemaking, so plan ahead to have the necessary equipment on hand.
• 1 gallon pasteurized goat milk
• 1/8 teaspoon Mesophilic DVI MA culture
• 2 drops of liquid rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup nonchlorinated water
• 1/2 to 1 teaspoon noniodized salt to taste
Optional: Herbs, such as fresh chives, lavender blossoms, or a blend, such as herbes de Provence; other ingredients, such as black pepper, green peppers, or olives
1. Pour the goat milk into a cooking pot. Heat milk slowly to 86 degrees (30 degrees). Remove from heat.
2. Sprinkle the culture over the top of the milk and gently stir, making sure the culture is dissolved and well integrated into the milk. Allow this mixture to sit for about 45 minutes, so the culture has time to develop.
3. Add the rennet mixed in water and stir, coming up from the bottom of the pot, until the culture and rennet are well integrated into the milk. Let the mixture rest, covered with a cloth, in a warm place for 12 to 18 hours. The gel will thicken to the consistency of yogurt while it is resting.
4. When the gel has thickened, it is time to ladle the mass into a draining bag. Line a colander with the draining bag, cheesecloth, or muslin. Place the colander in the sink. With a slotted spoon, gently transfer the gel mass, now called the curd, into the lined colander. Keep ladling until all the curd is in the colander. The leftover liquid is the whey, which is a waste product. Once all the curd is in the colander, gather the draining bag and tie it with the string. Hang it over the sink, and the whey will drain, rapidly at first, then more slowly.
5. Two things are happening while the curd drains: Acid is developing, so the flavor of the cheese is coming to life. And the moisture ratio of liquid to solid is dropping; therefore, the consistency and the stability of the finished product are changing. Chèvre is meant to be soft, so the moisture level will remain high. But this high moisture makes chèvre less stable than other aged or hard cheeses, so it should be consumed within a few days of the make. (In the language of cheese, the process of creating the cheese is called “the make.”)
6. Allow the curd to drain for about 12 hours. Then remove the curd from the bag, place it in a bowl, and work in the salt. Salting has a number of purposes in the cheesemaking process. It adds flavor, promotes the shedding of moisture, and retards bacteria growth. Salt can be added directly to the curd, used to develop the rind on the cheese with a direct rub, or added to water to create brine, which the cheese can be placed in.
7. Flavor with herbs or other ingredients. These ingredients can be added to the cheese to make a spread, or the cheese can be rolled into logs or rounds and then rolled in the herbs. Chèvre is somewhat bland, so it will take on the flavors of the condiments or herbs added to it.
8. To store, place in a covered dish. Best served at room temperature.
Chèvre Recipe: Uses and Pairings
Chèvre is one of the most famous—and favorite—goat cheeses in the world. Known for its distinctive tang or bite, this cheese is quite versatile.
Chèvre is the perfect topping for French bread. That crusty loaf, sliced and paired with the cheese is a simple, yet elegant combination. Add fresh grapes, a glass of rosé—what more could one ask for?
“A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou,” as ancient Persian poet Omar Khayyám wrote. What about the cheese? Add chèvre, and this scenario is indeed perfect.
Chèvre pairs well with vegetables. Split snow peas and stuff them with chevre; score cherry tomatoes and fill them with chevre for a summer treat. Chèvre is frequently used in salads and even for dessert. The French feature cheese plates on their dessert menu and offer a wide array, including chèvre.
The classic blend of herbes de Provence will enhance this cheese, as will lavender. Lavender flowers can be added to chèvre in small amounts, and the flavor will bring a subtle floral bouquet to the cheese. The color of the flowers adds an unexpected visual element. Serve this lavender chèvre for dessert and serve it drizzled in honey, paired with a ladyfinger cookie or a gingersnap.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Homemade Cheese: Recipes for 50 Cheeses from Artisan Cheesemakers, published by Voyageur Press, 2011.
Click here for the main article, Cheesemaking: Basic Ingredients, Equipment and Tips.
For more tasty cheesemaking recipes, read Make Cheese at Home.