I am lucky to have a constant supply of fresh goats milk here in Barkers Vale in the Northern Rivers, NSW. Sometimes it’s even delivered to my door by the local goat farmer. Claire is a small-scale goat farmer has twenty-odd goats, and milks them all by hand, every day. She makes sure the buck is separated from the doe(s) because the smelly and dirty boys actually make the milk taste sour. Claire’s goat milk is sweet, creamy, full of flavour and makes delicious chèvre. If you can’t get fresh goats milk from a farm, good health shops should have it.
Chèvre is a fresh cheese, and therefore hard to stuff-up compared to aged cheeses with various desired (and undesired) moulds. This was the first cheese I ever made, so it can be easily managed with basic equipment and beginner cheese-making skills. This recipe was adapted from “Homemade Cheese” by Janet Hurst.
• large saucepan
• slotted spoon
• kitchen thermometer
• cheesecloth (don’t try to substitute this for a tea towel or a clean chux, it won’t work)
• pipette (an essential tool for accurate rennet measurement. I like it because it makes me feel like a scientist conducting an experiment when I use it)
You will need culture and rennet to make chèvre. Don’t be daunted, these ingredients are easily found. I buy the ‘Mad Millie’ brand from my local homebrew shop. This link will help you find the nearest stockist where you can find ‘Mad Millie’ equipment such as cheesecloth, thermometers and pipettes. Or you can buy it online from here like I did initially. I am not intending to promote the ‘Mad Millie’ brand as such, I have just found it to be the most easily accessible and user-friendly cheese-making equipment, especially for beginners making non-commercial batches of cheese.
• 4 litres goat milk
• 1 packet of Mesophilic MW3 culture
• 2 drops of liquid rennet (I use vegetarian liquid rennet) dissolved in ¼ cup non-chlorinated water
• 1 teaspoon non-iodized salt (non-iodized is important because it allows the flavours and good bacteria to develop into tasty chèvre)
Remember to keep culture in the freezer and liquid rennet in the fridge. And don’t get generous with the rennet, more is not always best – it will make the cheese taste bitter.
Sterilising your equipment:
I know it sounds boring, but this step is important if you want to avoid weird tasting cheese, or cheese that goes off really quickly. I use a sterilising powder, also found at the homebrew shop and used by both brewers and cheese-makers. Or you can use very diluted chlorine in water. Either way, make sure you rinse very well using boiling water so you can’t smell the sterilising solution on the equipment. Drip dry/drain well.
1. Using a large pot, slowly heat the goat milk on low heat, making sure not to scald the milk. When the temperature reaches 30C, remove from heat
2. Sprinkle the culture evenly over the milk surface and stir gently to dissolve and mix evenly. Cover and allow to stand for 45 minutes
3. Add the dissolved rennet. Stir gently to mix everything evenly throughout the milk.
4. Cover with a cloth and sit the pot in a warm place for 12-18 hours
5. When the milk has thickened to resemble the consistency of yoghurt, carefully ladle the spoonfuls into a cheesecloth-lined colander. Place the colander in a bowl or sink to catch the excess whey that drains out of the curds. Whey is the waste product in this case, and you don’t need to save it.
HINT: a damp cheesecloth sticks easily to the colander
6. When all the curds have been ladled into the cheesecloth, pull all four corners into the middle and tie securely with strong string or strip of fabric. Hang the cheesecloth draining bag above a bowl to catch the whey that will drain from it. You can see my set-up in the picture below.
7. Chèvre is a soft cheese, so you want it to retain some of the moisture. Allow the curds to drain for 12 hours, then place in a large bowl. Add the salt and combine. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
There are a few ways I prepare chèvre to eat fresh…
For marinated chèvre:
• Roll small portions into logs, pressing out air pockets, then roll in a layer of dried mixed herbs
• Make small balls and place in a jar of olive oil marinade. I put mixed whole peppercorns, chili flakes and dried thyme
• Or just keep fresh and use in pasta etc.