Since we returned from our honeymoon, I’ve kept somewhat of a maniacal pace in the kitchen. As I mentioned in my last post, the to-do list associated with the weeks leading up to our wedding left me little time to do what I do best: time-intensive kitchen projects.
I’ve gotten back in to the swing of things pretty quickly, from catching up on kombucha brewing and putting up a couple bottles of homebrew ginger beer, to starting a batch of sauerkraut in my new fermentation crock (thanks Jill!) and making our current favorite dinner – lamb-beef burgers with yogurt and charred lemon-shallot tapenade.
Most excitingly, I picked up a chèvre culture at a homebrew supply store in San Jose, and then out-weirded the checkers at a little neighborhood natural foods market by practically clearing them out of goats’ milk.
I’ll happily eat store-bought chèvre, but the homemade version undoubtedly tastes fresher and is more satisfying, because, well, I made it. As with a lot of culinary endeavors, making chèvre at home is more daunting than it is difficult. And fortunately – although I may jinx myself here – this cheese seems at least moderately resistant to the comedy of errors that often befalls the best-laid DIY plans.
Heeding the instructions of various knowledgeable sources, I first sanitized everything that would touch the cheese, including myself. A fine mist of no-rinse sanitizing solution coating the kitchen, I began heating the milk to the required temperature of 86°F. This would have been easy had my instant-read thermometer not chosen this particular moment to die.
I knew I couldn’t stop the milk-heating train at that point, so reasoned that George and I, with our experience assessing body temperatures and swimming pool temperatures, respectively, could approximate 86°F. I had high hopes for George’s internal thermometric skills, but as it turns out he relies less on human touch than he does that lazy man’s tool, the thermometer. For shame! Abraham Verghese would be disappointed. I don’t think it helped that I made George sanitize his finger before dipping it into the tepid milk.
It was a leap of faith, but I channeled my inner swimmer and settled on what felt, to my thoroughly sanitized finger, like the elusive 86°F. In went the powdery culture and a timer set for 12 hours. This meant that I’d be straining curds at the convenient time of 1 a.m.
At 1 a.m., I stumbled to the kitchen and, with much anticipation, lifted the lid from the pot to reveal what appeared to be a vast quantity of murky liquid. Once I dipped a ladle in, though, I felt the resistance of soft curds – chèvre!
I scooped the fluffy curds into butter muslin-lined strainers, and set my alarm for 6 a.m. Again, I am a master of timing. By the time the sun rose, I'd finished the job: squeezing the final whey from the curds, seasoning the cheese with a little sea salt, and adding herbs and spices to a third of the chèvre. I rolled some into a log, but for easy enjoyment spooned most of it into a jar.
The first batch is nearly gone, but we enjoyed it mightily crumbled into salads, spread on bread, thinned with olive oil for a thick dressing or dip, and with fresh berries from our CSA. Perhaps my favorite use for it was in lieu of butter on just-baked zucchini-walnut muffins.
Interested in making goat cheese? Track down a chèvre culture and follow the instructions on the packet, as the process may vary depending on the specific type of culture. Making goat cheese at home saves money, meaning that I feel less bad about consuming it in large quantities. You’ve been warned.