Courtesy Jordan Champagne, chef and proprietor, Happy Girl Kitchen Co. in Pacific Grove
Chèvre is a rich creamy cheese that you can only make with goat milk. It is a wonderful place to start for the home cheesemaker, as there is very little that can go wrong! You will need to source the vegetable rennet and mesophilic culture. I source mine from a website called New England Cheesemaking, and it is often available at Mountain Feed & Farm Supply in Ben Lomond. Both cultures are very inexpensive for a year’s supply. The rennet helps separate the curds from the whey, and if you find your cheese is too firm, then add a little less. If your cheese is not separating enough, then perhaps your rennet has expired. The mesophilic culture thrives at a “medium” temperature, close to room temperature, and is very easy to work with. The process takes two days, but most of that is tender loving neglect. The warm temperature of the milk fresh from the goat is perfect for making this chèvre.
1 gallon goat milk*
7 drops vegetable rennet
1/8 teaspoon powdered mesophilic culture
1/8 teaspoon powdered Flora Danica culture
¼ cup pure water (nonchlorinated), room temperature
Warm the milk to 86° F in a nonreactive pot. Add 7 drops of vegetable rennet and 1/8 teaspoon powdered mesophilic culture to ¼ cup room temperature water (nonchlorinated).
Mix well and add to milk. After about 30 minutes you will begin to see the milk separating into curds and whey. Once it starts, you know the chemistry is taking root and you do not need to tend to it any longer. Let it sit out on your counter at room temperature for 8–12 hours. Next, pour off the whey through cheesecloth to strain out the curds. For my cheesecloth I use a fabric called “flour sacks,” which can be purchased at any hardware store and used over and over again. At this point you can save the whey for whatever you desire; on most farms it is fed back to the goats—they love it!
Hang the cheesecloth with a bowl underneath to catch the remaining drips of whey. If there is no obvious spot, you can get creative with a high beam or hook or anywhere you can leave it dripping for 18 hours. I usually lay a wooden spoon across a tall pot and tie the cheesecloth to the spoon, and the whey drips into the pot. Let it strain and culture for 18–24 hours or longer if you want it to become a little sharper. Take curds out of the cheesecloth and shape with your hands. Knead in ½ teaspoon of sea salt. Wrap in wax paper and put in an airtight container in fridge. Chèvre will keep for 1 week.
Before serving, you can add flavorings to your cheese, like chopped fresh herbs or cracked pepper; chili flakes add a nice smoky undertone. Then get ready for your cheese to become the hit of the next potluck!
*Editor’s Note: Lynn Selness’ Summer Meadows Farm makes weekly deliveries of raw goat milk to Happy Girl Kitchen; other goat farms in our area that could be contacted for fresh, local milk include Pasture Chick Ranch in Hollister, Evergreen Acres in Tres Pinos and Harley Farms in Pescadero, to name a few. And Champagne says that goat milk she has bought at Trader Joe’s works just fine for her cheesemaking.