Introduction: Homemade Chèvre

I love cheese. Summer weekends there is just nothing like relaxing on the patio at the end of a long day with some crackers and cheese while visiting with friends and slowly grilling some dinner. This weekend I found some goats milk at the farmers market. I can buy goats milk in the grocery store, but in order to keep it shelf stable it has to be high heat pasteurized, so it can't be used to make cheese. The farmer I bought the milk from today sells his milk raw if you drive out to his farm, or low heat pasteurized at the market. Both are perfect for cheese.

Step 1: Ingredients

Cheesemaking is a long process with only a few ingredients. I bought a gallon of goats milk at the market and some mesophilic chevre bacteria at a local store that sells wine making and brewing supplies.

Step 2: Time and Temperature

Temperature is really important when making cheese. I like to use a heavy enamel cast iron pot because it holds the heat in and keeps the temperature fairly constant for a long time. Pour the milk into the pot and heat to 86 degrees. Once you hit 86 degrees add one package of mesophilic starter, stir well, cover the pot and let it sit for 12 hours. I like to make it early in the evening so it sits over night and is ready to drain the next morning.

Step 3: Drain the Whey

When you uncover the pot 12 hours later you should have a fairly firm, solid mass of chesse under about a half inch of whey. Line a strainer with muslin and carefuly scoop the cheese into it.

Step 4: Hang the Cheese

Tie up the ends of the muslin and hang the cheese to drain for 6-12 hours. 6 hours will give you a softer, more spreadable cheese. The longer it drains the more firm and dry it will be.

Step 5: Waste Not,want Not.

Don't throw out the whey!! There are so many things you can do with it. If you put it back in the pot and heat it until it is just about to boil you can make a small amout of fresh ricotta cheese. As the whey heats, foam will form on top. Watch carefully and turn off the heat just before it boils. Let the whey sit for 5-10 minutes, then drain it through another piece of muslin. You'll get about half a cup of smooth, creamy ricotta. Delicious! I also save the whey and use it in place of warm water when baking bread.

Step 6: Flavor Your Cheese

1 gallon of milk will make about a pound and a half of cheese. I divided this batch into fourths. Some of it I kept plain and drizzled with a some balsamic glaze I bought at Trader Joe's when I served it. Some of it I mixed with finely chopped garlic and chives. Another block I mixed with honey and toasted walnuts. The last bit I mixed with a bar of melted bittersweet baking chocolate, a tablespoon of melted butter and 6 Tablespoons of powdered sugar. I beat it with the mixer until it was smooth and spreadable. Some friends stopped by tonight and we enjoyed them while visiting and catching up, my favorite way to spend a holiday weekend.

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