Sunday, January 15, 2012

Le Bon Fromage: Homemade Chevre

Why make your own cheese?

If you live in a large city or even in most suburbs, you probably have access to a supermarket with a good selection of cheeses. If you live in the wealthiest cities/suburbs, odds you have gourmet stores, cheese "boutiques" or other places eager to separate you from your cash in exchange for a hunk of "fermented curd":


So why make your own?

For the same reasons you'd make your own bread, your own sauce, your own homemade ANYTHING.
For the ability to make it just the way you want it. Control the flavor, control the fat.

Take some home for your parents--especially your father whose taste buds are showing their age and loves a savory treat.

Go to an office party and proudly put out plates of your lovely homemade cheeses, accompanied of course by your own homemade bread.

Which is just what I did this holiday season!

We were in Montreal this summer where I allowed myself to eat all the lovely things I seldom eat at home, and one of them was chevre--goat cheese. I brought some home as well, and when it was gone started wishing I could make it myself. It's available of course in the stores, but it's expensive.

And I also remembered hearing a segment on the radio show The Splendid Table about making your own cheese. I looked at the recipe for chevre, then started hunting for supplies.

My search led me to the fabulous cheese queen Ricki and her New England Cheesemaking Supply Company where for about $24 I got a dandy little goat cheesemaking kit.

Buying goats milk was a challenge. You can use raw goats milk or pasteurized, but not the ultra-pasteurized--it just won't work for cheese making--and that's the kind usually available at supermarkets that carry goats milk. Trader Joe's was supposed to have it and didn't, but Whole Foods did.  And when I'm up in Lancaster County, PA the markets there have it as well.

The directions were for a gallon of milk, and I only had bought 1/2 gallon. The folks at Ricki's website though were great and told me I could carefully separate the tiny packet of starter into half and freeze the rest for later. That means I can make this 8 times instead of 4--and the 1/2 gallon makes enough cheese for us!

It's a simple matter of heating the milk in a big Corning casserole in my microwave until it reaches 86 degrees F. Then I sprinkle in the magic powder, stir and leave it in the microwave to sit for about 12 hours.

Then it's curds and whey--and the curds go into a colander lined with butter cheesecloth to drain for another 8-12 hours.

I pack it in a mold and let it sit more in the fridge, then when I'm ready, flavor it any way we like. I found some herb mixes intended for bread dipping oil that we like and we keep trying different combinations.

I'd love to try other cheeses, but most require aging under temperature controlled conditions I can't manage at home. Mozzarella and ricotta are possibilities though--the "Cheese Queen" has kits for those.

Meanwhile, here's a cheesemaking slide show. More on that homemade bread another day......


  1. What a lovely post! I enjoyed the video clip as well as the cheese making. What do you suppose in the the 'magic' packet? I'm guessing rennet and maybe salt. I used to make cheese with whole cows milk and white vinegar, your post has prompted me to do again soon.

  2. It's Chevre DS5 culture--various bacterias. No rennet, but it comes with the kit along with a starter for making a different culture. Haven't tried that yet!



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