November 8, 2010

Fresh Goat's Milk Cheese

I am a cheese novice.  I want to make it perfectly clear that what I have undertaken here is an experiment and is by no means a normal occurrence in my household.  Oh, but if I only had a cave, and several acres of open pasture, and a herd of goats, and a milking parlor, and a cheese making parlor, and some help...oh then, then would I make some cheese!  To start along such a path one ought to begin with the basics, right?  Fresh cheeses are that first step.  They require no aging (i.e.: no cave) and can be eating nearly 24 hours after milking.  This type of cheese is more commonly known as Chevre or Farmer's Cheese.

Right.  For cheese-making 101 try either of these lovely sites: there's the New England Cheese Making Supply Co. (from which I got the starter culture and powdered rennet used to make the cheese), and the equally informative Frankhauser's Cheese Page (put together by a Bio Prof. in Ohio, go figure).  The NECMS site is more giving in terms of the cheese recipes discussed but FCP goes more in depth as to why cheese happens.  I'm more of a why person so the FCP is my pick, generally.

To make the cheese just follow the instructions:

We're using raw goat's milk here so you first have to heat the milk to pasteurize it (I think it's 116 F for 30 seconds), then cool to 86 F, which is a good starting temperature for the starter culture being used.

Stir in the packet of culture and rennet and let the cheese sit at room temp for about 12 hours.  At the end of this waiting time the milk should have set up and if you plunge in a finger, hook it toward the top of the curd and pull you should have what's called the "clean break" on the FCP.  This is the point where the culture has sufficiently acidified the milk and has allowed the rennet to set a curd to the point where if you run a blunt object through the curd it should break up instead of just mush apart.  If it's too squishy (more like yogurt) let the culture and rennet work for a few more hours.

If everything is good, roughly cut the curd into chunks so the whey (the yellow-ish liquid that separates from the white curd) can more easily get away from the curd.  Then dump the whole thing (slowly) into a flour-sack towel lined colander suspended over an appropriate container.  A few layers of cheese cloth would work ok here too, but I like the much finer weave of something like cotton T-shirt material.

Hang the cheese to drain into a dish for at least 12 hours.  This could be in the fridge or not.  Remember, the thing's been sitting out in the open for 12 hours already, so it should be fine hanging out some more.

And what you see here is about 1 pound of fresh goats milk cheese.  I think it's lost about 50 - 60% of its volume at this point, so a lot of what you're working with at the beginning comes out of the process as liquid.  This liquid is of course chock full of proteins, live cultures, and nutrients.  I would make biscuits out of it, or pancakes.  Some people drink it...yech.  You can always just dump it in your garden.  Or feed it to the chickens.