|The author on her way to chevre|
'Chevre' is fresh spreadable cheese made from goat's milk. Made from cow's milk, it's called 'fromage frais' (fresh cheese). Enriched with cream, it becomes cream cheese. All are made the same way, all are easy to make, and all are great for beginning cheesemakers.
The basic procedure is this: warm the milk, add cheese culture/rennet, let sit overnight, and strain. You'll need a pot to warm the milk, a thermometer to measure the temperature, a large spoon to stir in the rennet and culture, and a colander and cheesecloth to strain the cheese.
Recipe for one pound of cheese (recipe can be doubled or tripled):
- 1 gallon milk
- 1 Packet Mesophilic C101 culture OR 1/8 tsp Abiasa Mesophilic Aroma B (available for purchase at Siciliano's Market)
- 2 drops single strength (calf) rennet
- Warm milk to 77 degrees F
- Stir in culture packet
- Dilute rennet in 1/4 cup water, and stir in thoroughly
- Cover and let sit undisturbed 12-18 hours
- Put a cheesecloth square in the colander and scoop the cheese into it. Bring the corners of cloth together, tie with rubber band or something similar (bag tie, etc.) and hang to drain for 6 to 12 hours depending on the final texture you desire
- When drained to your liking, scoop into tupperware style containers and refrigerate. It will last 10-14 days or can be frozen for longer storage.
- If your house is cool you'll want to let the cheese culture for the full 18 hours, if it's warm, 12 will do. Don't try to cut corners here; if you don't wait long enough, the acidity won't be properly developed, and the cheese won't drain well.
- If you like your cheese tangier, let it sit for up to 24 hours before draining. This gives the culture time to produce extra acidity.
- I use single strength calf (veal) rennet. If you prefer a vegetarian option, you can use vegetable rennet, but you will need to use half as much because vegetable rennet is double strength.
- I make this cheese with raw (unpasteuried) milk. In this case, you should use half the amount of culture, since raw milk contains natural lactic acid bacteria, which will help acidify the milk.
If you are considering using raw milk for cheesemaking, the important thing to remember is that raw milk does not *intrinsically* contain pathogens. Rather, it can become contaminated though sick animals or dirty equipment. If you are consuming raw milk or raw milk cheeses aged less than 60 days, it is important to understand the health of the dairy animals involved and the procedures used for cleaning and sanitizing milk handling equipment. The best way to do this is to know your farmer and to discuss the precautions he or she takes to help ensure that your milk is pathogen free.
Raw milk advocates often tout the supposed health benefits of unpasteurized milk. I just think it tastes better. I never knew that pasteurized milk tasted cooked until I tasted raw milk. The natural bacterial flora in raw milk also makes cheeses that have greater complexity of flavor and which reflect the local terroir.
For me, the best reason for making cheese at home is flavor. When you make your own cheese you are can freely draw inspiration from the various styles of European cheeses (even the illegal ones), while producing something that possesses the unique flavor of the sun and soil of the local environment.