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Thursday, August 15, 2013

How To Make Raw Milk Chevre

The Buzz is pleased to have this contribution from former employee and longtime friend Sarah McGrath. To read more from Sarah, check out her personal blog, Sarah's Farm.

The author on her way to chevre
By Sarah McGrath

'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):

Chevre Ingredients

    • 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 

Chevre Procedure

  1. Warm milk to 77 degrees F
  2. Stir in culture packet
  3. Dilute rennet in 1/4 cup water, and stir in thoroughly
  4. Cover and let sit undisturbed 12-18 hours
  5. 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
  6. 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. 
That's it! Making fresh cheese is super easy! Here are some additional tips:

    • 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. 
You may notice that some cheesemaking books, as well as our friends at the USDA and FDA, say that you should never eat cheeses made with raw milk unless they are aged for 60 days or more. This, of course, rules out all soft, fresh cheeses, as well as most mold ripened cheeses like the bries and blues and most smear ripened "stinky" cheeses like traditional munster or limburger. The concern is that pathogenic bacteria from contaminated milk or dirty equipment could grow and give people food poisoning. Not everyone, though, shares this worry. Using unpasteurized milk for fresh and young cheeses is the norm in many places, like France, which produces hundreds of raw milk cheeses that are illegal to import and sell in the US. Go here for the full list. The sheer number of "illegal" cheeses is surprising.

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.