Saturday, April 20, 2013

Homemade chèvre

If someone put a gun to my head and told me to pick between savory and sweet, I would definitely go for savory. No second thoughts. There are so many options with savory food, you can make anything your heart desires, from fish and meat to pasta and every kind of salad imaginable. You can be freer, you can improvise, cook on a whim, not worry about grams and egg sizes and baking pan dimensions.






I could never live without my favorite savory dishes but I can live without sweets, well, at least for a day or two. There is something you can make though, that with the right combination, can offer you the best of both worlds. Something that can be used both in savory and sweet dishes. That is of course chèvre aka goat’s cheese. [Chèvre means goat in French]






The tart flavor of goat milk is what makes this cheese unique and the tang is what makes it pair so well with spinach and beef but also with honey and fruits.






Soft, crumbly, moist goat’s cheese is so easy to make at home that it’s crazy not to try it. The freshness, the aroma, especially when still warm, is incomparable to the mass-produced goat’s cheeses that you find at your local supermarket.






In my humble opinion, chèvre is far better tasting than ricotta or similar soft cow’s milk cheeses as it is more complex, creamy and rich due to the fact that goat’s milk has more fat than cow’s milk. And when you are lucky enough to find goat’s buttermilk and add it to the mix, it gives the cheese even more depth of flavor.






I have made chèvre many times and it always disappears from the fridge in a matter of hours. We like to smear it onto freshly toasted baguette slices or homemade barley bread drizzled with Greek extra virgin olive oil. It’s a snack that can only be surpassed by juicy tomatoes on sourdough but let’s not go there yet.






As I stated in the beginning of this post, this cheese is versatile in every sense of the word. You can add it to spanakopita or tyropita along with some good Greek feta, to this tartine, or perhaps this smoked trout and lentil salad. Crumbling it on top of pizza is an excellent idea, but so is adding it in a sweet tart with pistachios and honey. You can add some herbs like rosemary or thyme to your freshly made, supple cheese and serve it alongside crostini or grissini, or add it to an omelette which will most probably equal to the simplest, tastiest lunch you’ve had in months.






It’s just a matter of waiting; waiting for the whey to drip out, waiting for the cheese to dry. You will have to be patient, but in the end you will be rewarded with the clean, tangy taste of fresh, homemade chèvre.











Homemade Chèvre - Goat’s Cheese

The process of making this cheese is very easy but you will need a thermometer. It really helps and, if you cook a lot, it’s a good idea to buy one.

If you can’t find goat’s buttermilk which luckily I did, use cow’s buttermilk.

If you want a creamy consistency then I would advise you to let the cheese drain for 1 hour. After 2 hours it will be semi-soft and after 4 hours it will be very crumbly. Experiment, and if you end up with a more dry cheese than you’d prefer, add the whey back to the cheese, about ½ tsp at a time, folding it in until you reach the desired consistency.






Yield: about 300 g

Ingredients
750 ml fresh goat’s milk
500 ml fresh goat’s (or cow's if you can't find it) buttermilk
Juice of 1 lemon (about 60 ml)
½ tsp fine sea salt

Special equipment: candy/deep-frying thermometer, large cheesecloth or muslin cloth, fine sieve or colander


Preparation
In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the milk and buttermilk and attach the thermometer to the pan. Heat over medium-high heat and bring the milk to a temperature of 80 degrees Celsius / 175 Fahrenheit. It will take about 10 minutes to reach that temperature and at this point, the milk should bubble and start to curdle. If not, leave it on the heat until it does but don’t allow it to come to the boil.

Take it off the heat and add the lemon juice. Lightly stir with a spatula and you’ll clearly see it curdling. Don’t stir anymore and allow the temperature to drop to 55-60 degrees Celsius / 130-140 Fahrenheit. It will take about ½ hour and the curds will thicken as the temperature drops.


Line a fine sieve (or colander) with cheese or muslin cloth and set it over a large bowl to catch the whey. Slowly pour the curds into the cloth and drain the whey into the bowl. You can either save the whey for another use or throw it away. It would be good to throw it away after your cheese is ready in case it turns out too dry. By adding whey back into it, it will become creamy. Tie the top of the cheesecloth with baker’s twine, as close to the cheese and as tight as possible, and hang it somewhere in your kitchen over a bowl to catch the drippings.


Leave it for about 2 hours to have a proper chèvre consistency. (Or read notes above the ingredients list for alternatives).
Untie the twine, open the cloth and remove the cheese carefully. At this point, you can add your herbs and salt stirring them into the cheese or if you don’t want to mess with the nice ball of cheese, simply sprinkle salt over the top.

You can keep it in the fridge, inside a plate and covered with plastic wrap, for up to 1 week but if you’re anything like us, it will not last more than a day or two. Having said that, the flavor of the cheese will intensify after a couple of days in the fridge so perhaps the second time you make it, it would be worth it to leave it there to see the difference in taste.





13 comments:

  1. I can't read anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is making me so hungry and it is night and cannot eat!!! Well done Magda!!

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  2. Magda, great post...will have to try my hand at this...it's too easy to not try! Hope you're well...I still read your posts ;)

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  3. Stelio — :) I'm glad I'm making you hungry!

    Peter — thank you, it's nice to hear that you're following my posts!

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  4. Excellent article on cheese. I have never tried the goat buttermilk, need to ask if I can find it here; your photos are just stunning!

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  5. I was just saying to a friend that we should spend a day making homemade cheese, and now you have given us the perfect recipe! Thanks, Magda! A question, though, does the milk/buttermilk need to be unpasteurized? I am not sure I can easily get that here! ~ David

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  6. This is amazing and I can't wait to try it!!

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  7. Wow,I had no idea it was so easy to make goat cheese. It's very expensive here. I won't be able to get my hands on very fresh goat's milk, but I will give this a try using a carton of goat milk from the grocery store.

    Thanks so much for this recipe!

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  8. This looks so wonderful Magda! Looks like I need to get myself a thermometer and track down some goats!

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  9. Making cheese is the best. I haven't tried makigc chevre yet--paneer and farmer's cheese are the big ones at our house--but this sounds just as easy, and just as delightful!

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  10. Oh, can you tell me where you buy that goat's buttermilk??

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    1. Hey there. I buy it from Jumbo.

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  11. Hi, I really want to give your recipe a try but I haven't seen fresh buttermilk being sold anywhere near where I'm staying. Can I use buttermilk made from powdered buttermilk and water instead?

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    1. Hi Lynn and apologies for the late reply. I have never used powdered buttermilk so I can't really advise you on that. You can give it a try though. Good luck and I'd love to know how it turned out for you.

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