June 21, 2019

Cheesemaking: Chèvre

While I was working on another blog post, I wanted to link back to my recipe for chèvre. It was then that I realized I had never posted one! I was sure I had written it and finally found it in my drafts folder, where it's been sitting for almost a year. So at long last, here it is.

Chèvre is a soft, supposedly easy-to-make goat cheese that is often recommended for beginners. Yet I hadn't tried to make it until last year. Why? Well, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because most recipes for it call for chèvre starter culture, whereas I lean toward sustainable cheese making, i.e. without purchased starters.

The other problem is that it requires such a teensy amount of rennet. The starter culture already contains the rennet, but without that it's another challenge. It only takes a few drops of liquid rennet, but because I now use powdered rennet (why here), the measurement is a little trickier. A regular dose of powdered rennet is only 1/32 teaspoon per gallon of milk, so a smaller dose for chèvre was near impossible. I needed to figure out another way.

A "smidgen" (2nd smallest spoon) of rennet is all I need for a gallon of milk.

I finally started making chèvre the same time I make a firm cheese. I use a scant 1/8 of the regular dissolved rennet, which is perfect for the desired consistency of chèvre. Here's the recipe.


1 gallon fresh goat milk (see recipe note)
1/4 cup fresh kefir (can use cultured buttermilk or cultured whey)
1/8 of regular rennet dose
1 tablespoon good quality salt

Pour milk into a heavy-bottom pot and stir in the kefir. Slowly warm to 90°F (32°C). Add the rennet and stir well. Cover the pot and let sit for 24 hours. The curd will sink when it's ready to ladle into a cheesecloth lined colander. Cover and drain for 6 hours. Then mix in the salt, tie up the cheesecloth like a bag, and let drain for another hour or two. After that it's ready to eat!

RECIPE NOTE: Most recipes for making cheese call for fresh milk. If you're buying your milk, then it's logical why this is important. If you have your own milk supply, however, there is another reason. As non-homogenized milk sits in the fridge the cream rises to the top. If this milk is used to make cheese, the cream doesn't recombine with the milk, it is lost in the whey. So the fresher the milk, the the higher the fat content in the cheese. Most people think it's tastier this way, but if you want to make lower fat cheeses, this is how.

Chèvre is basically good any time a softer cheese is wanted: for snacking, as a substitute for ricotta in lasagna, as a filling for stuffed pasta or enchiladas, in sandwiches. It's delicious on crackers, perhaps seasoned with herbs or salt and pepper. My favorite ways to eat it are as chèvre cheesecake and cheesecake ice cream (the links will take you to the recipes).

Chèvre and elderberry jelly sandwich.

Chèvre is an expensive cheese to buy, but inexpensive and easy to make!

If you have a favorite recipe for chèvre, I'd love for you to share it.


Pioneer Woman at Heart said...

I used to make that cheese when we had dairy goats. I sure miss that good cheese. Looks wonderful.

wyomingheart said...

Is the taste strong on this cheese? I have never had it. Compared to the other cheeses I have tried making, it sounds fairly easy...that is, until I start making it... ;) !

Cockeyed Jo said...

This is the reason I want goats. We love us some cheeses! Milk is too expensive to make it from store bought milk. I've always used the powdered rennet or made my own from stinging nettles.

Leigh said...

Kristina, I'm only sorry I took so long to make it. I did try earlier on, but because of the rennet never could get it soft enough. Now it's one of my staple cheeses.

Wyomingheart, it's extremely mild. It has just enough tang to give it a bit of flavor. I find it freezes well too.

Leigh said...

Jo, the best cheeses are homemade from goat milk! And more economical. I've been experimenting with homemade vegetable rennets, but I don't have stinging nettle growing. As rennet might be one more reason to grow them!

Frank and Fern said...

I use 5 quarts of whole goat milk heated to 80*. Add 1/2 c. cultured buttermilk (I make one batch with a powdered culture, then make the successive quarts for cheese all season until my does dry up. I have tried to keep it going year round, but sometimes forget to culture another batch before it goes bad in the off season when I am not milking.) and 2 tbsp. of diluted rennet. The dilution is 3 drops liquid rennet to 1/3 c. filtered water. Stir very well, cover and let sit on the cabinet all day, roughly 8-10 hours. Scoop into a cheese cloth and let hang all night or until it reaches the desired consistency.

You're right, Leigh, it is good in many different ways. Our favorite is to add a variety of herbs and have it on our sourdough bread. It also freezes very well, so during milking season, we make quite a bit and freeze it.

J.L. How do you make your rennet from nettles? I finally have a good healthy patch growing that I can use. Thanks!


Sam I Am...... said...

The only goat milk I can get is in a can at the store. Can I use that? thank you for sharing this recipe and I have those exact same measuring spoons.

Florida Farm Girl said...

Yes it is expensive to buy. I picked up some at the Farmers' market last Saturday and I won't tell you what I paid for a very small container. DH doesn't care for it so I don't get it often. He likes other cheeses though.

Rain said...

Thanks Leigh for your recipe. When you say 1/8 of a regular rennet dose, would you know how that would translate into double-strength liquid rennet? Probably just a drop? I'd love to try your recipe.

We really LOVE Chèvre! We eat so much of it on everything from paninis to pizzas to just spread out on crackers. It's yummy with strawberries too. I've always wanted to try making it but I only have access to store-bought goat milk and I don't know how fresh it is. The goat milk itself is about $8 a quart. Here in Quebec though, goat cheese is plentiful so we can get a 150g pack for under $3. Actually I found it on sale last week, so I stocked up, bought 10 packs for $1.99 each, good deal for some good cheese. One day I'll try making my own though. Once we leave this province, there won't be as big of a cheese selection!

Kat said...

I'm always doing twenty things at once, so adding my culture to my milk before heating it up is a dangerous. Invariably, if I add the culture at the beginning I will heat everything up too hot and the culture dies. I've learned to always heat my milk and only when it's at the right temperature (cooled back down more often than not), do I proceed to add the culture.

Leigh said...

Fran, I think I would have the same problem keeping cultured buttermilk. I researched how to make it from scratch when I wrote How To Bake Without Baking Powder. I've copied and pasted the directions below.

"METHOD #3 is to make buttermilk from scratch. You will need fresh raw milk for this method.

Place 1 cup of filtered raw milk in a pint jar. Cover and allow it to sit for several days at room temperature until it has thickened (clabbered).

Take ¼ cup of the clabbered milk, mix it with 1 cup of fresh milk, cover and shake well. Allow to sit at room temperature until it has clabbered. Initially this may take several days, but gradually it will take a shorter amount of time.

Repeat this process until the milk clabbers dependably in 24 hours. It will have a mildly sour smell and tart taste.

This is your buttermilk starter. ¾ cup will culture a quart of fresh milk. Once thickened, store in the refrigerator. It can be used as a beverage or for baking and cooking. Be sure to save ¾ cup for your next batch."

The trick is keeping it happy to keep it going. :)

Sam, I don't know how canned milk is processed, but I suspect at temperatures that are too high to protect the protein molecules. That's why ultra-pasteurized milk of any kind can't be used for making cheese. Very high heats destroy the protein molecules. If you can find any kind of regular-pasteurized milk, that should work. (Even cow milk).

FFG, you must really like it! I'd never eaten chèvre until I was able to make it myself. I'm thankful for that.

Rain, sounds like you get some good deals on goat cheese! As long as the store milk is fresh and not ultra-pasteurized, I think it should work. For the rennet, I would mix a regular dose in say, 4 tsp of water, then use a half teaspoon of that. Although for double-strength rennet, you may need to experiment and adjust.

Kat, I think that's why cheese recipes always call for heating the milk first, then adding the culture. I've learned that I am a horrible multi-tasker, so when it's a cheese day, I keep to that with only other kitchen or stove projects. Otherwise it would get forgotten for the rest of the day, LOL

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh, I love Chevre. Unfortunately, with no goats it is just too darn expensive to try. I just experiment with all things cow's milk.

The Wykeham Observer said...

I've never had it before, but sounds good! I'm thinking some green tomato jam or blackberry with it on a cracker of any kind! Phil

Renee Nefe said...

When DD was very young our homeschool group visited a "local" goat dairy. I say "local" as the place was over an hour away and was about to move even further away because the neighbors who had all moved in around them had decided that they did not like having so many goats nearby. (genius!) I believe the dairy is still in business unless they sold to someone else as I am pretty sure that their cheeses are available in my grocery store. They only made cheese as the market for the goats milk wasn't large enough. At any rate they did not share the secrets of making the cheese...just milking the goats. but at the end of the tour we could try the cheeses, chevre was one and lots of the others in our group bought that...we ended up buying a cheese that was very similar to Parmesan. :D

Leigh said...

TB, I don't know why cows milk wouldn't work. I'm sure those with finely tuned taste buds could tell the difference, but I think it would be worth it myself.

Phil, both of those ideas sound really good!

Renee, how fun to be able to try a variety of goat cheeses. I've only tasted the ones I make, so I admit I'm often tempted to buy a few at the grocery store just to see if they're different. Too bad they wouldn't share any cheese secrets, but I'm not surprised.

Goatldi said...

Wonderful post!

I need to try out your recipe. May I add if you buy store milk that isn’t raw never buy ultra pasteurized. Will not turn out a cheese. It is like trying to raise the dead from the dead.

Leigh said...

Goatldi, good way to describe ultra pasteurized milk - as dead. I read somewhere that the protein molecules are so changed that our bodies can't even assimilate them so it's no longer a good source of protein. But apparently it does increase shelf life!

Kristin said...

I buy local raw milk (both goat and cow). I purchase the goat milk with the intention of making cheese. I tried to make cheese recently but it was a bust. I used the 'add lemon juice or vinegar' method and it did not turn out. At all! I think I'll have to try your recipe. I have everything needed. I also need to read your post on why you don't use liquid rennet. Always such good info! Thanks for sharing!

Leigh said...

Kristin, I'm curious as to what kind of cheese you were trying to make. Paneer? It's usually pretty fail proof, but that being said, all cheeses can sometimes do weird things. Our chickens get all my failures, lol. If you ever have any questions - just ask! I'm always glad to encourage.

Goatldi said...

Yippie for shelf life. Really?

Seasonal consumption with old ways (fermentation) of preservation. Win win.

Leigh said...

Goatldi, I so agree, although I am freezing some of my cheeses to preserve! ;)

Susan said...

Have you seen the book "The Art of Natural Cheesemaking"? You use kefir instead of cultures, and yes, the cheeses all taste different. My friend uses it for all of her cheesemaking (from her own goats mostly, but she has made cheeses from raw cow and sheep milk as well). Amazing cheeses all around - Jack, Cheddar, Jarlsberg, and chevre, to name just a few. Worth a peek at least if you want to avoid having to keep on buying cultures.

Leigh said...

Susan, oh yes! The Art of Natural Cheesemaking is my go-to book for all things cheese. Except for paneer and now some of the Mediterranean cheeses that don't use cultures, I use kefir for all of my cheesemaking.

Kristin said...

Thanks Leigh! I think it was just plain ole goats milk but it didn't call for rennet. It was just the milk and then an acid. I found the recipe in two different books. I think I was in too big of a hurry. You can't hurry these things! But I'll report back once I try the recipe again. Could be the recipe. Could be the maker. Time will tell!

Leigh said...

Kristin, it sounds like paneer. I've always done well with that one. It's just a matter of being patient and stirring until the milk comes to a simmer. Once the acid is dumped in the curds appear magically. I let mine cool, then drain and press a bit so the curds hold together. I love that cheese.