The art of making goat cheese ranges from a quick and simple process, to a long and complicated procedure. The soft spreadable form of goat cheese known as chevre is probably the best known of the soft cheeses; however, many other forms of soft cheeses can also be easily made with goat milk.
The large quantities of three fatty acids, known as capric, caproic and caprylic acid, are responsible for the unique aroma and tangy taste of cheese made from goat milk. Cheeses made from the milk of other animals can not duplicate the taste of goat cheese, because the other milks do not have the abundance of these three medium-chain fatty acids.
Water comprises almost 90% of milk. The water portion of milk is known as whey. Cheese is made from the solid portion of milk, called the curd.
There are two methods for separating the whey from the curd for making cheese, but both methods work by acidifying the milk. In the first method, bacteria are introduced into the milk and allowed to multiply. The bacterial action converts the milk sugar, lactose, into lactic acid. The longer the bacteria are allowed to remain active, the more lactose is converted.
This process reduces the lactose content of ripened and aged cheeses to about 5% or less. Because most of the lactose has been removed from these products, they are often recommended as milk alternatives for lactose intolerant individuals.
The second method uses an acidifying agent, usually vinegar or lemon juice, to create the separation. As the acid is introduced into the milk, curds begin forming almost immediately. When drained, these curds make a soft, spreadable cheese.
Although some forms of goat cheese do require carefully controlled conditions and special ingredients, there are several soft cheeses that can be easily made with simple ingredients found at the grocery. Two recipes are given below.
Recipe 1. Goat Milk Ricotta Cheese. Heat 2 quarts of goat milk to 185° F. Remove from heat, and stir in 2 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice. The milk should begin to immediately form small curds that stick to the whisk or spoon as you continue stirring. If not, add a few more drops of the vinegar or lemon juice until curds form.
Pour the mixture into a cheesecloth-lined colander placed over a bowl, or in the sink, to drain. Let drain at room temperature for several hours until the desired consistency is reached. Remove the curds from the cheesecloth, and store in a closed container in the refrigerator. Use as a spread, or in recipes that call for ricotta cheese.
Recipe 2. Goat Milk Quark Cheese. Heat 2 quarts of goat milk to 88° F, and stir in 2 tablespoons buttermilk with active cultures. The buttermilk will work better if it is fresh. If the buttermilk is nearing its expiration date, add an extra tablespoon or two. Cover the pot, and let set at room temperature for 24 hours.
Pour the thickened mixture, which should look similar to yogurt, into a cheesecloth-lined colander placed over a bowl. Cover, and refrigerate for 12-24 hours until drained. Remove the cheese from the cheesecloth and store in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Quark cheese is similar to a thick sour cream, and is excellent in baked goods, including cheesecake. It can also be used for dips, or as a substitute for ricotta.
If desired, a small amount of cheese salt, kosher salt, or other non-iodized salt may be mixed into the cheese according to taste.
Enjoy your easy, homemade goat cheese!