Let the cheesemaking begin

In my squalid kitchen, cheesemaking has officially begun!

More than two years ago I ordered chevre culture from New England Cheesemaking Company, promptly stuck it in my freezer, and forgot all about it. I had just befriended a guy in Berkeley who had goats and I had delusions of getting milk from him. It didn’t happen. But now, oh now, I can finally make my own.

But it’s not like I have an excess of milk. I’ve resorted to milking Bebe only once a day (Fiasco Farm said she does this, with healthy results, for over 10 years). Just as I get less milk from my Nigerian Dwarf goats, who work great in small backyards, I don’t mind getting less milk if it means I don’t have to milk twice a day. It’s not like I’m in the cheese business! I let Orla, Bebe’s daughter have access to her mom during the day (she’s milking for me!) and pen her up at night so I get the morning milk.

So, it took me four days to stockpile half a gallon of Bebe’s sweet, creamy milk. The directions on the chevre package said to add one packet to a gallon of milk, so I just heated up the milk to 86 degrees, and sprinkled in what looked like half the package. It was hard to see four days worth of milk used in an experiment like this. What if it didn’t work?

For 12 hours, the cheese set up in an undisturbed area. I heard that the culture can be finicky, so I didn’t peek at all. That night, when I finally looked into the bowl, the milk had pulled away from the sides and had two distinct layers: there was just this creamy, yogurt-like substance, which I ladled into cheese cloth, and the clear liquid, the whey, which I put in a bottle for drinking later.

I hung the cheese to drain, above the sink, using (as you can see) the rope from our cheap blinds. For using only half a gallon of milk, this cheese ball seemed massive! Of course, it was mostly residual whey. The next morning, the ball was deflated and hard. I peeled off the cheesecloth and viola! A white cluster of something—cheese—in the shape of a deflated ball of cheese. I whipped it up, a bit, added a shake of salt, and then, like I saw at Dee Harley Goat Cheese, molded it into plastic wrap with a bunch of pepper sprinkled on it.

How’s it taste? Pretty good, but it’s a little dry, and not as creamy as I had hoped. Later I read that I’m supposed to put the curds into these plastic cups with holes in them, and let the cheese drain for two days. So what I made was fomage blanc. Now I need to buy–or make–some chevre cheese molds. Then I want to try making St. Maure–a penicillin infused goat cheese. And, with the right cultures, there’s some hope of making mozzarella.

9 responses to “Let the cheesemaking begin

  1. all you need for mozzarella is citric acid. You can get that at your health food store. it’s super easy, I make it all the time. the recipe I use is from the New England cheese making supply.

  2. i use mini cupcake molds for my cheese and no cultures, just yogurt (which actually is a mes culture)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/81951381@N00/2533853622/ i made nine rounds out of 2 liters of goat milk. i bet yours is better though since its from your Bebe!

    mozzarella is supposed to be pretty simple, but i havent made that yet. i do make feta though and its damn good. yumm. i’m a cheese making fool!

    there are million things you can do with the whey too, like make beet kvass or fermented drinks like elderberry flower drink. or use whey to make bread. whey is great for making homemade mayo that will last for a month. sorry for all the ass-vice, heehee, here is the link for what to do with whey on my food blog

  3. really, it’s that easy with goat milk?

  4. It’s that easy with any milk!

    (The individual cultures become more important if you’re going to age a cheese.)

  5. i spent a whole summer making mozz at cp. come to the restaurant and i’ll show you how to pull mozz so it’s tender and sweet. it’s one of my favorite things to do. you don’t need any cultures for it, either, just rennet and white vinegar. we get all of our starters, rennet, cultures, etc. from the dairy connection in wisconsin. i still have your recorder…..can i bring it by this weekend?

  6. hey novella, some of our neighbors have goats and i am making a batch of feta. it’s going pretty well. Feta is easy, plus it feels like pickling because you let it sit in salt for five days. I like the goat milk for feta better than cowsmilk.

  7. Cooool. Doesn’t it feel GREAT to be eating your own homemade cheese out of your own home-raised milk? (Even if it doesn’t turn out as fabulously as you were imagining, LOL?) Still experimenting w/ the cheese-making, w/ everything else you’ve ventured into, since this post?

    I’m wayyyyy too busy (certainly not to be confused with: way too impatient/lazy of a so-called “cook”) to mess w/ all of the different cultures & instructions & steps & etc.

    I make various “fresh” goat & cow cheeses (out of my own raw, grass-fed, goats’ & cow’s milk) w/o any rennet or other purchased cultures – just a sploosh of vinegar (apple cider) if I happen to be making it out of fresh milk that hasn’t had a chance to set around long enough for the natural enzymes to start working their magic. Otherwise, I just make cheese out of the clabbered milk. . . don’t even need to add vinegar to that, if you don’t want to – don’t even need to “cook” it, if you don’t want to, either.

    Thing is w/ my haphazard “methods”: no idea what the end result will be, LOL. That’s what makes it fun/interesting, though!

    I have a “microwave mozzerella” recipe that I got from an area, fellow dairy-goat-raising/showing/milking/etc. chick, that’s supPOSED to be super-easy & super-fast, that I keep saying I’m going to try, someday. . . for like: 10 years now, LOL. But it involves *gasp* purchased culturing kinda stuff – citric acid & maybe rennet, too, if I remember correctly? Too complicated for my by-the-seat-of-my-pants approaches. I can dig around to find/post if you’d like to try it, though.

  8. I just saw your blog via Homegrown’s. Loving reading about your farming endeavors and the book sounds good! I was wondering about your goats and the amount of space they require. I had my heart set on a goat (we keep chickens and have had 60+ at a time) but decided against it after reading a book on dairy goats, since I have only a half acre (less is fenced and not built on) with no browse and I was concerned that keeping one goat would be a bad idea and hay would be pricey. What kind of goats are you milking ( besides the Nigerian dwarf, which I had not considered)? Any words of wisdom or source thereof you can recommend? Thanks!

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