Monday, June 11, 2012

Super Easy Chevre Goat Cheese!

And you shall have goats' milk enough for your food, for the food of your household, and for the maintenance for your maidservants. Proverbs 27:27

Chevre.  Yes, I broke out the good china for this one!
What's creamy, buttery, delicious and great on just about anything? Goat cheese, baby! If you want to sound sophisticated you can call it chevre which is just a generic French word for goat cheese. Why is it that everything sounds so cosmopolitan in French? What ever you decide to call it, you should definitely try this simple recipe for chevre. Don't be intimidated by the cheese making process, I promise you this is one of the easiest recipes you will ever find!

You will need only 4 ingredients: 1 gallon of goat milk (you can half this recipe),  rennet (do not use junket rennet tablets...they will not work), a culture and 1/4 cup of water.   I use a double strength vegetable rennet and a little goes a long way! You can make chevre with pasteurized goat milk but if you have access to fresh raw goat milk the flavor tends to be more complex and buttery.  My Nubian goats are given grains and alfalfa as well as being free range grazers so they bring a distinct floral, somewhat savory and what I call summery flavor to our cheese that we absolutely love.  

Okay, are you ready for this?  Pour your milk into a large container, I used my crock pot because I do not like to use metal. If you must use metal make sure it is stainless steel so it will be non-reactive. Your milk can be cold or room temperature, I have done this both ways and the process has worked out well either way.

Step 1: Pour you goat milk into your container
Next add 1/4 teaspoon ( or 1/8 teaspoon if you are halving the recipe) of your culture and stir well with a wooden spoon. You do not want to use a metal spoon.

Now, add 1 drop of your liquid rennet to your 1/4 cup of water and mix to blend. I told you a little goes a long way! Take 2 Tablespoons (use 1 Tablespoon if you are halving the recipe) of this mixture and add it to your milk. Stir well.  Cover your container with a cloth napkin or dish towel and secure with a rubber band.

Let your milk, culture and rennet sit for 24 hours.
Simple so far, right? You will let your milk mixture sit out for 24 hours. I just let mine sit on the counter in an out of the way spot but if you are short on space you can place it in your oven, just be sure not to "preheat" while your milk is in there! During this time your milk will thicken into curds.

Curds and whey!
The next day you will want to drain your cheese curds from the whey which has separated during the 24 hour period.  Place a large colander in a large bowl and line with a fine butter muslin, cheese cloth or you can use a cotton pillow case. I used an old white cotton pillow case that I cut open along the seams and it worked wonderfully.  Do Not use the cheese cloth that you find in grocery stores, it is not fine enough and it will not work! 

Colander inside a bowl to catch the whey that will drip off.

I used a king size pillow case and it worked fine.
Carefully pour your curds into the colander, it should be gelled and have the consistency of a thick yogurt.  You do not have to worry too much if they fall apart some.

Tie up the corners of your cheese cloth to enclose the curds and be sure to keep the ends inside the colander or the whey will drip all over your counter.  I used a rubber band to secure the bag closed.

Curds securely wrapped and whey dripping in bowl.

You may need to pour off they whey into another container so that the colander doesn't sit "in" the whey and so it can finish dripping.  You can save your whey for baking bread, cooking with, or give it to your animals, they love it! Let your curds sit for another 24 hours.  I placed the other half of my pillow case over the top to cover it.

Almost done, I can hardly wait!

This is the moment you have been waiting! Untie your cheese cloth and transfer your chevre to a clean bowl.  Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt or kosher salt (do not use iodized salt) and blend well.  Remember to use only 1/2 teaspoon if you have halved this recipe.

Add salt to taste.
You can get creative and combine herbs and spices to your cheese or eat it plain!  I like garlic, dill and chives, or parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  Zatar is another wonderful blend of Middle Eastern spices that pairs perfectly with chevre.  Traditionally it is mixed with olive oil and baked into the crust of flat bread but I like to just mix it into the cheese or top it off and eat it! Yum.

Store your cheese in small containers in the refrigerator.  You can also freeze your chevre. Just allow it to thaw in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours before eating.

This makes about 2 pounds.
Whew. That was hard work wasn't it!  Give this recipe a try and you can impress all your friends, that is if you don't eat it all first! Enjoy!  :)


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tomato, Basil, Goat Cheese Salad

Caprese with a twist!
Absolutely nothing says summer like a simple yet marvelous tomato, basil and cheese salad. Period.

A few simple ingredients are all you need.
Chevre, so divinely simple to make and so very delicious, adds a delightful twist to this classic caprese salad.
What could easier than slicing up a couple fresh off the vines tomatoes, chopping a handful of just picked basil, throwing in some chevre and adding a dash of sea salt? Pure, unadulterated bliss. :) Of course you can always add a balsamic vinaigrette or olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing if you want to snazz it up a bit.

Salad for two anyone?
I love that I can make this salad just by going into my backyard and picking the ingredients and then adding my homemade raw goat milk cheese. What could be better than that? Bon Appetit!

P.S.  A recipe for making my raw milk chevre is soon to follow so stay tuned by joining my RSS feed, you won't want to miss it!


Eating Local & The Backyard Garden

Echos of sunshine and kisses of rain produce glorious gardens!
The trend towards buying locally grown food and supporting your community farmers while reducing your carbon footprint is on the upswing and while I fully support this movement I also encourage people to try their hand at growing an edible garden in their own backyard... you can't get anymore local than that!

Our garden has transformed over the years from a few tomato, pepper and squash plants to a veritable produce stand in which I can tantalize our taste buds, provide fresh nutritious food, increase the variety of veggies we eat and save money! We learn more about gardening each year and as our garden grows so does our confidence.

Why not try a small garden of your own?  Small raised beds or container gardens may be perfect for someone with a small yard while the benefits you'll reap are big!  Nothing beats the fresh off the vine taste of vegetables grown by your own hand.

Roma tomatoes = super rich sauces and fabulous salsas!
This year we've planted our biggest garden yet and it is looking good if I don't say so myself.  We have Roma and Rutgers tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, pumpkin, sweet corn, bush and pole beans, sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, cantaloupe, eggplant, okra, watermelon, sunflowers, cucumbers, asparagus, herbs, and we even planted a banana tree for a little taste of the tropical.

Bananas in North Carolina? Yes, please!
I'm just starting to see the "fruits" of my labor so to speak.  My zucchini and squash are blooming as well as my bush beans attracting those pollinating powerhouses, honey bees.

Zucchini bloom and bees!
Bush bean flowers are so pretty!
Along with my usual sweet basil, I've planted another variety called Magic Mountain basil.  It is a large, beautiful plant producing lovely green and purple leaves with a mouth watering flavor and it attracts bees and butterflies too!  Thank you to Shagreen Nursery & Arboretum for this fabulous discovery!

Magic Mountain Basil.... so good.
It won't be long now, before we are harvesting our first fruits and I can't wait! Summer time, gotta love it!

Baby zucchini