Cheesemaking books categorize cheeses according to two simple aspects of their creation: Is the curd “cooked” (heated), and is the curd “pressed”? Our fresh chevre falls in the category of an “uncooked, unpressed” cheese. Here are the steps.
We milk twice a day.
As in most industrialized countries, public health concerns dictate that “fresh” (e.g. – consumed within 60 days of production) milk products be made using pasteurized milk. Pasterization kills most, but not all, bacteria. The very few bacteria that survive (one in ten million – a “log 7 kill”) pose no public health threat during the 2-3 weeks of shelf life for refrigerated fluid milk and other dairy products. Cheeses can be made legally using “raw” milk if the cheeses are aged 60 days before consumption.
We pasteurize using what’s called a “vat pasteurizer,” a fancy name for a stainless steel kettle equipped with a agitator to stir the milk gently, and a cluster of three food-grade thermometers. One thermometer makes a temperature recording chart of the milk temperature, and the others independently indicate milk and “foam space” temperatures.
The purpose of all of this hardware is to heat the milk to at least 145 deg. F, the airspace over the milk to 150 deg. F, and to maintain these temperatures for 30 minutes. After rendering the milk “safe”, we cool it to 75-85 deg. F before adding the cheese starter culture.
Curds & Whey
Once the milk has been pasteurized, we gently stir in a “mesophilic” (medium temperature loving) bacteria culture, and “rennet”. This is left undisturbed overnight to turn into yogurt. The cheese cultures we use are manufactured by Rhone Poulenc in France, and sold to boutique cheesemakers like ourselves by a distributor named Dairy Connections in Madison, WS.
The “rennet” we use is produced by Chrs Hansen through microbial fermentation, rather than obtained in the traditional way from calves’ stomachs. As such, it may be considered a non animal product, and is labeled as Kosher and vegetarian.
Once the curd has formed, we drain it either by ladling it into muslin bags, or into individual molds. The bulk of our curd is “pre-drained” in bags before having salt added and forming into small 1-pound cylindrical logs.
Eighty-five percent of the liquid, or whey, drains away simply by gravity. We pump the collected whey back to the goats’ water trough, where they happily recycle it.