I have always loved cheese. When I was young, there were about four type of cheese for me: Cheddar, American, Swiss and the stuff my parents ate.
At this point in my life there is a much wider array of options available to my palate and the choice is more often ruled by my mood than anything else.
Just so we don't start out with a misunderstanding, I don't have happy cheese and sad cheese, it's more of an equation of which cheese am I in the mood to eat.
O.K. So, cheese. Since I started really thinking about it cheese has had some mysteries for me. How much milk do you need to make cheese and how much cheese will the milk produce.
In culinary school we "made" mozzarella. Not really. We learned how to roll the curd into little balls not how to actually make the curd. Unless I was horsing around at the beginning of class. It's possible. Does anybody out there that went to CCA with me remember?
Hence the mystery.
Goat cheese was a bit of a learning curve for me. The first goat cheeses that I tried did not really float my boat. They were a little drier than I would want from a fresh cheese and had reasonably boring flavor.
In 2002 I went to France for the first time and my eyes were opened to the many possibilities that goat cheese could present, soft fresh cheese, bloomy rind aged cheese, drier aged cheeses. the possibilities seemed endless as did the flavors! And all this from one type of milk. WOW!
I made my first batch of fresh goat cheese a few weeks ago and it turned out really well. It was cool to see it come together as the fog of mystery started to lift.
Still my question of how much cheese you get from the milk is still in the formula stage since I buy milk by the gallon and cheese by the pound. I forgot to weigh the milk before I started so for now we will have go with this understanding: one half gallon of goat milk (about 2 liters) yields about 7-12 oz of cheese (198 g) depending on how dry (firm) you want the final product to be.
The best part is that the basic cheese is easy and fun to make.
Here is the recipe:
1/2 C Water
1 tsp Citric Acid
2 Qt Goat Milk
1 tsp Kosher Salt (more or less to taste)
Herbs (if you want them)
3 qt Sauce Pan
Stainless Slotted Spoon
For the thermometer you can use a regular analog type or an electronic one.
The two types of thermometers have upsides and downsides. The analog type should be frequently calibrated daily (downside) and are inexpensive (upside). The electronic type read the temperature more quickly and are far more accurate (upsides) but they will cost more (downside).
I for one, use an electronic thermometer for the sake of saving time and accuracy of my temps. I use a Comark PDT300 thermometer. It reads the temperature very quickly and accurately and the battery life is great. You can get one at a restaurant supply store or online for about twenty dollars, I think it is worth the investment.
Let's make cheese!
Add the citric acid to the water and set aside for it to dissolve.
Pour the goat milk into the sauce pan and turn on the head to medium.
You are going to heat the milk to 190-195F while stirring occasionally with the slotted spoon. On my stove it took about twenty minutes for the milk to reach the final temperature.
When the milk is ready it will be a little frothy and steam a bit. See the edges of the pan above.
Add the citric acid mixture and gently stir for about 30 seconds.
Remove from the heat and let the pot stand for ten minutes or so.
the curds should be visible at this point. If you draw the spoon back slowly over the surface of the liquid, you should see the white curds and a translucent yellow liquid.
Line the colander with cheesecloth and gently pour the contents of the sauce pan into the colander.
I set the colander into the top of a large pan to catch the whey.
I don't know why I do this as I have, so far, always thrown out the whey as I don't know what to do with it.
The curds will begin to collect in the colander as the whey slowly drains out.
After about 30 minutes the curd will look like really wet mashed potatoes.
Add your kosher salt to taste. remember that the salt will taste much stronger while the cheese is hot, so a little salty is good as long as you will be eating the cheese cold.
Once the cheese has started to firm up a bit, I place it in the refrigerator over night to dry out a little more.
Lastly I pack it into a small airtight container - or just sit down with a little bread and eat! My wife had purchased a fresh cheese from a local specialty store so we had a chance to have some side-by-side comparison.
I don't know which was better, they were just different. Mine more creamy with a subtle flavor, the other more firm with a stronger flavor. I have to say that I like mine more, but then again, I'd judt made it. Pride has to count for something!