Post updated March 2017: new batch of cheese photos added
This is my first ever attempt at making cheese – a cheese that I only started to really enjoy a few years ago, but I absolutely adore it now and use it often in my baking.
One of my favourite uses of goats’ cheese is the simplest of tarts: a sheet of thin puff pastry topped with cooked beetroot, walnuts and dotted all over with goats’ cheese before baking.
Goats’ cheese is very easy to make, needing minimal input and merely minutes of hands-on time. When it curdles, courtesy of the lemon juice and vinegar, you get tiny flecks of the curd floating around, rather than large lumps: it doesn’t look promising to begin with, but trust it.
You do need a lot of milk to give a sizeable quantity of cheese, and a huge proportion of it (the whey) gets discarded during the process, although I have used the whey as the liquid component to a bread dough – it works a treat!
Plain or flavoured
Once the cheese has been left overnight to finish straining, it is ready to eat just as it is. You can also flavour it at this stage before shaping or putting into ramekins: caramelised onions, pepper, chilli, chives, tarragon immediately spring to mind.
I split this batch of goats’ cheese into three types:
- a plain log: just rolled and left as it is
- chilli and pepper goats’ cheese: 1 teaspoon of chopped dried chillies mixed with 100g cheese and coated in crushed mixed peppercorns
- chives goats’ cheese: about a tablespoon of freshly chopped chives with 100g cheese and coated in fresh chives
Goats’ cheese is a very easy cheese to handle and it shapes like a dream.
For a log of goats’ cheese, place the cheese on clingfilm into a roughly rectangular mound and roll it up fairly tightly in the clingfilm, rolling gently to get a smooth cylinder. Chill to firm up and then unroll.
You can then slice off pieces for rolling it in herbs, pepper or for just leaving plain.
An economical cheese:
Perhaps unexpectedly, it is cheaper to make goats’ cheese than to buy it: cost-wise, it costs just under £9 to make 1kg of the goats’ cheese (the goats’ milk is fairly pricey to buy), whereas the cheaper commerical goats’ cheeses cost from about £12 per kilo. Mind you, many of the supermarket soft goats’ cheeses come in at around £16 per kilo.
Granted, that might not be the hugest of savings compared to other things that can be made at home, but it does taste so much better than bought goats’ cheese! And it gives you free reign to tailor the flavours to account for personal preferences rather than be restricted with what is sold.
Recipe: goats’ cheese – makes about 350g
- 2 litres full-fat fresh goat milk
- the juice of three large lemons
- 20ml cider vinegar
- ½ tablespoon fine sea salt
(1) Put the milk into a large saucepan and heat to 85°C, stirring from time to time.
(2) Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and vinegar, stirring for a couple of minutes until milk has curdled. NB: it looks as if it has really not curdled much at all but trust it; the very tiny curds formed will be strained shortly to give the wonderful cheese.
(3) Stir in the salt until it has dissolved and leave to stand for about 10 minutes.
(4) While the milk mixture is standing, line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth, with some of the cloth hanging over the colander and place over a large bowl: you need several layers of cloth to ensure you catch all the precious curds.
(5) Slowly pour or ladle the milk mixture onto the cheesecloth: the curds will remain on top of the cheese cloth, leaving the clear liquid (the whey) in the bowl. Discard the whey or use it to replace the water in a bread dough.
(6) Gather up the cloth over-hang cloth and tie the top with a rubber band. Lift the bundle out of the colander and hang over the bowl and leave in the fridge to drip fully overnight. This is easiest using another elastic band, using it to attach the bundle to a wooden spoon which then gets suspended over a bowl.
(7) Open up the cheesecloth and scoop the wonderful goats’ cheese to a bowl. Scrape the cheese cloth to get as much of the precious cheese as you can.
The cheese is now ready to be used as it is or it can be flavoured at this stage. Keep wrapped in an airtight container in the fridge. Use within about a week.