Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Goat Cheese!

When I was at student at Virginia Tech studying Dairy Science, I had an internship one summer at a rather prestigious farm in northern Virginia working on their small private dairy where me made many kinds of cheese and other dairy products from a few Brown Swiss cows and one Jersey. I got quite a bit of experience with cheese making. It was the kind of farm where money was of little object, so we had really nice equipment and the ability to experiment without the thought of how much it was costing. Oh what a rough life. Moving on..........back to the real world of today.

On Monday of last week (Columbus Day) one of the two farriers we use came out to trim Huck's hooves (to learn more about Danielle's adventures with Huck, check out her endurance riding blog). Anita (the farrier) has a small farm, Shantara Acres, where she milks about a dozen Alpine Dairy goats. Well, when Anita came out we talked to her about getting some milk from her for me to get back into practice making cheese. That evening Danielle went over just after milking time and came home with two gallons of very fresh goat milk.

I pasteurized the milk on Tuesday using the LTLT method, which uses lower heat for a longer period of time. In LTLT pasteurization, you bring the milk to 145 degrees Fahrenheit and hold at that temperature for 30 minutes. LTLT pasteurization is preferred by most artisan cheese makers because it does not risk denaturing the proteins like the HTST method, where you bring the milk up to 161 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds.

After pasteurizing the milk, I cooled the milk back down and refrigerated. On Tuesday morning, I ordered some direct set Chevre cultures from New England Cheese Making Equipment. The cultures arrived on Friday and I set out to make some cheese. I warmed the milk to 86 degrees Fahrenheit and added the Chevre culture (which came premixed with a vegetable rennet). I allowed the culture to rehydrate in the milk for 30 seconds and then stirred for two minutes with and up and down motion. At that point I covered the pot and let the microbes and enzymes do their magic for about 15 hours.

Saturday morning, we got up and went to the farmers market. While we were out, we picked up 6 plastic tumblers from Walmart, which I have turned into cheese molds. I used a torch to heat a nail, which I used to make holes in the tumblers every inch or so through which the whey can drain.

After sterilizing our equipment, we took the top off the pot to find that our curd had set very well. There was a good layer of whey floating above and around the curd. I cut the curd into roughly one inch cube with a stainless steel knife and Danielle ladled the curds into cheese-cloth lined molds. We had enough curds from one gallon of milk to fill three molds. In one of the molds, I spooned herbs de provence as she was spooning the curds. We allowed them to drain for about twelve hours. Then we unmolded the cheese and I used a rubber spatula to press the wonderful Chevre into Ramekins. We've been enjoying it for days.

I'm very happy to know that I'm not too rusty when it comes to cheese making! I want to try making Saint Maure soon, which is sort of like a goat version of Camembert.