Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Cheese

Happy Holidays my lovelies! Again, I must apologize for the lack of posts. I have a slew of happenings that I have been meaning to relate to you, but when it rains, it freakin' pours. For the past month, my nephew has been in the hospital. Last week, he was airlifted from Dallas to Cincinnati, where he is now at the children's hospital receiving excellent care. My daughter and I are flying out there tomorrow to help out and help drive my sister and her three boys back home to Dallas. The stress and uncertainty has been unbelievable, but I have to say, the Ronald McDonald House has been an amazing beacon of light in this mess. For all the crap I have talked about the fast food chain, the foundation has done excellent work for families with sick children in times of crisis by setting them up with a free place to stay, food, activities for kids, and an incredible amount of generosity, kindness, and unconditional love. As an advocate for healthy food, the irony is not lost on me. However, I thought people should know about some of the good work that the RM Foundation does.

I didn't want to let the season pass without sharing something with you all so I thought I would post about my Christmas cheese. Everyone knows how tasty goat chèvre is, but something that you might not be aware of is that the breed of goat can determine the flavor of the milk and cheese. Nigerian Dwarf goats, the breed we keep here, have a milk that is sweeter than the cow's and lacks that twang that we are used to in a good chèvre. In the past, my cheese has come out tasting like a creamy ricotta, lacking that depth of flavor that one looks for in a chèvre. Fortunately, my chef friend Tabitha of Friend in Cheeses Jam Co. gave me a tip of adding a touch of lemon zest. It doesn't replicate the flavor of the classic chèvre, but it increases the zing on the palate. This is also a great way to make chèvre with cow's milk, as the flavor of the milk is similar to the Nigerian Dwarf's. Here's how to do it.

Nigerian Dwarf (or cow) Chèvre

  • chèvre culture - available from cheese supply stores. I got mine from Hoegger Goat Supply. I prefer a culture that you can use direct set, rather than creating a mother (like a sourdough culture requires). We don't make enough cheese around here to warrant a mother.
  • rennet
  • 1 gallon of fresh milk
  • lemon zest, I prefer that of the Meyer lemon
  • soft cheese molds or cheese cloth
Pour milk into a non-reactive pot and get it to 72 degrees. Add 1/8 tsp. of chèvre culture (or as directed on culture packet) and stir until dissolved and combined. Add 2/5 of a drop of rennet by adding 5 Tbsp. of water to a jar with a drop of rennet and then extracting 2 Tbsp. of the watered down rennet mixture and adding it to the milk. Stir. Now add lemon zest. I only use the zest of half a lemon. This is really a personally taste thing, so feel free to improvise. Let sit covered in a warm place, ideally 72 degrees, for 18-24 hours. At the end of the resting period, you will see that the cheese solids have coagulated into a firm, creamy mass in the center of the pot. You can check for set by pressing gently against the cheese near the edge of the pot with the back of your fingers. The cheese will yield to the pressure and you will see the whey having clearly separated. Pull out your molds and spoon the solids with a slotted spoon, preferably one of those flat ones used for this type of thing, into each mold. This recipe fills up three of these small basket molds. Pace the molds on a deep tray and cover. Allow them to drain for two days. Pouring off whey as needed. I usually let them sit in the refrigerator. You can also use a cheese cloth and hang it to drain. Some people salt their cheese after it has fully drained. I usually add the salt as I am spooning the solids into the molds. This way, I can alternate solids and salt to make sure that it is seasoned throughout. Once you have finished draining and salting the cheese, wrap it up in saran wrap or put in a glass container in the fridge. Serve with your best preserves. For a holiday party, I usually serve the cheese with my tomato jam, pepper jelly, green tomato chutney, and chipotle plum sauce. Delish!

I hope all of you out there are having a wonderful and stress free holiday season. A merry merry and happy happy to each and everyone of you. 


  1. My daughter was born 2 months early and had to stay in the hospital for a month. We were also blessed to find a temporary "home" at the Ronald McDonald House and I can't say how wonderful it was to be able to stay nearby (we were sent to a hospital over two hours away so "hoteling" it would have been very, very stressful on our budget). I can't say how wonderful that charity is & we make our charitable donations to them now & I tell everyone about it! Glad your nephew & family found the RMH!

  2. Our family has had to stay at the Ronald McDonald house for my nephew's open heart surgeries, on more than one trip to the hospital and they have always been so generous, heart-touching and a blessing!!

    I am with you, I'm not a big lover of McDonald's food, but I ALWAYS find something to stop and get from McDonald's here and there just because we've experienced to goodness that they help bring in the world --- their giving makes a REAL difference in the daily lives of SO MANY who really need it at the worst time. And the Ronald McDonald House is a great organization to give your dollars upon giving time for charity, like you said, absolutely! Go McDonald's!!

    I hope your nephew will be okay.


  3. I have found that freezing chevre brings out the 'zippiness.' I have both Nigis and LaManchas, and after freezing, the chevre from both breeds tastes pretty much the same.
    I also noticed that some direct set chevre cultures worked too fast, so I added 2-4 times the amount of milk called for, and the slower culturing made for a stronger tasting cheese.
    Anyway, I love your blog, thanks for sharing your adventures.

  4. thanks for the tip! do you think you can cut down on the amount of culture?

  5. I use a direct set with the rennet mixed in already, the whole content of the packet is like 1/8th of a teaspoon, so I increased the milk rather than decreased the culture, but you could try it. Or try increasing the culturing time before adding rennet.