“Next time, I’d like some herbs in mine.”
That’s what I think I heard my boss mumble over the symphony of oohing, aahing, lipsmacking and marriage proposals emanating from a group of my co-workers who were huddled around my friend’s cubicle, snacking on a small button of chevre that I’d brought in for them yesterday.
My co-workers love cheese as much, if not more, than the general human population, but they wouldn’t go this gaga over just any goat cheese I’d purchased from the Greenmarket. No, I’d brought in some of the chevre the Boy and I had made last weekend.
It was nice to bask in their praise. My job is pivotal, but oftentimes thankless. If I do it right, no one should ever have to think about me, but when something goes wrong, wham, there I am, directly in the line of fire. So it was nice to bask in their adoration for a few minutes, especially since it was barely warranted.
How could my well-earned moment of idolatry be unwarranted? Because making chevre is so easy. The hardest part is finding the milk.
I started with my favorite goat cheese lady at the Greenmarket, but alas, the state of New York has a set of prohibitively expensive regulations that forbids her and many other small goat farmers to bottle their milk. I guess that’s why you see so many people selling goat’s cheeses and products at the greenmarkets, but no milk. Sigh.
I finally tracked down some half-gallons at Whole Foods. Each one was about $7, but one jug made more than a pound of cheese. If a 4 oz. Medallion of Coach Farm’s chevre is $6 at Fresh Direct, and there’s 16 ozs. in a pound, that’s $24, subtract the price of the milk and $1 for the culture packet, and… What? Hello! A savings of $16! I’d say that’s a good result!
So, if making your own goat’s cheese is both cost effective and easy, why does no one tell us this when we first earn our foodie stripes? Bah! It’s a conspiracy I tell you! If they let on to how easy it is we’d never pay a premium for it.
So, how easy is it to make your own chevre? Allow me to explain.
Once the milk was procured, it rode the subway home with me, where one half gallon was dumped immediately into a large non-reactive pot and brought up to 86°F. We added a packet of starter culture, stirred well and then poured the inoculated milk into a Tupperwear container that it sat in overnight and got all good and goaty. The next morning we strained the curds, let them drip for a few hours, salted them and packed the cheese into molds. And then we were done.
Et voila, that’s it. That’s all there is to making chevre at home!
With the other half-gallon I made some goat’s milk feta. This was a little more complicated (but not much) and is still brining in the fridge. I did learn one very important lesson while making my feta. If you make your own cheese and use rennet, do not use municipal water supply water to dissolve the rennet. It will kill it. I found this out the hard way. Now you have been warned.
Yep, getting the mail out of the mailbox is more strenuous than making goat cheese!
Sure there’s some more complicated ones in our future, like a fresh French style cheese that needs a starter culture that must be cultivated, much like a poolish. Aside from time and the need to, say, maybe purchase a mini wine fridge in which to age cheeses and a few packets of mold, making cheese at home is silly easy and easy on the wallet.
The preconception that making your own cheese is difficult and expensive must be another one of those myths hoisted upon us by the agribusiness giants. They’ve convinced us that making bread takes too much time and isn’t worth it (wrong), and that beans from cans are easier and better (wrong), and that couscous is supposed to be sticky and gross (wrong), and that biscuits are supposed to pop out of a cardboard tube (so very wrong) and that cheese should be bright orange and individually wrapped. Wrongwrongwrongwrongwrong.
Commodities prices are skyrocketing due to a complicated, global game of Risk that’s inflating the prices of commercially manufactured milk, cereal and bread. Heck, it’s gotten so bad that the Italians have called for a pasta strike. But the price of milk from a cow, sheep or goat that grazes on grass probably hasn’t gone up a dollar.
So get out there my fellow foodies! Do your part to fight global warming, our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and support a local farmer all in one fell swoop. Make your own cheese!
P.S. Sorry the pictures aren’t better, cheese is really hard to photograph.