Easy Cheese

13 Sep

“Next time, I’d like some herbs in mine.”

Park Slope Roof Deck Insanity

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.

Park Slope Roof Deck Insanity

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.

Carroll Gardens Rowhouse

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!

Homemade Chevre

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.

Homemade Chevre

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.


27 Responses to “Easy Cheese”

  1. Jennifer Hess September 13, 2007 at 10:53 am #

    Are you kidding, it looks gorgeous! My mouth is watering!

  2. Mary September 13, 2007 at 11:56 am #

    No, no, the pictures are fine. Well darn if I’m not inspired right this very second! I feel like such a fool paying nearly $7 for that little goat cheese log at the grocery store.

  3. mary September 13, 2007 at 4:37 pm #

    YAY again for you for jumping on the cheese wagon. This is great, I’m so happy to see more people doing this. And the pictures are really good! Makes me want to eat some cheese.

  4. Christina September 13, 2007 at 6:43 pm #

    Ba-a-a-a-a-a-a! (That is my goat-y self cheering for your ode to goat cheese!) I can’t wait to try this in my kitchen.

    Oh, and you drastically underestimate your photographs. We can see what the cheese is like, and we can see it is good.

  5. ann September 13, 2007 at 7:25 pm #

    Hi Jen! — thanks. By the way, those kitten pictures you took? Ridiculous! So cute!

    Mary — Don’t jump too soon! You still need the cultures ;-)

    mary — Thanks! I hope you get a great kitchen again really soon so I can see you make cheese too!

    Ha, Christina! Funny. Thanks for the compliment, you’re too kind :-)

  6. izzy's mama September 13, 2007 at 8:10 pm #

    Ooh.that does sound tempting..Goat cheese is our favorite..hmm.. what about getting sheep’s milk? Wonder how difficult that would be..Maybe we will try it after we make our own yogurt with my new yogurt maker. Where do you buy the starter?

  7. Lydia September 13, 2007 at 9:17 pm #

    Yahoo — I’m completely inspired! And yes, herbs — right now, when they’re at their peak in the garden. Off to Whole Foods….

  8. Kitty September 14, 2007 at 10:53 am #


    Question for you, if you don’t mind answering:
    When you left the chevre to sit overnight and ‘get goaty’ (the phrase made me giggle out loud), did you have it in a fridge or out?

  9. Brooklynguy September 14, 2007 at 4:18 pm #

    I hope your job involves writing, because you are quite talented at that, aside from the foodie stuff, in my opinion…

  10. Mercedes September 14, 2007 at 7:10 pm #

    Oh, I am so doing this as soon as possible. Except, I need the starter culture, where do I get the starter culture?!
    I know where I can buy rennet, but it looks like that’s not the same? I’m currently in new york, so if you know of any places to buy the culture that’d be greatly appreciated!

  11. VegeYum September 15, 2007 at 4:59 am #

    Oh it looks so fabulous. I can’t wait to try.

  12. ann September 15, 2007 at 11:06 am #

    Hi Izzy’s Mama — the starter came in the kit I bought for the Boy for his birthday, but you can order it from the Cheese Queen (there’s a link in the post). I have to figure there’s places to buy it in the City, but I can’t find any online. I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

    Lydia — Fresh herbs, fresh cheese… Could there be a more heavenly ideal?

    Kitty — Good question! We left it out in the open. I think putting it in the fridge would put the cultures to sleep, much like yeast, I have the feeling they don’t like the cold.

    Brooklynguy — Thanks! It does, kind of… I get to edit people sometimes by basically rewriting their stories. Does that count? ;-)

    Mercedes — Dang. I wish I knew of a place! Are you staying in the States for a long time? You could maybe have some delivered. Would be much cheaper than shipping to Damascus!

    VegeYum — Thanks for stopping by.

  13. Christiane September 15, 2007 at 12:12 pm #

    This looks way too easy. I now have to order the kit immediately and give it a try.

  14. Aoi September 15, 2007 at 12:34 pm #

    This is brilliant. I’m off to buy goat milk!

  15. maggie September 15, 2007 at 1:48 pm #

    Wow. All I wish is that my husband liked goat cheese. Then again, there would be more for me…

  16. Luisa September 15, 2007 at 5:06 pm #

    Brilliant, completely brilliant! Man, I wish I was one of your co-workers…

  17. Virginia September 15, 2007 at 9:33 pm #

    The boys won’t eat chevre yet, but then, I might not be in a mood to share. This is definitely going on the list of things to make for this week.

  18. ann September 16, 2007 at 9:50 am #

    Christiane — If you do, I hope you have as much fun as we have been!

    Aoi — Good luck!

    Maggie — It’s the perfect situation.

    Luisa — You help me find a job in publishing and I’ll make you goat cheese every week for a year!

    Virginia — You make chevre, they’ll make mozzarella, and then you can have the best paninis on the face of the earth.

  19. wellunderstood September 16, 2007 at 12:54 pm #

    this is so inspiring! the only cheese i’ve experimented with making was indian paneer, which definitely was not as difficult as i imagined. and, as you point out, this is a much more affordable option! thanks so much for this post.

  20. Kevin September 16, 2007 at 8:45 pm #

    I’m all over this. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the milk. My wife will love you forever if I’m able to pull it off…

  21. ann September 17, 2007 at 8:10 am #

    Heya Wellunderstood! Glad to have you back! It’s funny, right? You psych yourself up for this big project, “I’m going to make cheeese!” and then it’s over in a few minutes. It’s a conspiracy I tellya ;-)

    Kevin — Well, I’m here to improve Canadian/U.S. cross border relations, didn’t you know that?

  22. Julie September 17, 2007 at 12:07 pm #

    Who knew? I always thought making cheese was some largely complicated operation that required huge amounts of milk. Good for you to be so adventurous with all this cheesemaking. (I also think the cheese pictures came out well.)

  23. Lynn D. September 25, 2007 at 1:38 pm #

    Thanks for this inspiring post making the subject sound so approachable. I ordered the culture and two days later went to a nearby farm (here in Oregon) and purchased two quarts of goat milk for $3! ($1 deposit for two Mason jars). That evening I heated up the milk and tossed in the culture. Next morning I drained the curds and in the evening I salted it and packed it in the refrigerator. This a.m. I had whole grain toast with goat cheese, a perfect sliced summer tomato, salt and pepper. I’m in heaven. My cat loved the whey and I’m now looking for ways to use it. Tastes like buttermilk.

  24. ann September 26, 2007 at 7:03 am #

    Julie — I wish I had huge amounts of milk to make cheese with!

    Lynn D. — I am SO pleased!! I am also so jealous that you can get goat’s milk for that cheaply! I’m reading this wonderful book called “The Year of the Goat” and all I can think about is goat cheese and goat’s milk and how much easier this would all be if I had my own goats… Keep me posted if you take your cheese adventures further!

  25. loulou September 26, 2007 at 11:59 am #

    How did I miss this post???

    I am enthralled with the idea of making cheese and am super impressed with your results. How very cool!!!

  26. ann September 26, 2007 at 7:54 pm #

    Hi Loulou!! You absolutely should try making your own cheese, you’re such a cheesehead (that’s compliment in some parts of the U.S.). Maybe we could trade, I’ll fedex you some cultures and you can send me some Languedoc wine ;-)

  27. chris June 25, 2008 at 2:59 pm #

    I dont know about NY but in most states you can buy unpasturized goat milk from the farmer for the purpose of feeding baby animals. thats how we used to get ours for making chevre. Now we just milk our own goats.

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