You might be tempted to think of goat cheese as an ingredient that has gained popularity only recently as an ingredient in fancy salads and pasta dishes. But it's actually been made for thousands of years, and is likely one of the earliest dairy products ever made. It's becoming more mainstream in the United States as a delicious recipe addition and as a popular cheese to make at home, as in the Craftsy course Artisan Cheese Making.
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As a service to the uninitiated -- or gourmands just looking for a refresher to enhance their food and cooking savvy -- here's a primer all about goat cheese.
Photo via Craftsy member Hivetender
How goat cheese is made
Goat cheese may not look all that different from cheese made using cow's milk, but the flavor is unique: it's tangy and slightly sour. This makes it a wonderful complement to flavors as varied as pecans, fruits, and bitter greens. It's also an interesting addition when you make homemade pizza.
Like cheese made with cow's milk, there are a variety of different types of goat cheeses and ways in which they can be made.
In its simplest form, goat cheese is made following these basic steps:
1. Curdle the milk.
This can be done either by letting the milk curdle naturally, or by by adding an acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice to coagulate the milk.
2. Press the curds to drain the liquid.
This can be done as simply as wrapping the curds in cheesecloth and hanging them to let the moisture drip out.
3. Flavoring and shaping.
4. Aging and ripening.
The aging process of goat cheese can be quite varied. Different methods may take as little as a few days to as long as many months. The aging may also take place in a brining solution.
For a more in-depth look at the art of making cheese, check out the Craftsy class Artisan Cheese Making.
Photo via Craftsy member PepLV
Although the steps to make goat cheese are quite simple, the results can be varied. Most will fall within these categories:
Fresh goat cheese:
Fresh goat cheese (that's chèvre in French, if you're feeling fancy) is probably the most famous type of goat cheese. It's soft, and the texture can vary between a cream-cheese-type consistency to spreadable, but dry and crumbly-edged. These cheeses are often shaped such as little logs, hockey-puck-type rounds, or even domes or pyramids. They may be covered in herbs, pepper or even with a layer of ash, which helps create a rind, both protecting the cheese and making it pleasing to the eye.
Photo via Craftsy member Shimmygirl
Aged or hard goat cheese:
Although soft, tangy fresh goat cheese is probably best known, hard goat cheese exists, too. It's aged until it attains a firm or even hard texture. The flavor becomes quite different through the aging, and the flavor is less tangy than fresh goat cheese, instead attaining sweet, nutty or even sharp flavor notes.
Brined goat cheese:
In a category all its own, brined goat cheese is aged in a salty brining solution, which will give it an assertively salty flavor and a unique, slightly crumbly texture. The most famous example is feta cheese, which is often made with either all goat milk or a mixture of sheep and goat milk. Because goat cheese is often made in areas where refrigeration is limited, aged goat cheeses are often heavily treated with salt to prevent decay. As a result, salt has become associated with the flavor of goat cheese.
Some things you may not know about goat cheese
While cheese and milk from cows is most popular in the United States, on an international scale, goat cheese is actually more commonly consumed.
If you want to get technical, cheese made with goat milk has a higher amount of medium-chain fatty acids. You don't necessarily have to know the science behind these acids, but they account for the cheese's signature tangy flavor, and also make goat cheese easier on the digestive system, so those with lactose sensitivities often find goat cheese easier to digest.
Photo via Craftsy member Its Done JJ
Six ways to enjoy goat cheese
1. Deep-fry goat cheese balls and use them to top a delicious salad.
2. Combine arugula, caramelized onions, goat cheese and olive oil as a tomato-less topping for homemade pizza.
3. Sandwich goat cheese, avocado, and strawberry on homemade bread. Perfect picnic fare!
4. Add apples, goat cheese and pecans to the top of a green salad.
5. Honey and goat cheese added to your bread pudding will add a new flavor dimension.
Are you ready for fall? We are! Come back to the Craftsy blog tomorrow to celebrate autumn's arrival with us. We'll be sharing seasonal recipes and inspiring fall-themed craft ideas all day long!
What's your favorite way to enjoy goat cheese?