by: Summer Cataldo, Emerald C Ranch
This recipe is from Goats Produce Too! The Udder Real Thing, Volume 2 by Mary Jane Toth. I'd highly recommend that book as a clear, concise, quick-start book to cheese making. I've added a few notes and adjustments based on my experiences making it over the years.
You'll need to collect 2 gallons of fresh, clean goat's milk. In my case, milking only a few Nigerian Dwarf Goats at a time, that means planning a couple of days in advance to make sure I have the 2 gallons in time for cheese making. You'll also have a lot of whey left over from your cheese-making, so you might want to start thinking about what you'll do with it.
For cheese making, this recipe will take 19-22 hours from start to finish, but with only about 2 hours of actual work on your part.
Planning and Preparation Great tasting, healthy cheese begins with well-managed goats and a good milking process. I set my standards, even though I'm not a commercial dairy and my cheese is made only for my family, to be as close to grade A as possible. This becomes especially important if you're making raw, unpasteurized cheese.
Cheese making requires some specialized equipment, ingredients, and setup. I've found it very useful to use the recommended muslin cheesecloth, with about a 2-foot square portion cut off for draining and the rest used for removing any remaining whey. I also have a large stainless steel (SS) stockpot, SS slotted spoon, SS fine mesh strainer, large SS mixing bowl, SS teaspoon and 1/3 C measuring cup, and digital thermometer. For ingredients, you'll need your culture and rennet and a place to store those long-term in your refrigerator. You'll need a space to drain and work with the cheese that is clean and out of the way since it will be there for several hours. I have a corner of the kitchen and a large clean cutting board. You might even consider draining the cheese in the refrigerator if you have the space for it. For packaging, I use plastic wrap and label quart freezer bags, so it's ready to go for eating or freezing.
Before beginning, I use a diluted bleach spray (1 Tbsp bleach to 1 Gallon water) to sanitize all of the equipment I'll be using.
• 2 gallons of fresh, whole goat milk (I've tried skimming the cream off to make it lower fat, but it's just not near as good!)
• 1/8 tsp Mesophilic DVI culture (I have been happy with the Aroma Type B blend)
• 2 Tbsp diluted rennet = 3 drops rennet in 1/3 C Cool water (I use the DCI Supreme Double Strength Microbial Rennet)
• ~1/4 C Salt (I like kosher, particularly the kosher salt that my husband smoked with Pecan wood!)
Pour your milk into a large stockpot and heat to 80° F. I've found that going over a few degrees doesn't hurt anything, just be sure to stay under 90°. Stay with it because it happens pretty quickly and it takes much longer for it to cool back down. Once at 80°, it's time to mix in your diluted rennet and culture. The rennet can be prepared as your milk heats, but I've found the culture powder absorbs moisture and gets tacky and hard to mix if you prep it too soon. Pour in your 2 Tbsp of diluted rennet, stir gently and then sprinkle 1/8 tsp culture over the top of the milk, let it sit a moment to "bloom" if you like, and then stir it in. Cover the pot and move it to the back burner to sit for 8-12 hours. I like to wrap the pot with clean dish towels to try to retain the warmth.
The cheese is ready to drain when the curd has separated from the whey. There will be two distinct layers, a thick white curd layer at the bottom with a liquid yellowish whey layer over the top. For draining, you can try to hang the cheesecloth, filled with curds, over the bowl, but I've found it easier to line a strainer with cheesecloth and place that where it sits just inside the bowl. Drain off the majority of the whey from the pot and then scoop out the curds with a slotted spoon into your prepared cheesecloth. Once in the cheesecloth, I break the curds into about 1-2 inch peices with the spoon to allow the whey to drain a little better. Fold the remaining cheesecloth up and around the cheese to protect it. The cheese will drain for 6-10 hours. I let it drain for 10 hours since the cheese will last longer and freeze better with less liquid, and it makes the last step easier. Check it every hour or so to see if the whey needs to be poured off, or to break up the curd to allow more whey to drain. It is done when it is the consistency of cream cheese.
Season and Dry
Once drained, lay out the remaining dry cheesecloth over your workspace. Place the drained curds on the dry cheesecloth and sprinkle a portion of salt over the top. Use the cheesecloth to fold the cheese over and gently press out additional whey. Do that many times until you're satisfied with the consistency and taste of your cheese. Cheese is the absolute best when it is just made, so treat yourself for your hard work!
Package and Store
You can form your cheese anyway you like. I roll it out into 6x1 inch logs and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then put about 5 logs into a quart freezer baggy, removing any excess air before sealing, labeled with the current date. Then it's ready to eat or freeze. If you'd like to flavor your cheese, the sky is the limit, but it should be eaten fresh and not frozen. Freezing takes the added flavor right out of it, in my experience. Fresh cheese is good in the refrigerator up to two weeks. For freezing, the cheese is good up to 6 months. Remove one log at a time and thaw in the refrigerator, season if you like, and consume within two weeks after thawing.
I hand wash the cheesecloth in warm soapy water and then soak it in a bath of diluted bleach water (1 Tbsp bleach/1 gal water) and then hang it to dry, out of the way. It is packaged clean and dry in a bag so it is ready for the next use. All other equipment is run through the dishwasher or cleaned and sprayed with diluted bleach.
Of course, I recommend the book where I got this recipe, which I mentioned before. Then, I got my cheesecloth, rennet and culture from GetCulture.com. They have a wealth of additional information, but I find it can get a little overwhelming.