How to make the best goat cheese

Posted on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 | By Nicole Easterday |
Fresh Chevre with Red Pepper Flakes and Honey Drizzle

I’ve been teaching cheesemaking classes for several years now and I find time after time that the fresh handmade chevre (goat cheese) is the thing people can’t stop raving about. Not only is it adored by goat cheese lovers, it’s been known to win the hearts and minds of erstwhile goat cheese-haters in my classes. Someone walks up to the cheese table, puts something they think might be ricotta on a cracker and falls in love with it just to find it’s made from goat’s milk! The horror! Wait, this is actually pretty good.

It’s the lightness and freshness that really wins people over. They think goat cheese is that super-tangy crumbly stuff they found on a salad along with cranberries and almonds. They don’t like the tartness, the dry texture or it’s just too funky.

The beauty of making your own fresh chevre, besides the fact that it’s embarrassingly simple, is that you can control the texture, tartness and how dry it becomes. It’s all up to you!

I personally prefer my own chevre light, spreadable and more fresh than funky. I set and dry the curd for a shorter period of time. The cheese is incredible on its own but then dress the cheese up with your favorite herbs and other flavors to accentuate it even further and you’ve got a serious crowd-pleaser.

Below are my favorite flavor combinations for a 1 quart fresh chevre dome.

Orange Zest & Rosemary 

These flavors were inspired by my friend Erin and this is always the most popular cheese combination in my class. Bonus that both the oranges and rosemary grow in our California garden!

Ingredients

  • 8 oz fresh chevre (homemade is best – buy culture here)
  • 3-4 cranks of fresh black pepper, set to medium grind
  • 1-2 TB fresh orange zest
  • 3 large sprigs rosemary, chopped as finely as you can

Instructions

  1. Shape the chevre however you like. We like making a tower using these molds or those found in this fresh chevre making kit.
  2. Crack pepper evenly over the surface (you may need a pal to hold and turn the cheese dome while you crank the pepper grinder!)
  3. Gently pat the orange zest lightly onto the surface of the cheese so it sticks but doesn’t get rubbed in too much.
  4. Sprinkle the rosemary evenly over the surface.
  5. Allow the cheese to sit for several hours or ideally, overnight so the flavors absorb into the cheese.

Sweet & Spicy

This combinations is as surprising as it is delicious. Frequently a favorite from my cheesemaking classes.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz fresh chevre (homemade is best – buy culture here)
  • 1 TB cracked red pepper flakes (like you put on pizza)
  • 2-3 TB raw honey

Instructions

  1. Shape the chevre however you like. We like making a tower using these molds or those found in this fresh chevre making kit.
  2. Sprinkle the cracked red pepper evenly over the surface of the cheese and pat it down so it sticks. You can do a lot or a little but don't be worried about adding too much - the fat from the cheese and the sweetness of the honey keep it from getting too spicy.
  3. Just before serving, drizzle honey over the surface of the cheese. Make sure you have a dish below that can collect any overflow.

Herbes de Provence

A real crowd pleaser - who could pass up light, fluffy chevre scented with lavender, garlic and other herbs from Provence?

Ingredients

  • 8 oz fresh chevre (homemade is best – buy culture here)
  • 1 TB Morton & Basset brand Herbes from Provence (there are other options available and you can even make your own but this brand is my favorite for balance of lavender, garlic and other herbs.

Instructions

  1. Shape the chevre however you like. We like making a tower using these molds or those found in this fresh chevre making kit.
  2. Sprinkle the herbs evenly over the surface of the cheese and pat it down so it sticks. You want to lightly cover the surface but no need to encrust it. See the cheese on the right side of the top photo for guidance.
  3. Let set overnight or at least four hours. The moisture from the cheese will rehydrate the dried garlic and lavender, mellowing their bite. The herbs will also infuse into the chevre, scenting the white center. Divine!!!

Chevre Paired with Chocolate Pretzels

Near the end of our Three Cheeses in Three Hours class, we always pull out a surprise dish of plain, light, airy chevre served with dark chocolate-covered pretzels and paired with a glass of delicate pinot noir.

We hear over and over again how unexpected the pairing is and how surprisingly delightful the combination is. This is such a simple marriage that it may seem like cheating, but just wait until you hear the reaction.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz fresh chevre (homemade is best – buy culture here)
  • 6-12 oz dark chocolate covered mini pretzels (we use Trader Joe's brand)

Instructions

  1. You can shape the chevre however you like but I actually prefer putting it directly into a small bowl. The benefit is that you don't have to dry the cheese quite as much as you do when you use a form to shape it, allowing it to stay moister and loftier. 
  2. Add chocolate pretzels to a bowl (we use Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Mini Pretzels but take some creative license here).
  3. Serve with a glass of light pinot noir or petit syrah (we use Main and Geary pinot noir or Main and Geary Petit Syrah but feel free to use your favorite pinot!)

Enjoy! Note that, with the herbed cheeses, even the inside of the cheese that doesn’t have herbs on it has taken on the flavor. So elegant, so beautiful.