I’ve been wanting to explore cheese-making since we moved to the country but I haven’t gotten around to it until now. The first summer we lived here I met a woman who owned a few dairy cows who was willing to let me have some raw cow’s milk if I came and milked the cow myself, but the one and only time I tried to milk it the cow didn’t like my long fingernails and kept swishing her tail at me and half kicking me. Not that I can blame her.
Ramon’s niece Anna was visiting from the Netherlands that summer and she was much better at the cow milking than me since she was going to veterinary school and had done an internship on a sheep farm, but she wasn’t going to stay long enough for us to put her to work as chief milker. Soon after that the owner of the cow moved away, along with her cows, and there went my source for raw cow’s milk.
For my inaugural attempt I decided to make chevre, rumored to be one of the easiest cheeses to make. I dutifully obtained the direct-set cheese culture from Amazon and began to heat up the milk to exactly 86 degrees as the recipe instructed, when I realized that my thermometer was broken so I couldn’t get a read on the temperature. I dug deep in my back shelves to find my candy thermometer but it doesn’t start measuring until 100 degrees so it wouldn’t work either.
Back to Amazon to order a dairy thermometer. I poured the partially heated milk back into the jars, placed them back in the refrigerator, and then waited for the thermometer to arrive. I wasn’t sure if I had ruined everything with my false start, or how long the milk would last in the refrigerator before it soured, but I had to accept my situation since I wasn’t going to jump in the car and drive an hour to Sacramento in search of a dairy thermometer.
A few days later the thermometer arrived (could we live in the country without Amazon Prime? I’m not so sure) and I made my second attempt. I sniffed the goat’s milk (no sour smell detected) and we were off. Really, it was super easy. I heated the milk to 86 degrees, added the starter, gave it a quick stir, and let it sit overnight for 12 hours. The next morning I drained the whey, ladled the firm cheese curds into cheese muslin, and hung it up for four hours over the sink to drain the rest of the way.
Voila! Fresh chevre made from locally produced raw goat’s milk. As soon as Otto is finished with his pet food chevre, I’m going to try to make feta.