My daughter Emily owns shares in the milk from a goat herd in a community about an hour outside of Denver in Elizabeth, CO. I knew she had been making goat cheese but I honestly did not know about this arrangement until recently. Maybe because the effort to drive there had fallen by the wayside a bit and it had been several months since she had picked up her monthly allotment which amounts to about 2 gallons per month. A call from the owners of the herd, a drive to Elizabeth and while not frantic, certainly a plea for help. She had picked up almost 10 gallons of milk packaged and frozen in half gallon ziploc bags. Next thing you know I had half of them in my fridge and a burning need to make something from the windfall.
Em had a book on home cheese making called, well, ‘Home Cheese Making’ by Ricki Carroll. I decided one morning to dig into the process and what I found was actually pretty amazing. Easy? So beyond easy…at least for my first effort which was to make plain old Chevre. Which is the word goat in French…go figure! All that is required is the milk and a packet of Direct Set Chevre Starter and some basic utensils…a pot, a thermometer and a large spoon. Really, that’s it.
The first step was the hardest. Heat the milk to 86 degrees. Why hard? Do you have any idea how quickly something gets to 86 degrees on your stove? I sure did not and I spent more time cooling it down than warming it up…but I finally got there and once it was 86, a packet of Chevre starter is mixed into the milk and it then sits out overnight, covered. I found it easiest to do early in the morning, cover it and take care of step two that evening. I bought my starter locally at a place that is typically known for brewing beer but if you don’t have a local resource there are a ton of online places where it can be purchased. See how the curds (solids) and whey (liquid) have separated by morning?
Step Two: Drain the cheese curds from the whey with a slotted spoon and put it into some butter muslin (heavier duty than the hardware stuff) or in my case, this nifty reusable bag I bought from the beer guys. Hang it to drip/dry for up to twelve hours (recommended); I MacGyvered mine by looping the top of the bag through the handle of my microwave, tying a knot and then securing it further with some wire. Just anything to get it above the pot where it can drain. I had to press some additional liquid out in the morning that had settled a bit on the top of the curds but for the most part it was ready to go.
I wanted a smooth consistency so I put mine into my blender. Add a touch of salt to taste for starters and then have fun with it. Dry herbs are best if you want to season it and if you let it drain enough you can roll it into logs and roll them in your choice of toppings. Herbs, nuts, whatever! I left mine plain and gave some to friends and still had enough to make both a Goat Cheese Wellington and a companion pizza as well. It was so good. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to buy goat cheese again; this was super delish!
This was almost too easy…just had to brown some sausage and onions, saute some mushrooms and combine it all together with dollops of goat cheese which were all wrapped in a sheet of puff pastry.
Wrap it all up, crimp it closed and brush with some egg and bake. I love puff pastry! I only had one sheet though so I made a pizza too; pretty much exactly the same but on a pizza crust. Either way. Both ways. To die for!
See all of that yummy goodness? The fresh thyme didn’t hurt…I’m still getting some from my garden!
Seems I put a bit of Parmesan on the pizza…sure, why not?
Of course making your own goat cheese is not a requirement if you want either the Wellington or the pizza so certainly don’t miss it for that reason, I think mozzarella would be a great substitute. But if you love goat cheese and you can find a source for the milk…go for it; it does feel like quite the accomplishment and yet it could not be easier. Come back next week for cajeta (goat milk caramel), it’s a luscious caramel like Dulce de Lece but made with goat milk
- 1 gallon whole goat's milk (we had unpasteurized but you can also find pasteurized. Using raw unpasteurized milk is only recommended if you know your source and the practices of that source to insure clean, pure milk)
- 1 packet direct set Chevre starter
- Heat the milk to 86 degrees F. Add the starter, stirring to combine.
- Cover and let set at room temperature not below 72 degrees fort 12 hours.
- Line a colander with butter muslin or a bag that can be used for draining the whey and scoop all of the solids into the fabric.
- Tie up the ends and hang over a container and allow to drain for 6-12 hours or until curds reach desired consistency. (A shorter time will produce more of a cheese spread and a longer time something more like a softened cream cheese...which is what I went for.)
- Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
- 1 lb Italian sausage
- 1 medium white or yellow onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 sprig of thyme, leaves removed
- 10-12 oz mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed, sliced
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Approximately 1 cup of goat cheese (this was spreadable so I dolloped it on; depending on your cheese you could also sprinkle on a dryer product or even use mozzarella if not using goat cheese).
- 1 egg
- Flour your counter a bit and roll out pastry so that it's about 1/2" larger on all sides after rolling.
- Remove the casing, if any, from the sausage and scatter pieces in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the onion and saute together until the sausage is well browned and the onions are translucent.
- Add the minced garlic and continue to saute for 1-2 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Remove the sausage and onions from the skillet and add the olive oil. Saute the sliced mushrooms for 4-5 minutes until just softened. Add the thyme leaves and saute for another minute.
- Layer the sausage mixture, mushrooms and cheese on top of the pastry, leaving enough on sides to overlap dough on top of the mixture. Wet the edges of the pastry and crimp all of the edges together.
- Brush the egg over the pastry, put into the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes until nicely browned.
- Let cool for 5 minutes, then slice and serve.
- Make or buy pizza dough, press into pan and layer the sausage mixture, mushrooms and goat cheese on top of the dough. Sprinkle with some Parmesan if desired and bake according to standard directions for your dough.