As much fun as it is for us to now have goats bouncing around the farm, the part we’re most looking forward to is having our own farm-fresh goat’s milk.

However, Lotus and Minnie are only 4 1/2 months old, so it’s going to be a while before these girls are in milk.

“Lotus, I think the farmers expect us to earn our keep!”

In the meantime though, there’s nothing to stop us from venturing into cultured cheese and butter making.  We started out by hitting the books over the last few weeks (see resources below).

Goat’s milk Chèvre is simple to make

Chèvre, Fromage Blanc, and Cabécou, are some of the simplest fresh cultured cheeses to make, both in regards to equipment required, and the relative simplicity of the cheese-making process.  Although many consider cheese-making to be an art, it is, at its core, very much a science.  The more complex the ingredients, or aging process, the more opportunity there is for something to go awry.  As much as we’d love to delve head first into crafting an aged cheddar, or Stilton, it makes much more sense to start out with something simple.

So, as a novice cheese-maker, yesterday I decided my first foray into cheese-craft should be a simple Chèvre.

The equipment required was straightforward, and with the exception of the butter muslin, everything else was standard equipment, and already part of our kitchen arsenal.

Butter muslin is more tightly woven than conventional cheesecloth, and used for draining soft cheeses

Sourcing the right milk, however, was not so simple.  The most important component of cheese making, obviously, is the milk.  Ideally it would be our own fresh milk, from our own goats, but purchased milk will also work.  Not all goat’s milk on the grocery store shelf is equal though.

The only goat’s milk available in our local market was ultra-pasteurized.

A lot of mass distributed goat milk is ultra-pasteurized

Ultra-pasteurization extends the shelf life of milk, and as goat’s milk is not as popular with consumers as cow’s milk, at least not at our local market, product turnover is quite low.  As such, there’s no incentive for some markets to stock goat’s milk that isn’t ultra-pasteurized.  If we only intended to drink the milk, ultra-pasteurization might be fine.  However, ultra-pasteurized milk can be very problematic for cheese-making.

Of course, the best milk for cheese-making comes straight from the goat! Right Lotus?

The higher heat ultra-pasteurization process irrevocably alters the structure of the milk proteins, and much of the calcium becomes chelated, affecting coagulation.  As there is no cheese without coagulation, it’s important to read the milk carton to help ensure a successful homemade cheese product.

Fortunately, we have an abundance of specialty food markets nearby, and it didn’t take too long to find conventionally pasteurized goat milk.  This milk was higher in protein, and butterfat, than the ultra-pasteurized product.  More the better!

Conventionally pasteurized goat milk is available, but it may take more effort to source it

As goat milk isn’t cheap (almost $4 a quart locally), ultra-pasteurized or not, it was worth it to take the time to source the right product.

With milk in hand, the next step was to assemble and sanitize the cheese-making equipment, as well as the kitchen counters and sinks.  As with any cultured food product it is imperative the only microbes being innoculated into the food are desirable ones.  A spotless kitchen is mandatory for cheese-making, as is the use of equipment that can be sanitized.

First, the dogs were banished from the kitchen.  Then the counters and sinks were bleached with a 10% solution, and rinsed thoroughly.

A simple 10% bleach solution was used for cleaning counters and sinks

The stainless equipment was first washed in hot soapy water, thoroughly rinsed, and then sanitized in an iodophor solution.

Bleach will pit stainless steel. Iodophor sanitizers are still effective, and much kinder to your kitchenware

Fortunately, we also make beer, so we already had Iodophor on hand, but any brew-supply vendor will carry it.

Soak the stainless tools in the Iodophor solution for a minimum of 10 minutes before using

With everything clean, FINALLY, it was time to move on to the fun part.  Making cheese!

Note that although cultured Chèvre doesn’t take much active time to make, the cheese does need to be drained approximately 12 hours after the addition of the starter culture.  As such, it’s helpful to start this recipe in the early morning, to avoid the need to drain the curds at 2AM.

Fresh Chevre

Yield: 1 Pound

Active Time: 25-30 Minutes

Inactive Time: 18-24 Hours


6 Qt Non-reactive (stainless steel or enameled cast iron) heavy bottom stock pot

Slotted spoon (stainless)

Balloon whisk (stainless)

Butter Muslin

Non-reactive colander and large bowl for draining

Cheese Molds and draining rack (optional)



1 Gallon Goat’s Milk (not ultra-pasteurized)

1/2 tsp of Chèvre C20G Mesophilic Starter Culture

1/2 tsp finely ground sea salt


Over low heat, heat the milk for 15-20 minutes, until the temperature of the milk reaches 86F.

Goat milk

Don’t rush heating the milk, or it may scorch.

The thermometer is probably the most important piece of equipment for cheesemaking. The goal is to warm the milk, not cook it.

Once the milk has reached temperature, remove the pan from the heat.

Sprinkle the C20G starter culture over the warm milk, and allow to stand for five minutes.  Once the starter culture is thoroughly hydrated, use a balloon whisk to incorporate it in to the milk.

Allow the culture to hydrate before whisking it into the milk

Cover the pan, and allow it to stand, undisturbed at room temperature (72-78F), for approximately 12 hours.

By 6 hours the curds are clearly forming, but the curd mixture is quite loose

As the proteins coagulate, the curds should form a thick mass, floating on the surface, surrounded by clear whey.

By 12 hours the curds have formed a thick mat, floating on the surface of the whey

Line a colander with damp butter muslin, and carefully scoop the curds into the colander using a slotted stainless steel spoon.

By 12 hours the curds break cleanly as they’re scooped from the whey into the muslin

Allow the curds to stand for a few minutes, as the excess whey drains, and then sprinkle 1/2 tsp of fine sea salt over the curds, and gently toss.

It’s beginning to look like Chèvre

To drain, the tails of the muslin can be brought together, and the curds either left in the colander set over a large bowl, or the muslin can be hung up over a sink or bowl, for 6-12 hours, at room temperature.

The curds are covered with the muslin, and allowed to drain for up to 12 hours at room temperature

Alternatively, the curds can be placed into soft cheese molds, and set on a draining rack.

A Chèvre mold can also be used to shape the cheese

Shaped cheeses should be drained longer, as the more the curds are allowed to drain, the more firm the cheese will become.

This molded Chèvre was allowed to drain for 12 hours, and flipped once during draining

Once the Chèvre is of the desired consistency, the cheese can be removed from the muslin or cheese mold, and refrigerated for up to a week (if it lasts that long…I know this batch won’t).  The cheese can be eaten as is, or coated in fresh herbs, or chopped dried fruit.

Herbs, like thyme fresh from the garden, pair well with the tangy flavor of fresh Chèvre

You can simply serve the cheese on crackers, but while I was waiting for the cheese to drain, I made a couple of loaves of sweet French bread, as my cheese vehicle of choice.

Homemade Chèvre + homemade French bread = lunch!

I must admit, there’s something rather gratifying about crafting one’s own cheese, even a cheese as simple as Chèvre.  As goat’s milk is relatively expensive, it cost almost $16 to make just one pound of homemade Chèvre, so I doubt we’ll make this too often, although for the flavor, it’s worth it!

“Milking? Really? I thought the stanchion was for sleeping on!”

However, once the girls are in milk, I suspect we’ll be making a LOT of cheese…

Homemade butter was traditionally shaped using butter molds, like this round vintage carved mold

…and maybe even some cultured butters too, so I can finally put this vintage butter mold to good use!  First though, there’s some fresh cheese in the fridge with my name on it…


Cheese-making Books:

Fox, Patrick F., Timothy P. Guinee, Timothy M. Cogan, and Paul L. H. McSweeney.  February 2000. Fundamentals of Cheese Science.  Aspen Publishers Inc., MD.

Hurst, Janet.  March 2011.  Homemade Cheese: Recipes for 50 Cheeses from Artisan Cheesemakers.  Voyageur Press, MN.

Karlin, Mary.  August 2011.  Artisan Cheese Making at Home: Techniques & Recipes for Mastering World-Class Cheeses.  Ten Speed Press, CA.

Kindsedt, Paul.  May 2005. American Farmstead Cheese: The Complete Guide to Making and Selling Artisan Cheeses.  Chelsea Green Publishing Company, VT.

Le Jaouen, Jean-Claude.  1987.  The Fabrication of Farmstead Goat Cheese.  Cheesemaker’s Journal, MA.

Cheese-making Cultures and Supplies:

The Beverage People, Santa Rosa, CA.

New England Cheesemaking Supply, South Deerfield, MA.

Dairy Connection, Inc., Madison, WI.

Glengarry Cheesemaking and Dairy Supply, Ltd. , Ontario, Canada