Goat Milk Cheese: Exploring Its Unique Features and Benefits

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About Marc MacDonald

I’ve been raising goats for nearly 20 years now. Over those years, I accumulated a lot of information about goats and what works and what doesn’t.

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Goat milk cheese - drunken goat
Goat milk cheese – drunken goat

Goat milk cheese, also known as chèvre, is a delicious and nutritious alternative to traditional cow’s milk cheese. Originating in ancient times, goat milk cheese has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its unique taste and health benefits. The cheesemaking process for goat milk is similar to that of cow’s milk, but the outcome is a product that is creamier, tangier, and naturally lower in lactose – a delight for the taste buds.

Varieties of Goat Milk Cheese

There are numerous varieties of goat milk cheese available on the market, ranging from soft spreadable styles like fresh chèvre to firm, aged options such as chevrotin. Each variation offers a distinct flavor profile and versatility in the culinary world. The growing interest in artisanal, locally-produced foods has also bolstered the goat milk cheese industry, with new producers and niche markets emerging regularly.

Key Takeaways

  • Goat milk cheese offers a unique taste and health benefits, making it a popular alternative to cow’s milk cheese.
  • Numerous varieties of goat milk cheese exist, each with distinct flavor profiles and culinary uses.
  • The goat milk cheese industry is experiencing growth due to increasing demand for artisanal and locally-produced foods.

Overview of Goat Milk Cheese

Goat milk cheese, also known as chèvre, is a type of cheese made from goat milk. It has a distinctive tangy flavor and smooth texture, making it a popular choice among cheese lovers. In this section, we’ll discuss the types of goat milk cheese and compare goat milk to cow’s milk cheese.

Goat Milk Cheese Log
Goat Milk Cheese formed into a log

Types of Goat Milk Cheese

There are several types of goat milk cheese, including:

  • Fresh Chèvre: A soft, creamy cheese with a mild flavor that is easy to spread. It can be used as a dessert topping or eaten with crackers, bread, or fruit.
  • Aged Chèvre: As it ages, chèvre develops a firmer texture and stronger flavor. Some popular aged chèvre varieties include bucheron, crottin, and Selles-sur-Cher.
  • Blue Goat Cheese: This cheese is characterized by its blue veins and pungent flavor. Examples of blue goat cheese include Roquefort and Valdeon.
  • Goat Milk Feta: A tangy, crumbly cheese often used in Mediterranean cuisine. It is perfect for salads, sandwiches, and pastries.

Goat Milk vs Cow’s Milk Cheese

Goat milk cheese differs from cow’s milk cheese in several ways:

  • Flavor: Goat milk cheese has a tangy, earthy flavor, while cow’s milk cheese tends to be milder.
  • Texture: The proteins in goat milk result in a smoother texture than cow’s milk cheese, which can be more rubbery.
  • Fat Content: Goat milk has smaller fat globules than cow’s milk, making it easier for some people to digest.
  • Nutritional Value: Goat milk cheese is typically lower in calories and fat than cow’s milk cheese, while still providing essential nutrients such as calcium, protein, and vitamins.

Cheesemaking Process

Ingredients and Equipment

There are many recipes available for goat milk cheese. In general, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Goat milk: Can be either pasteurized or raw
  • Starter culture: Introduces good bacteria to the milk
  • Rennet: Triggers coagulation of the milk
  • Salt: Enhances flavor and helps in preservation

The necessary equipment includes:

  • Cheese vat: A stainless steel container to heat the milk
  • Curds knife: For cutting curds into uniform pieces
  • Cheesecloth: To separate curds and whey
  • Cheese mold: For shaping the cheese
  • Press: Applies pressure to further drain whey and form the cheese

Production Steps

  1. Coagulation: Warm the milk to the desired temperature in a cheese vat, and then add a starter culture and rennet. The culture helps ferment lactose into lactic acid, making the milk more acidic. Rennet allows the milk proteins to bond and form curds.
  2. Cutting the curd: As the curds form, they are cut into smaller uniform cubes using a curds knife. This process allows the whey to separate from the curd.
  3. Draining the whey: Pour the separated curds and whey mixture into a cheesecloth, allowing the whey to drain off. You can retain the whey for other culinary uses.
  4. Molding and pressing: Transfer the curds into a cheese mold lined with cheesecloth. Apply pressure by using a cheese press to further release whey and shape the cheese.
  5. Salting: Sprinkle the cheese with salt to flavor and preserve it. Salt can be applied directly or as a brine solution.
  6. Ripening: Depending on the recipe, the cheese is left to ripen in a controlled environment. During this time, the rind forms around the cheese, and its flavor and texture develop. Ripening periods can vary from days to months based on the desired outcome.

Goat milk cheese comes in a wide range of styles and flavors, from soft and fresh to aged and hard. This section will cover some of the most popular types of goat cheese, focusing on their characteristics, tastes, and uses.

Soft and Fresh Goat Cheese

  • Ricotta: A fresh, creamy cheese with a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Made from the whey leftover from making other cheese, it is popular in desserts, as a spread, and on pizza.
  • Feta: A classic Greek cheese, traditionally made from sheep’s milk, but often made with a mixture of goat and sheep’s milk. It has a crumbly texture and tangy, salty flavor, making it a delicious addition to salads, sandwiches, or even sprinkled over fruit.
  • Chevre: A fresh goat cheese originating in France, it has a soft, creamy texture and a mildly tangy flavor. It can be spread on crackers or toast, used as a dip, or combined with honey and walnuts for a sweet-savory dish.
  • Selles-sur-Cher: A French specialty, this fresh goat cheese has a soft, creamy texture coated in an edible ash rind. Its flavor is slightly tangy and earthy, and it is often served with crackers, fresh fruit, or baguette slices.
  • Cottage Cheese – soft fresh cheese made from Goat milk

Aged and Hard Goat Cheese

Quite a few of the cheeses below hail from Europe, indicating the popularity of goat milk in Europe.

  • Gouda: Hailing from the Netherlands, goat milk Gouda has a smooth, creamy texture and a nutty, tangy flavor that intensifies as it matures. Its melting properties make it fantastic in grilled cheese sandwiches or macaroni and cheese.
  • Cheddar: A traditional English cheese, when made from goat’s milk, it has a crumbly texture with a nutty, slightly tangy taste. This hard cheese works well on cheese boards, in sandwiches, or as a topping for casseroles.
  • Garrotxa: A Spanish goat cheese with a semi-firm texture and a delicate, earthy flavor, Garrotxa is often used in tapas dishes or served with quince paste.
  • Humboldt Fog: An American creation, this soft-ripened cheese has a creamy texture and a balanced, tangy flavor hinted with herbal notes. It is fantastic spread on crusty bread or paired with fruit or nuts.
  • Ticklemore: A semi-hard goat cheese from England, known for its crumbly texture and slightly sweet, grassy flavor. Enjoy it on a cheese platter with chutney or alongside crackers and fruit.
  • Murcia al Vino: Also known as Drunken Goat, this Spanish cheese is soaked in red wine, giving it a mild flavor with a hint of fruity sweetness. Its semi-firm texture makes it ideal for snacking or grating over pasta dishes.
  • Halloumi: A Cypriot cheese made from a mix of goat and sheep’s milk, halloumi has a firm texture that allows it to hold its shape when grilled or pan-fried. It has a mild, salty flavor that pairs well with fresh vegetables, fruit, or olives.

Nutritional Benefits and Health Aspects

Digestibility and Intolerances

Goat milk cheese has a unique protein structure compared to cow’s milk, making it easier to digest for many people. The casein in goat milk is less likely to cause digestive issues in those with lactose intolerance. Additionally, goat milk cheese contains less lactose than cow milk cheese, further reducing the risk of triggering intolerance symptoms.

The presence of medium-chain fatty acids and capric acid in goat milk cheese also aid in digestion. These fatty acids are rapidly metabolized by the liver, which can have potential weight loss and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Vitamins, Minerals, and Nutrients

Goat milk cheese is an excellent source of various essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients:

  • Vitamins: Goat milk cheese is rich in vitamins, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, and some B vitamins, which contribute to overall health.
  • Minerals: It contains essential minerals like calcium, iron, and copper. Calcium plays a critical role in bone health, whereas iron and copper are vital for proper blood functioning.
  • Protein: It is a good source of protein, providing essential amino acids needed for muscle growth and repair.
  • Fats and fatty acids: Goat milk cheese contains healthy fats and fatty acids, including medium-chain fatty acids, which can promote overall wellbeing.

Goat milk cheese also has a lower salt content compared to cow milk cheese, which benefits those looking to decrease their sodium intake.

Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can contribute to gut health. Goat milk cheese contains naturally occurring probiotics that support digestion and may help reduce inflammation, making it an excellent choice for individuals seeking gut-friendly food options.

In summary, goat milk cheese’s digestibility, nutritional content, and presence of probiotics make it a valuable addition to a healthy diet.

Culinary Uses

Goat milk cheese, or chèvre, is a versatile ingredient that works well in various dishes or as a standalone product to be enjoyed. Below are some essential culinary uses where goat cheese stands out.

Pairings and Accompaniments

Goat cheese often pairs well with light, fruity flavors. Some examples of accompaniments are:

  • Fruits: Fresh or dried fruits like figs, dates, or apricots
  • Herbs: Fresh herbs such as basil, chives, or thyme
  • Breads: Crusty bread, whole-grain crackers, or crostini

Recipes and Dishes

Goat cheese can enhance the taste and texture of recipes and dishes:

  • Salads: Crumbled chèvre gives an extra layer of flavor to salads, such as a mixed greens or spinach salad. Add a tangy vinaigrette to highlight the creaminess of the cheese.
  • Pasta: Stir goat cheese into warm pasta dishes for a rich, creamy sauce. Pair with fresh vegetables, herbs, and a bit of lemon zest.
  • Sandwich: Spread goat cheese on a baguette or whole-grain bread and add your choice of fillings like roasted vegetables, grilled chicken, or avocado.
  • Soup: Melt small cubes of goat cheese into a hot bowl of soup, such as tomato-basil, for added creaminess and depth of flavor.
  • Bread: Bake goat cheese into homemade breads or incorporate it into your favorite loaf recipe.

Storage and Aging

Goat milk cheese, like other types of cheese, needs proper storage and aging to bring out its best flavors and textures. The age of a goat milk cheese is a crucial factor in determining its taste, texture, and overall quality. Generally, younger cheeses are softer and milder, while older ones tend to be firmer and more robust in flavor.

One vital element in the storage and aging of goat milk cheese is temperature. Cheese should be stored at temperatures ranging from 50 to 55°F (10 to 13°C) as heat can be detrimental to cheese quality. Excessive heat can cause the cheese to spoil, lose its intended flavor, or develop off-flavors.

Another key element is the process of ripening, in which the cheese ripens from the outside in. During ripening, the cheese undergoes a series of biochemical reactions that transform its proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. This process creates unique flavors and textures specific to each type of goat milk cheese. The famous cheese, Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine, from the Loire Valley , made from Alpine goat and Saanen goat milk, is an excellent example of how ripening can influence the final product’s taste and appearance.

To store and age your goat milk cheese properly, consider the following tips:

  • Wrap the cheese: Wrap the cheese in wax paper, parchment paper, or a special cheese paper that allows the cheese to breathe while protecting it from airborne contaminants.
  • Use a proper cheese storage container: A specialized cheese storage container, or a simple airtight container with a few holes poked in the lid, can help maintain the proper humidity levels and protect the cheese from excess air exposure.
  • Rotate and turn the cheese: Regularly turning the cheese during the aging process ensures that it ripens evenly. Don’t forget to rotate and turn the cheese if stored in a container with other cheeses.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your goat milk cheese is stored and aged correctly, allowing it to develop the rich and complex flavors that make it a gourmet delight.

Growing and Supporting the Goat Milk Cheese Industry

Environmental and Sustainability Considerations

Goat milk cheese is produced from the milk of domesticated goats, which generally have a smaller environmental footprint than cows. Goats are known to be efficient in converting feed to milk, reducing the need for large areas of grazing land. Additionally, goats are able to consume a wider variety of vegetation, helping to reduce invasive plant species and allowing farmers to utilize marginal land.

In terms of emissions, goat milk production generates relatively less methane than cow milk production. This makes goat milk cheese a more sustainable option for those looking to reduce their environmental impact.

Domestic and International Production

The production of goat milk cheese is prevalent in both domestic and international markets. While Europe is well-known for its long-standing tradition of goat cheese production, countries like the United States are also experiencing a growth in the industry:

  • In the US, goat milk cheese production has been steadily increasing as consumer demand for alternative dairy products rises. This expansion of the domestic industry supports local economies and farmers, who play a crucial role in sustainable agriculture.
  • Internationally, well-known cheese-producing regions, such as France and Spain, continue to contribute to global goat cheese exports. This helps to diversify the options available to consumers and promote cultural exchange through culinary experiences.

One notable component of goat milk is its caprylic acid content. Caprylic acid is a medium-chain fatty acid that has potential health benefits, such as supporting gut health and boosting energy levels. As a result, goat milk cheese can offer a unique nutritional profile.

When comparing calories in goat milk cheese and cow milk cheese, goat versions tend to have fewer calories. This can make it an attractive option for those looking to manage their energy intake.

Finally, goat milk cheese can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, including as a delicious dessert. With its distinct taste and texture, it serves as a versatile ingredient, lending itself to dessert recipes such as cheesecakes and tarts, as well as savory dishes like salads and quiches.

Video – Ask the Cheeseman about Goat Milk Cheese

In this video, Aussie Gavin Webber, self described Curd Nerd and cheesemaker, discusses the use of raw milk in goat cheese. Skip to 1:29 to find how raw goat milk cheese tastes.

Goat Milk Cheese video

Frequently Asked Questions

Is goat milk cheese healthy?

Goat milk cheese is a nutritious option, as it contains essential vitamins and minerals. It is lower in fat and calories compared to cow’s milk cheeses and can be easier to digest for those with lactose sensitivity.

How is goat cheese made?

Goat cheese is made by coagulating goat milk, either by using rennet or an acidic substance like vinegar or lemon juice. Once the milk has curdled and separated into solid curds and liquid whey, the curds are drained, pressed, and aged to produce various types of goat cheese.

What are the types of goat cheese?

There are several types of goat cheese, including fresh, aged, and processed. Fresh goat cheese is soft and creamy with a tangy flavor, while aged cheeses become more firm and flavorful as they mature. Processed goat cheeses can be blended with herbs, spices, or other ingredients to create unique flavors and textures.

Is feta made from goat milk?

Feta cheese can be made from a mixture of goat and sheep’s milk or exclusively from sheep’s milk, depending on the country of origin. Traditional Greek feta is made primarily from sheep’s milk with up to 30% goat’s milk.

What are some hard goat cheeses?

Some examples of hard goat cheeses include aged gouda, Tomme de Chèvre, and Garrotxa. These cheeses have a firmer texture due to extended aging and have a more robust flavor compared to their softer counterparts.

Any famous goat cheese recipes?

There are many delicious goat cheese recipes, such as goat cheese and spinach stuffed chicken, beet and goat cheese salad, and goat cheese pizza. Combining goat cheese with various ingredients and flavors can create versatile and enjoyable dishes.

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