Making cheese is a great way to preserve that extra goat milk. It’s really a pretty simple process, but one made easier when you understand a few basics principles of the cheesemaking process. I have raised dairy goats for 20-plus years and experimented with making different types of cheese for about half that time. Making cheese is one of those learn-by-doing activities, and a process greatly enhanced gleaning from others’ experiences and knowledge.
Cheese is basically milk, culture, and rennet. All cheese made from goat milk will be white, unless colored artificially, because of the composition of goat milk. Goat milk does not contain carotene, unlike cow milk. Carotene passes on a yellow hue, and since goat milk does not contain carotene, the resulting cheese made from goat milk is only yellow if artificial coloring is added.
Different types of cheese are a result of different combinations of culture used, temperature control, and cooking time. Some cheeses such as bleu, brie, Swiss, or strong feta do require special enzymes to change the character of the cheese. It is a good idea to study different recipes and evaluate which culture or starter work best when making a decision on what kind of cheese to make.
Cultures can be ordered by mail and come freeze-dried in small packets. Some must be re-cultured first before using. These are considered “regular” cultures. Others are called “direct vat inoculants” (DVI), which means they can be added directly to the warmed goat milk without the added step of culturing first.
Another important thing to consider, which will affect the type of cheese made, is rennet. Rennet, which coagulates the milk, comes in liquid or tablet form and can be made from vegetable or animal fat. Liquid rennet is a must for making soft-style cream cheese. This is not to be confused with the Junket-brand rennet from the local grocery store. This is not the same product as cheesemaking rennet.
Cheese wax is a must for colby, cheddar, and Parmesan. Cheese wax is reusable and can be washed in warm water, dried and melted again and again. It is much more difficult to substitute paraffin or beeswax for cheese wax. A cheese press is a necessity if the cheese of choice to be made will be waxed.
When making cheese, use only stainless steel pots and utensils, as acidity levels in the cheese will cause aluminum to leach into the cheese if other types of pots and utensils are used. Another tip is to use only non-iodized salt when flavoring cheese, as iodized salt will give the cheese a greenish cast.
The best thing to do if you want to make goat milk cheese is to invest in a couple of good cheesemaking books and read up on the subject before starting. I recommend Caprine Supply and Hamby Dairy Supply as a good place to get some good cheesemaking books as well as order the supplies to get started. (You’ll also find cheesemaking books at www.dairygoatjournal.com.)
A simple cheese recipe from Caprine Supply’s Goatkeeping 101:
Slowly heat a gallon of goat milk to 185°F, using a stainless steel or enamelware pot. Add 1/4 cup vinegar. Keep the temperature at 185°F, stirring the milk occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes. At this point a soft curd should form. Line a colander or strainer with cheesecloth. Pour the curd into the colander, and sprinkle the curd with salt. Tie the corners of the cloth together and hang it to drip for a few hours.
Add seasoning such as dill, pepper, or garlic, and refrigerate. Eat the cheese immediately, or keep it no longer than a week in the refrigerator.