Got Milk? Make Cheese! Making goat cheese is an easy way to use that surplus milk for your family.
When raising goats for milk, once the babies are weaned, you’re going to have way more milk than you can handle. The average full-size dairy goat produces a gallon or more of milk per day, EVERY day. Unless you have a very large family with an appetite for fresh goat milk, cheese is inevitably in your future!
This is why cheese was originally made. Storing and transporting milk was a tricky endeavor, especially when there was little or no refrigeration. But when those original goat herders took a gallon of milk (which weighs about 8 pounds and sloshes all around when you try to carry it) and started making goat cheese, they had a nice tidy package that weighed about 1 pound and didn’t need refrigeration. Those of us with dairy animals are faced with the same dilemma today: too much milk to store and use up before it spoils. So try making goat cheese!
For new cheese-makers, here is some basic information to get you started:
- How does milk become cheese?
Cheese is basically fermented milk, made by separating the solids (primarily proteins, butterfat, calcium and phosphorus) from liquid in the milk. The solids become your curds and the liquid is whey. If you remove only some whey, your cheese will be soft and moist, as in the most common goat milk cheese, chévre. But if you remove more whey (by cutting, stirring, heating, pressing, salting and/or aging your curd), you will have a dryer, harder cheese. The dryer the cheese, the longer it will keep without refrigeration.
- What cheeses can you make from goat milk?
You can make any cheese from goat milk. Cheeses traditionally made from goat milk include chévre, feta, drunken goat cheese, Crottin de Chavignol, Valençay, and geitost, among others. But you can try making ricotta, mozzarella, paneer, and yogurt as well as Cheddar, Brie, blues and more! Don’t limit yourself to just the traditional when making goat milk cheeses.
- What ingredients are used for making goat cheese?
Most cheeses are made from the same (or similar) four ingredients: milk, culture, rennet and salt. You can make hundreds of different cheeses simply by altering the amount of ingredients used and varying the time, temperature and techniques that you utilize. Some simple cheeses use even fewer ingredients, like whole milk ricotta, which is just milk and an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice (traditional whey ricotta is made with the leftover whey from making some other type of cheese but the yield will be much lower than a ricotta that starts with milk). And some cheeses use one or two more ingredients, like additional mold powders, as in Brie & Camembert or blue cheeses.
- What kind of equipment will I need for making goat milk cheese?
You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment.
For soft and fresh goat milk cheese, you’ll need:
- A pot (I prefer stainless steel)
- Slotted spoon or skimmer
- Measuring cup and measuring spoons
- Cheese thermometer
- Butter muslin (fine woven cheesecloth)
For pressed and aged cheeses, you’ll need the above plus:
- Cheese mold or form
- Cheese press *
- Aging refrigerator (A wine or mini fridge turned up to it’s warmest setting, around 50 degrees, will work perfectly.)
* You can make your own press or buy a ready-made press. We’ll teach you how to make a simple bucket press in the next issue of Goat Journal.
- Should I use raw or pasteurized milk?
One important thing to consider is whether to use raw or pasteurized milk. The law mandates that commercial cheesemakers use pasteurized milk for any cheese that will not age at least 60 days. All the recipes below, if made commercially, would require pasteurized milk. The FDA recommends that home cheesemakers follow these same guidelines. There is much debate on raw milk benefits vs health and safety, with many advocates believing all cheese should be made from high-quality raw milk. The choice is yours but research the pros and cons of using raw or pasteurized milk before you begin, to make an informed decision. If you do use raw milk, you need to adjust the amount of culture used. (In general, raw milk cheese needs much less culture.)
- What do I do with leftover whey from making goat cheese?
Since only about 1/8 of your milk volume will become cheese curd, you will have a lot of leftover whey. While about 80% of milk proteins stay with the curd, around 20% leave with the whey. Here are some ideas for using whey:
- Feed it to backyard chickens or hogs.
- Use is as a base in soups or stocks.
- Reconstitute dried beans.
- Use the liquid to cook rice or pasta.
- Use as the liquid in bread recipes.
- Freeze in ice cube trays and then add to smoothies.
- Add to compost piles to help break it down (very acidic).
- Dilute and water certain outdoor plants with it (those that like an acidic environment such as tomato plants and hydrangeas).
Are you ready to try making goat cheese? Kate Johnson has 7 easy goat cheese recipes to try!
Goat Journal contributor Kate Johnson is the founder and lead instructor of The Art of Cheese – an artisan home-cheesemaking school located in Longmont, Colorado.
Originally published in the March/April 2018 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.