I hope you had a nice long weekend. I certainly did. The impending move and new job loomed largely on the horizon, but it was full of lovely things none-the-less. There were adolescent lettuces and Eastern Shore popcorn at a fun birthday dinner, a nerve-wracking overtime game, a new episode of The Wire, and several walks in the bone-chilling, exhilarating cold. I managed to squeeze in a few yoga classes to warm me up, a cup of celeriac-kale soup with tomato dumplings shared with mom, and trolled my way through boxes of old photographs, one of those tasks that's never as productive as it's meant to be, but is a great way to while away an afternoon. What more could you ask of a weekend, really? Oh, and I bought a carton of goat milk. And then I made cheese.
I know, I'm excited just typing it. And it was so easy, too! There was that container of goat milk, slyly beckoning me from the market shelf, and my curious hands just had to buy it. Of course, I had visions of making beautiful little crottins of goat cheeses or perhaps some goat milk yogurt, but in the end I just made the simplest cheese recipe I could find. When I lived in places where ricotta cheese wasn't available, I made my own, and the technique used here is much the same. It's quick, easy, and yields delightful results. But though I've made simple cheese before, this fresh goat cheese was beyond my expectations. It has the soft-curd texture of ricotta but with an underlying flavor- don't expect anything strong or creamy like chevre, only a quiet subtle note that keeps it just this side of bland. On Monday night I mixed it into a beet salad, but the beets almost overwhelmed it, and the cheese was so delicious in its subtlety we ended up setting aside our plates and simply spooning the cheese onto little pieces of bread, carefully tasting and chewing each bite.
The recipe doesn't yield a huge amount, which is okay because it's best enjoyed at its freshest. Besides, it's ready in only half an hour, and then you'll have your own homemade cheese! I can't wait to see what next weekend holds, and I hope it includes more cheese.
Fresh Goat Cheese
This simple cheese is like a goat-milk ricotta, and is best freshly made. Its subtle flavor invites experimentation with flavors and seasonings- you could try infusing the mixture with different herbs and spices. Though this can be made with cow's milk, I think that would be rather beside the point.
1 pint goat milk
1 tablespoon mild vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1. Place milk in a medium saucepan, stir in the vinegar, lemon, and salt. Place the mixture over a medium flame and place a thermometer in it.
2. Meanwhile, line a mesh sieve with several layers of cheesecloth (I fold it over so it has about 4 layers). Set the sieve over a bowl.
3. Bring the milk mixture to 175 F (do not let it boil). When the milk reaches 175F (in my case it took until 180), you will see the curds and whey separate. You can give the mixture a gentle stir to encourage it, but avoid over-stirring. When it has separated, pour the warm mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and let drain. Gently lift up the corners of the cheesecloth and tie them up. Do not press on the cheese. Suspend the cheese over a sink or bowl and let drain for fifteen minutes. Gently unmold cheese, transfer to a bowl and store in the refrigerator. Keeps for over a week, but is best in the first couple days.
Whey can be discarded or reserved to use in breadmaking or soups.