For a while, each batch of Chevre I made got better and better until I was consistently getting a great texture and flavor. I was in goat cheese heaven! But a couple of weeks ago my batches kept going wrong. Not horribly terribly wrong, just not quite right. One batch had an obvious cause– the burner under it accidentally got turned on, boiling my curds when they should have been resting at room temperature. Other than that one batch, though, I couldn’t figure out the problem. My curds were turned hard and squeaky and the flavor was more sour than before.
And then I realized what had changed.
When I first started milking Ivy I wasn’t separating her babies at night and so I was only getting a couple of cups, at the most, at each milking. Since I need at least a gallon of milk for a batch of cheese, it took a while to accumulate enough. Being new to raw milk I wasn’t sure how long it was okay for it to sit in the fridge before being used so I started freezing any milk that I wasn’t going to be using for drinking within the next day or two. Therefore, all of my initial batches of chevre were made with milk that had been frozen. Several weeks ago I started separating the kids at night and started getting about 8 cups of milk each morning, plus up to 4 in the evening. At this rate, I have enough for a batch of cheese within 2 days and no need to freeze unless I know I won’t be making cheese for a while. So my last several batches of chevre have used all fresh, never been frozen milk. Its still the same milk though, right?
The freezing must kill off some of the active enzymes (or something?) in the raw milk making it more like pasteurized milk (at least, where cheese making is concerned). Most cheese recipes are based on the assumption that you will be using pasteurized milk of some type since in most places in the US its very difficult- if not illegal- to purchase raw milk*.
Since I’d been freezing my milk, my chevre was turning out just fine using a recipe made for pasteurized milk. When I stopped freezing my milk, my recipe stopped working.
Turns out, if you use totally raw milk you are supposed to decrease the rennet added by up to 20%. Raw milk doesn’t need as much rennet added since it already has so many active enzymes. Temperatures should also be decreased by a few degrees. If you don’t make these changes, your cheese will “over ripen” and become too acidic, resulting in changes in texture (dryness or hardness) and flavor (sourness).
I’ve been using these handy chevre culture/rennet packets which are pre-measured so I can’t easily decrease the amount of rennet and culture that I’m using. For my first experiment, I am increasing the amount of milk instead. I only have a gallon of fresh milk on hand thanks to a hoof in the milk pail this morning, so I’m adding some frozen milk as well as fresh.
Chevre Experiment #1 : 1 gallon of fresh, unfrozen milk milked within the last 3-4 days with one packet of rennet/culture mix PLUS an additional 4 cups of frozen milk
*I’ll type up my thoughts on raw vs pasteurized milk sometime soon, since it seems to be a hot topic of debate