Now that milking has begun, and therefore cheese making has begun, I’m starting to think about what sorts of things I can add to chevre for flavor. My all time favorite is still fresh dill, garlic, salt and a pinch of sugar but I’ve been experimenting with other flavors as well. Most of the time I use at least a few dried ingredients, especially garlic and onion. Yes, you can use fresh raw onion and garlic but in my opinion the flavor is too strong and harsh. I much prefer the flavor of dried garlic and onion which is much more like to roasted or cooked garlic and onion than raw. So yesterday I chopped up an onion and some garlic that I had previously roasted, covered in olive oil and then froze and put them in my dehydrator.
I didn’t take any pictures of them before dehydrating, but you can probably use your imagination. I dried them on a low heat setting for a long time (overnight). If you don’t dry them long enough they will create a mushy paste when you try to grind them rather than a powder.
I use an old coffee grinder for grinding my dried herbs/spices/etc. It works really well but one my complaint is that its difficult to clean. When grinding garlic and onion its really important that I get it VERY clean before using the grinder for something milder like herbs or something that would taste horrible with garlic like citrus rind.
Powdered dehydrated lime zest and lime simple syrup
Since I had the dehydrator running anyway, I decided to throw a few other things on to dry (and cleaned out the fridge and fruit basket as well). We had a bag of limes that were starting to get some age on them so I cut off the outer rind and dried it, and then used the juice to make syrup. I also found a bunch of carrots in the fridge that needed to be used up so I sliced them up really thinly with a vegetable peeler and dried them up. They made a really pretty orange powder. This may seem like a weird thing to make, but carrot powder actually adds a nice bit of depth to herb and spice mixes. When a little is used in a mix you don’t really taste “carrot”, it just makes the mix taste kind of “gardeny”. It’ll be interesting to see how the bright orange color affects the color of the cheese!
Lime zest, orange zest, carrot powder, garlic powder, onion powder
Finally, I chopped up some left over fish that had been in the fridge just a little bit too long and dehydrated it. Anytime we have left over cooked meat I toss the scraps in the dehydrator and it makes the best dog treats. Both dogs have been very attentive and well behaved today — all I have to do is shake my little mason jar of treats and they come running! Oh and I almost forgot. I found a jar of bread and butter pickles in the fridge that was nearly empty and taking up valuable shelf space so I decided to experiment a bit and see what would happen if I dried them. They have the consistency of gummy bears but taste like pickles and I can’t decide if they are delicious or disgusting.
Both batches of chevre, both made with fresh raw milk but one with proportionally more rennet, were ready to eat today so I did a side by side comparison. The difference is amazing. You can see some of the textural differences in the photo above but its actually much more dramatic in person.The batch with less rennet (proportionally) than the recipe called for turned out great. It can smoothly be spread on bread or a cracker or pressed into a log. Herbs and spices can easily be mixed in with a fork. It is a bit too soft to be crumbled onto a salad like feta, but since I mostly eat it spread on crackers or veggies I prefer it on the soft side!
The over ripened batch with too much rennet is very firm- almost the texture of a grocery store cheddar. I put a portion of it in a mold when it was draining and this small round sliced smoothly and was actually quite nice in a caprese salad. The unmolded curds are very strange, though. They are somewhat like the squeaky cheese curds you can sometimes find sold as “Cheese Curds” but the flavor is a bit sour and the texture isn’t very palatable. It does not spread at all but thankfully it does melt and is nice melted on a piece of toast or crumbled on top of hot stew. It would also probably work well in a melted dip. Because of the sourness of the flavor, it is best mixed with other flavors that balance it out.
The over ripened batch will not go to waste, but I’m very relieved to have discovered why my chevre was turning out so firm as of late so that I can go back to my soft, spreadable chevre!
Related Posts: Frozen vs Fresh Chevre, Fresh Chevre Update
Chevre with a proper amount of ripening
After yesterday’s disappointing batch of chevre I was eager to get another batch started and have a success this time.
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
Results: I had a much more appropriate amount of ripening with this batch. My curds and whey still separated nicely. I started seeing effects within an hour of adding the culture and after about 8 hours it looked about done, to me.
In this photo you should be able to see how the overly ripened batch formed a very clear separation between the curds (solid) and whey (clear liquid). The curds have dropped down about half an inch below the surface of the whey. The new batch doesn’t have as definite a separation. The curds are still nicely formed but haven’t sunk completely- there are just pools of whey forming on the surface and around edges. I like a soft, spreadable chevre rather than something crumbly like feta, though I have seen both types sold as “chevre”. Therefore, I prefer for my curds to not be too firm.
The difference is easier to see once I start cutting and scooping out the curds as well as when the curds have just been poured into the cheesecloth lined strainer to drain.
I’ll have to wait a few more hours for it to finish draining and refrigerate a bit before the two finished cheeses are ready to be compared side by side.