Before I got my goats and started milking, I took a short class on how to milk and make several common cheeses. One cheese was called “Chevre'”, which turned out to be Vinegar Cheese, one was Mozerella, and one was Ricotta. Later, depending which book or internet site I was reading, the definition of “Chevre'” varied. Some resources called any goat cheese Chevre’, while others said Chevre’ was saved for certain soft cheeses, and still others said Chevre’ was technically a French cheese made from a very specific culture. I even talked with experienced goat-keeper Tonia via Facebook, who had heard similiar definitions, and made me even more determined to get to the bottom of it. Just what was the real meaning of Chevre’?
It just so happens, we are sponsoring a U.S. Air Force Academy semester exchange cadet from Canada. He is a French-Canadian (and comes complete with the really cool French language and thick accent when he speaks English!), from the Quebec province, and his family has traveled to France often. I figured he would be a good starting point. So I asked him. He said in France and Quebec, the term is used when referring to any type of cheese made from goat’s milk, though there may still be some elite French groups that use it to refer to specific cheeses.
My next step was the dictionary, but Webster’s didn’t list the word. Perhaps because it is French and not English? Then I tried online, and discovered online definitions list it simply as “cheese made from goat’s milk.” During that research, I came across a website with all sorts of info on French cheeses and goat cheeses. It stated that Chevre’ simply means “goat” in French, and a cheese with the label “Pur Chevre'” means the cheese is made entirely from goat’s milk. Because of the nature of goat’s milk, it generally is associated with a soft, crumbly cheese, but can get harder and tangier with age. (FYI, here is the site I got a lot of info: http://www.cheese-france.com/cheese/chevre.htm).
So, I think I have finally answered the question for myself. My husband says I think way too much. He will get a laugh out of this. I don’t think he had any clue just how much this was bugging me! Then again, I think he knows I have issues.
In closing, let me give you what has become my favorite Chevre’ recipe, commonly known as Vinegar cheese. It’s my current favorite, due to it’s versatility, ease and speed of making, and the compliments I often receive:
- 1/2 gallon of raw goat’s milk
- 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
Heat the milk to 180′ F, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat, and add vinegar, pouring in a swirl pattern to help incorporate it. Gently mix justa few times with a spoon, using a slow up-and-down action, to fully incorporate the vinegar. Do not stir! You should see the milk curds and whey begin to seperate almost immediately. Wait 1-2 minutes. Line a large bowl with a flour cloth. Pour milk mixture into the cloth-lined bowl. Tie the flour cloth at diagonal corners, and lift out of bowl. The whey should immediately start draining out into the bowl, leaving only the curds in the cloth. Wait until cloth stops dripping (usually about 20-30 minutes). For a drier, harder cheese, wait a bit longer, occasionally checking the cheese until the desired firmness.
Once desired firmness is reached, use a spatula to scrape cheese off cloth and into a seperate bowl. Use your hands to mix desired seasonings into the cheese. Serve immediately or chill. FYI, my favorite seasoning so far is 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 1 tsp Italian seasoning herbs. There is no limit as to what you can use though–fruits, nuts, sauces, herbs, etc. Enjoy!