Hooters Hall

Posts Tagged ‘Chèvre making’

Cheese Ageing and Leaf Wrapping

My education in cheesemaking has been continuing as you will have seen if you follow any of the Hooters Hall social media. I’ve been experimenting with aged Chèvre. Five weeks ago I made some Chèvre using shop bought milk. I let the curds ferment in the whey for 4 days and then ladled them into small cheese forms to drain before surface salting. I found handling the curds while they were still so wet very challenging and couldn’t avoid one complete collapse but I persevered. I let the cheese drain and then dry and cure for several days at room temperature. I’ve bought a set of roasting trays which have a wire rack over a metal tray making them perfect for no fuss cheese draining.

After curing I put my little, slightly misshapen cheeses into my cheese cave which is a small wine fridge that I bought for the prupose. I’ve have several oak chopping boards to use as shelving and a hygrometer to monitor relative humidity. I keep a small ramekin on water in there to help maintain the humidity and the fridge has an external temperature control and display.

We had the first taste of these cheeses after 2 weeks of ageing. The cheese was very acidic with a hint of citrus and proper goat cheese clagginess. I then let the remaining cheeses age for a further 3 weeks and we tried some more this weekend. The flavour had changed significantly over the 3 weeks. The acidic, citrus taste had completely gone and was replaced by a strong, complex goat cheese flavour. The texture was quite dense and smooth. Overall I was very pleased and I’m looking forward to seeing how the flavour develops over a full 60 days of ageing.

This cheese is pictured on the left in the photo below.

Aged Chèvre cheeses

The cheese on the right in the photo is another aged Chèvre this time made from raw milk. For this cheese I let the curds ferment for 2 days. I pre drained the curd using my normal cheesecloth in a colander method because I’d found dealing with the draining curd in the cheese forms too fiddly. I salted all of the curd together and then put it in the cheese forms. The pre draining meant there wasn’t any need for further draining but I removed from the cheese forms after 24 hours and let the cheese cure at room temperature for a few days before transferring to the cheese cave.

We had our first taste of this cheese after 3 weeks of ageing. It wasn’t as strong as the first cheese but had an enjoyable clagginess and creamy flavour. It was drier and more crumbly in texture probably because of the pre draining. I am leaving some of this cheese to age for a full 60 days but I have decided to experiment with leaf wrapping four of the cheeses.

Wrapping cheeses in leaves has been practised as long as cheeses have been made with cheesemakers making use of local vegetation. As a keen gardener as well as cheesemaker this is an area of cheesemaking I’m really interested in. Leaves can be used dry but you can also macerate leaves in alcohol before wrapping. Essentailly this means leaving them to soak in alcohol for a week or two. I decided to use leaves from the smallholding. I picked some vine leaves and fig leaves from the polytunnel, sage leaves from my herb garden and some nettle leaves from our small woodland. I soaked the vine, fig and nettle leaves in homemade Elderflower champagne and the sage leaves in an organic cider.

Here’s a picture of the leaves soaking and the cheeses pre wrapping

Leaf wrapping cheeses

The hope is that the combination of leaves and alcohol will have a positive effect on the flavour of the cheese. The leaves also protect the cheese, creating it’s own little micro climate.

Wrapping the cheeses wasn’t too hard. I used several leaves for each cheese and simply overlapped the leaves then secured them with cooking string. I found it easiest to apply the leaves around the middle of the cheese first and secure with string then fold those leaves over at the ends and add more leaves until both ends were covered before securing all the leaves with some more string. Of course the shape of your cheese will affect the ease of wrapping. Here are the finished cheeses.

Leaf wrapped Chèvre cheese

Leaf wrapped Chèvre cheeses

These leaf wrapped cheeses have now been put back in the cheese cave to complete their ageing. I plan to open them after a full 60 days of ageing. It will be interesting to compare with the non leaf wrapped, naked cheese.

Here’s a picture of the cheese cave

Cheese cave

At the front on the left you can see my latest cheese. This is a Chèvre that I made recently and lightly pressed using an antique cheese press that I found in a local antique centre. Here’s a picture

Antique cheese press

I used shop bought, pasteurised goat’s milk, let the curd ferment for 2 days before pre draining, salting and then pressing in a cheese form for 2 days turning the cheese after 24 hours. I’m going to let the cheese age for 4 weeks then try soaking it in red wine before letting it finish ageing. It should be ready on Christmas eve.

This is what it looked like just before going into the cheese cave

Chèvre cheese before ageing

Other cheese plans include experimenting with using herbs to coat the cheese and layering with herbs. I also want to try making different shapes of aged Chèvre because the shape influences the way the cheese ripens. The relationship of surface area to volume being the important factor. Cheeses with a higher surface area to volume ratio ripen more quickly from the exterior than those with a smaller ratio. Larger cheeses with lower surface area compared to volume will ripen more from the interior. Smaller or flatter cheeses, those with square edges, or long cylindrically shaped cheeses tend to ripen from the exterior. There are ash ripened cheeses to explore as well. I’m going to try making m own cheese ask using the prunings from my fruit trees.

Chèvre with homemade Kefir

I’ve been continuing my experiments with making Chèvre. I haven’t had much luck with the freeze dried culture, it’s been giving me inconsistent results but that’s not a problem because using homemade Kefir is working really well.

I bought my Kefir grains on Ebay and I’ve been feeding them organic, full fat cows milk . I have a glass of Kefir everyday which if I’m not using it for cheesemaking I just enjoy by itself. I hadn’t tried Kefir before but I do quite like it. Thicker than milk it has a slightly sour taste with a sight fizziness which I find very thirst quenching. I usually have a glass before I go on my evening run, it boosts my energy levels a bit without filling me up too much.

Using Kefir instead of freeze dried culture is the method that David Asher uses in the book The Art of Natural Cheesemaking. I’ve made some slight adaptions to suit me and because I’m using store bought pasteurised milk. Having done some research I’ve discovered that using Calcium Chloride helps increase yield from pasteurised milk. There’s some very helpful information and explanation about the use of Calcium Chloride on the website Curd Nerd Calcium Chloride what is it and when should you use it . For now I think I’ll always use Calcium Chloride when using store bought milk but hopefully next year I’ll have raw milk from our Golden Guernsey goats.

I’ve been using a half measure of rennet 2 drops instead of 4 drops/litre which has given me a nice soft Chèvre texture in my cheese but I might experiment with using 4 drops to see if I get a better yield. Based on the theory I think I might increase my yield but at the expense of the soft texture and possibly taste. Too much rennet leads to a bitter tasting cheese according to the research I’ve done. I suspect the best way to increase yield will be to use raw milk.

Here are my recipe notes and a picture of the final result. It’s a very smooth, soft cheese with a tangy flavour and moreishness about it. I particulalry like it spread on a digestive biscuit.

Ingredients for making Chevre with homemade Kefir

Method for making Chevre with Kefir part 1

Method for making Chevre with homemade Kefir part 2



Homemade Chevre cheese











Cheesemaking first attempt at Chèvre

The next step in my cheesemaking journey is to start learning about rennet cheeses by making Chèvre.

Chèvre is known as a lactic acid set cheese fitting between simple lactic acid set yogurt cheeses and more complex rennet set cheeses with elements of both styles of cheesemaking. The process of Chèvre making involves a long, slow fermentation that brings out the best flavours of goat’s milk.

Chèvre is a common cheese in central France made by many small dairies using milk from small goat herds each bringing an individuality to their cheese. Chèvre making seems perfectly suited to life on a small farm or smallholding. It doesn’t need much attention or too many costly ingredients

To make Chèvre you first need to warm goat’s milk to approximately 30ºC. Then add starter culture and a small dose of rennet to the milk. The milk is then left to ferment for around 24 hours (some recipes suggest 12 hours some up to 2 days). The curd is then left to drain for 6 hours – overnight

Traditionally backslopped whey was used to culture goat’s milk when making Chèvre. If you don’t have access to raw milk you won’t be able to do this so there are two other options. Firstly you can buy commercial mesophillic freeze-dried starters containing laboratory raised bacteria. The second option is to use Kefir to restore microbiological diversity to pasteurised goat’s milk. This technique apparently leads to a more flavourful raw milk like Chèvre.

I’ve just ordered a milk Kefir starter kit and I’ll write a bit more about this technique when I’ve had a chance to try it out. For my first attempt at Chèvre I used a commercial freeze dried Chèvre culture with rennet included.

Although all my research described Chèvre as an easy, forgiving method of cheesemaking it didn’t quite go to plan for me. I heated my 4 litres of milk to 30ºC, added my culture, waited for 2 minutes, stirred and then left to ferment for 12 hours at room temperature.

I did have some curd, with a yogurt like consistency as the recipes I have read described. There wasn’t as much curd as I was expecting and I think that might have been because the room temperature was a little cool. Having done some research since the advice I found was to add a little heat if there seems to be a lack of curd.

I did leave my curd to drain overnight and then added some salt. This is where I made a bit of a schoolboy error. I didn’t take into account the reduced amount of curd I had and didn’t reduce my amount of salt accordingly.

The Chèvre was still quite sloppy so I put it in a cheese form and left it in a bowl in the fridge to drain a bit more liquid.

This was the result

I was pleased with the consistency. It smelt like a creamy goat cheese the problem was the amount of salt I had added, it was horribly over salted. I did eat some and there was a hint of delicious, creamy goat cheese in there but it was just ridiculously salty.

The following day I decided to try again. I decided to try heating my milk on our cooking range, rather than the induction hob, and then moved it to the warming plate on the range. Unfortunately I underestimated how warm the range would get and basically ended up pasteurising the milk, therefore killing off the culture.

I’m hoping it will be third time lucky this week. I’m going to warm the milk on the induction hob and then keep an eye on the curd development applying a gentle heat if necessary which I hope will lead to more curd development. Of course I’ll also be more careful with the amount of salt I add.

When I was trying to figure out where I had gone wrong I found this Trouble shooting guide for homemade cheese helpful.