Goat cheese is any cheese made from the milk of goats. Popular throughout the world, and available in many forms, from soft to hard, it's one of the world's oldest cheeses, dating to the domestication of goats around 10,000 to 11,000 years ago.
- Made from: Pasteurized or unpasteurized goat milk
- Texture: Soft and spreadable to chalky and crumbly
- Aging: 3 days to 1 year
What Is Goat Cheese?
Goat cheese differs from cow's milk cheeses in a number of ways. It's generally softer than cow's milk cheese, owing to a lower amount of casein, a milk protein that becomes firm when combined with substances like acid or rennet which cause curdling. Goat cheese has more fat than cow's milk cheese, and its flavor is tangier, since it is rich in caproic, caprylic, and capric acids—medium chain fatty acids that also help give goat cheese its unique, goaty aroma.
Goat cheese is white in color, taking on a slightly yellow hue as it ages. Goat's milk has almost as much lactose as cow's milk, but the fat molecules are smaller, which may account for the fact that people who are lactose intolerant have an easier time digesting goat's milk products than cow's milk. When heated, it softens rather than melts.
How Goat Cheese Is Made
Goat cheese is made using either pasteurized or raw goat's milk. After warming the milk to around 65 F, a starter culture is added to begin fermenting the milk, followed by rennet, which begins the coagulation of the milk proteins, i.e. forming curds, a process take takes a day or two.
This solid curd is then scooped into the various molds that will determine the shape of the cheese, whereupon it is drained for a period of around 24 hours. Salt is then sprinkled over the cheese, which, in addition to adding flavor, helps form the rind and controls the growth of microorganisms. Sometimes salt is added along with the milk.
Some goat cheeses can be eaten immediately after draining. These fresh cheeses are soft, with a high moisture content and a fresh, milky flavor. Other cheeses will undergo more extensive ripening, anywhere from a week to as long as a year. The longer a cheese ripens, the drier and harder it will be. Some goat cheeses are dusted with ash, which lowers the acidity of the cheese and aids in ripening. Goat cheeses can also be dusted with herbs.
Types of Goat Cheese
Virtually every type of cheese that can be made with cow's milk or sheep's milk can also be made from goat's milk. Cheeses such as blue cheese, brie, camembert, cheddar and gouda can all be made from goat's milk. Goat cheeses can be grouped by their age, which corresponds with their texture, with younger cheeses more soft and spreadable, and riper cheeses more crumbly or chalky, with a sharper flavor.
Feta cheese, traditionally made with a combination of sheep's and goat's milk, is made by curing blocks of cheese in brine.
If you want to substitute some other cheese for goat cheese, whether because you prefer regular cow's milk cheese or sheep's milk cheese, it makes sense to substitute a similar type of cheese. So if your recipe calls for a fresh goat cheese like chevre, look for something equally soft and spreadable, such as ricotta or cream cheese. In general, aged cheeses will have more in common with each other, and should work the same in a recipe; the same goes for fresh cheeses.
The uses for goat cheese are as numerous as the varieties of goat cheese itself. But some of the most common include, spreading it on bread, baguette slices, crostini, toast or bagels. It is also crumbled over salads, especially ones with sweet fruits. Beet salad with crumbled goat cheese is a classic pairing. It goes equally well on sandwiches, on pizza, mixed in with risotto and pasta dishes, and added to soups.
Softer goat cheeses can be stored sealed in foil or in a plastic container in the fridge. Harder goat cheeses should be wrapped in parchment or wax paper and stored in the fridge. When stored properly, goat cheeses should last 2 to 3 weeks. Remember to take your cheese out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Goat Cheese Recipes
The following recipes show just a few of the many types of dishes goat cheese can be used in.
Can You Eat the Rind?
Not all goat cheeses have rinds, but the ones that do are completely edible.