Making Goat Cheese

Making your own goat cheese at home is simple. Chevre, queso fresco, neufchatel, farmer’s cheese are all varieties of the same type of fresh soft cheese (though neufchatel is traditionally made with cow milk). If you can’t get fresh raw goat milk, then I suggest using cow milk, as store bought goat milk has been pasteurized and is usually “goaty.” Fresh raw goat milk has a clean sweet taste like cow milk (only better). A fresh soft cheese made from cow milk will be much more bland than goat milk but you can dress it up with herbs.

I usually make cheese with 1 1/2 gallons to 2 gallons of milk because that is what I get from a day’s milking right now. You can make smaller amounts with say half gallon, just adjust the amount of culture and rennet you use. For reference a gallon of milk will make approximately 1.5 to 2 pounds of fresh cheese, depending on the animals stage in lactation (has to do with milk solids vs. water in the milk).

Step 1. Gather your milk. Only use clean fresh milk. I don’t like drinking pasteurized or homogenized milk, but you can use this kind of milk. Just make sure it is as fresh as possible.

Step 2. Sterilize your cheese pot. Using a large stainless steel or enameled pot (no aluminum please), place about a half inch of water in the pot. Bring to a boil, covered. Let boil/simmer for about 5 minutes. The steam will sterilize the pot. I pour the boiled water over my whisk to “sterilize” it, then place the clean whisk in a glass jar so it doesn’t get recontaminated.

Heating Goat Milk

Step 3. Pour the milk in the pot. If you’re using fresh milk straight from the goat or cow, you will not need to heat the milk; it should be at about 68 degrees. Milk comes out of the goat at about 90 degrees, so by the time you’ve strained the milk, and gotten around to cheese making, it should have cooled down a bit. If you’re using milk that has been refrigerated, then heat the milk gently until it is about 68 degrees. I don’t get real specific with this. Just warm it slightly. I don’t pasteurize milk for making soft cheese, though many recipes will have you scald milk.

Step 4. Once the milk is warmed, whisk in 1/4 cup buttermilk. You can also use mail-order chevre cultures at this stage. I never do this because buttermilk works just fine. The purchased cultures are costly over time, but they make give you a sharper “chevre” flavor, where this recipe will produce a milder soft cheese.

Step 5. Add the rennet. You have two choices here:

1) Use inexpensive sort of easy to find Junket Rennet tablets. Junket rennet won’t actually be that easy to find in an urban grocery store, but ask the store manager, they’ll probably order it for you. Stores in rural settings will be more likely to carry junket rennet tablets. You can also order them online. Some cheesemakers are very particular about not using junket rennet, but really, it works just fine for a simple cheese, is inexpensive and lasts for years. If you’re using junket, use a half tablet dissolved in lukewarm water. Stir into the milk (don’t overstir).

2) Use vegetable or animal based rennet (traditional cheese making used animal rennet which was a piece of a sheep or calf stomach lining -the enzymes found here are essential for making the curd. Although you can make vinegar cheeses or cheeses using other substances to curd the milk besides rennet). You will need to buy rennet from a cheese making supply or you may be lucky to find some at your local co-op. I ordered some vegetable rennet years ago from our local co-op, but haven’t seen it lately. If using liquid vegetable rennet add two to three drops to the milk and give a quick brief stir. If using animal based rennet, then add two drops to a quarter cup water, then use two tablespoons of the water -briefly stir into the cultured milk.

Step 6. Cover the renneted and cultured milk and let sit for approximately 24 hours. Cooler temperatures may require longer time to set. Higher temperatures will make the curd set faster. For example, if you leave the milk on your stove, and bake something in the oven, the milk will likely overheat, set curd too fast and become drier in texture. Better to leave the milk to curd on a counter.

When the milk has set, a fine layer of whey will appear over the curd. The longer you let the curd set, the more whey will appear, till your curd is half the size usually floating at the bottom or top of the whey. Don’t let this happen. Try to cut it when there is just a quarter inch to half inch of whey on top.

To cut the curd, take a straight spatula or knife and cut straight down from the top of the curd to the bottom (hitting the bottom of the pot). Cut parallel lines from one side to the other, about 1/2 inch apart. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Then rotate the pot, and make the same cuts perpendicular to the first, from one side of the pot to the other. Then take a stainless steel strainer spoon and scoop out cubes of curd, about a 1/2 inch layer at a time.

Straining Cheese Through Cloth

Set colander in the sink (over your pot if you want to collect the whey). Put a flour sack cloth/dish towel in the colander. You can use real cheese cloth (not the webby stuff you buy in the craft store), or an old pillow case, or even an old clean t-shirt. Scoop the curds into the cheesecloth/colander. When finished, I usually let it drain for a half hour or so to make the bulk of curd easier to handle, but you can tie up the curd right away.

Wrapping cheese in cloth and hanging hook.

Tie two edges of the towel together. Using a wooden spoon or other strong straight implement (not a chopstick), tie the other ends over the stick and knot them. You will be able to rest the stick between two cabinet knobs or find some other method in your kitchen or fridge to hang the cheese.

Hanging Cheese to Drain

I hang the cheese usually overnight. If it is very hot out, I will put it in the fridge after 6 hours or so. The curd is ready when the whey stops dripping. I usually let the cheese age and further drip whey out in the fridge for a day or so. This makes a firmer cheese that I prefer. At this stage I remove the cheese from the cloth and blend with salt, about a teaspoon or two per pound of cheese according to your taste. I generally put less salt and more herbs. The resulting cheese will keep, covered in a glass container or packed in olive oil, for about a month in the refrigerator. You can also rewrap the cheese to further drain whey and make an even firmer cheese. Enjoy!

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35 Responses to Making Goat Cheese

  1. Kawaguchi, Joe-Sam says:

    is it possible to mix sugar or honey to turn the taste sweet?

  2. Hi Joe-Sam:

    We occasionally mix in honey to make a sweet breakfast spread. Start with a small amount first and then add to taste. Thanks for stopping by our blog.

    -Tree

  3. Maggie Huffman says:

    What type of setup is required to make cheese? Can I do it in my Kitchen or should I have a separete room designated for this and what type of equipment do I need?

  4. Hi Maggie,

    Take a moment and read through this post. It describes how to make goat cheese “at home” and names as well as shows pictures of the utensils and pots needed. -Tree

  5. Jess in Michigan says:

    Hi Sunstoneherbfarm
    and thanks for the great info! I’m interested in making a very simple raw goat cheese, using lemon or vinegar instead of rennet. The recipes I’m finding on the net so far tell you to heat the milk to about 185F. That means the milk’s not raw any more, right? Do you know if the method you’ve described here will work with lemon or vinegar?
    Would appreciate any pointers!
    -Jess

  6. Kevin S says:

    I don’t have goats but finally found someone who does. I followed your directions and now have a big bowl of delicious cheese. Getting ready to pass some on to my friends. Thank you for explaining everything so well. – Kevin

  7. You’re welcome, Kevin. Not sure if you saw our other post that provides a delicious recipe for Basil, Garlic and Walnut goat cheese: https://sunstoneherbfarm.wordpress.com/2008/02/20/basil-garlic-and-walnut-goat-cheese/
    Your friends will love you. -Tree

  8. Hi Jess,
    I don’t know if the “slow ferment” method will work with lemon/vinegar as the curdling agent. I know those are usually used with heat and as a quick method.

    Your milk will eventually form curds on its own (the old curds and whey), which can be drained and eaten, but with goat milk, the curd may be unsatisfy-ingly goaty if left out to curd on its own.

    Another way to have raw farmers cheese without going the heat/vinegar or rennet route is to make yogurt and then drain to make yogurt cheese. You can also use plants instead of rennet –nettles, thistles, and bedstraw come to mind, but I believe you have to use the fresh plant, and most directions I’ve seen call for the milk to be heated in the same way as a vinegar cheese.

    I like to keep my milk raw which is why I always do the slow ferment cheese method. Why don’t you experiment and let us know!

    Good luck! Jen

  9. julie says:

    I dont really have a comment about this but live about 2 hours from abq and wonder where you get your supplies? Is there anywhere around abq where you can get any cheese making supplies? I live by bluewater lake and have goats and make cheese too. I have always bought online but realized i need some rennet quick LOL or my milk will be wasted! cant let that happen! :o) Thanks
    Julie

  10. Hi Julie,

    I order all my liquid rennet online and the junket tablets too, but you can sometimes find the junket tablets in regular grocery stores or homesteader oriented general stores by the canning or pudding supplies. When I lived in NY, I was able to buy vegetarian liquid rennet at our local coop -if you have a store like that you could ask them to stock it. If your regular grocery doesn’t carry it, try the grocery section of Walmart -it’s worth a shot if you don’t have any other local stores. Another option is to make a rennet-less cheese with an acid -either lemon juice or vinegar or buttermilk.

    Good luck!

    Jen

  11. julie says:

    Thanks Jen! I went to gallup yesterday and when I asked at a deli butcher counter they asked “granite?” LOL I finally found some junket at albertson’s! our walmarts do not carry it. I am pretty set on making the feta and chevre these days, though made some cheddar the other day. Have you ever tried making rennet from the thistles? Have thought about it but not yet tried it. Thanks again!
    julie

  12. I really love goat cheese it is really delicous. Most of the time I eat it as a dessert or use it to make a salsa.

  13. Johan Dirkes says:

    Where can I get tools and cultures for cheese making in Albuquerque??
    Thanks!!

  14. Hi Johan,
    I don’t know of any cheese making supply shops in Albuquerque, if you read the post, you’ll see that I don’t use anything hard to get except for rennet which is available in some grocery stores in tablet form, and La Montanita Coop has liquid vegetarian rennet in their refrigerated cheese section.

    I order everything else online.

    Jen

  15. Sue says:

    Thanks for the info. I am looking for a way to make vegetable rennet using the fresh herbs, but I don’t know how the herb is supposed to be put into the culture. Should it be the fresh, bruised herb, or the decocted herb liquid, or what? Do you know or could you direct me to somebody that’s knowledgable about this stuff?

  16. Hi Sue,
    I think you’re supposed to use the fresh plant, but I’ve never done it, only read about it. I’d love to hear about your results when you try it (or find first hand information about it!).

    Good luck! Jen

  17. debbie says:

    This is my first attempt at making goat cheese. I have 1/2 gallon milk to use. Would I also adjust the amount of the buttermilk? Also, I’m assuming your recipe was for 2 gallons of milk? Thanks for the info!

  18. Hi Debbie,
    You can cut the amount of buttermilk in half. I typically make chevre in 1 or 2 gallon batches and I use the same amount of culture regardless of the amount of milk. Have fun! Jen

  19. annadvorak says:

    Thanks for the recipe! I successfully made my first-ever batch of raw milk chevre thanks to your great instructions and some delicious goat milk that I bought at a little farm in southern Colorado. I used Junket for the rennet (I had picked up a box on a whim last week – lucky!) and organic yogurt for the culture (simply because it’s what I had on hand). It turned out great and I can’t wait to try it again using buttermilk to taste the difference. I loved the fact that you gave the recipe as a raw milk chevre and not cooked – thank you!

  20. Salena says:

    So glad I found your blog! I have frozen raw goats milk, and would like to try your raw method. Do you think the freezing will alter the milk for raw milk cheese?

  21. Freezing will cause the fat to separate slightly in the milk, but it will still work. Be sure to defrost the milk in the fridge and then add culture when closer to room temperature. Let me know how it goes!

  22. Chelsea says:

    In Albuquerque you can find cheese making supplies at sunflower market at coors and 528 by coralles. I bet any grocery store off colors south of I 40 would at least carry the tablets. If you go to the farmers market in the north valley off sounds and rio grande ask the cheese sellers there where they have found it in town. The north valley co op is just south of the farmers market on rio grande. I bought a whole kit including rennet tablets, thermometer, and mozzarella directions at sunflower. I plan on looking at the coralles mercado farther north of the sunflower market for liquid rennet. For herbs I mixed dried basil into my mozzarella and it was yummy. As a question for sunstone farm, in brazil I had the best cheese i have ever tasted, queijo minas. It was a cheese similar to queso fresco, but it was firmer and squeaked on your teeth. And ideas how to make a squeaky cheese?

  23. Thanks for the tips, Chelsea. I haven’t make queijo minas, but I wonder if it’s similar to Haloumi, a cheese from Cyprus or Crete (can’t remember which). It’s frequently called “squeaky cheese.” I usually make it in the summer when it’s hot since it doesn’t require ripening. You can google recipes for Haloumi. I’ll try to post my efforts one of these days.

    FYI, I live off of Coors very south of I-40 and not all stores that I’ve been to carry the rennet tablets, but I’ve found that most store managers will special order. While I haven’t talked to the cheese sellers you’re talking about (at the NVFM), I’d bet that they buy their cultures and rennets in bulk, commercially.

    It’s great that more rennets are available locally. Now, if stores would start stocking cultures, that would be cool!

  24. irene says:

    hello there – I’m trying to find a receipe to make cheese that uses thistle flowers as the vegetable rennet…. Most blogs or web pages state that it is possible but they never put the quantities! I live in a remote area where finding a cheese making products will be hard BUT i have a lot of thistles at my disposal – Can you help point me in the right direction?
    thanks

  25. LogCabinMom says:

    Hi, I’m looking for answers as to what I did wrong – I mixed a gallon of fresh raw goat milk with a qt of buttermilk and 1/2 tsp rennet. I then brought it up to 130deg (I had read another recipe that called for 180 but didn’t want to kill all the enzymes) – then let it sit for a day. I ended up with maybe 1.5 cups of very hard, squeaky curds – they’re not creamy at all, like the goat cheese I’m used to – and a LOT of whey. Did I heat it too high? Can I salvage these curds and turn them into a creamy cheese? Thank you!

  26. Faith Arnold says:

    Log Cabin Mom: That much buttermilk for 24 hours would have produced ‘WAY too much acid, which toughens the curds.
    .

  27. I appreciate this post, especially the tips on being frugal.
    Why do I have to let the milk cool at all? I’m under the impression mesophilic starters are still fine up to 90, temp out of the goat.
    Also, I pulled some curd out after 6 hours and it tastes like paneer or queso fresco?
    Is it necessary to cut the curd?

  28. Hi sunstonefarm. I feel badly for the way I presented my knowledge. Would you mind deleting my previous two comments? I just wanted to say, Log Cabin Mom, too much culture (aka buttermilk) and too much rennet. Also, since buttermilk is a mesophilic culture, it prefers, thrives on, cooler temperatures, so heating it above 100 will kill it and make it ineffective. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong because I’m on the journey too.
    You may pasteurize the milk if you wish but wait until it has cooled to the proper chèvre temperature before adding the culture and rennet. The post explains everything pretty well. 😜

  29. done. and thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  30. Anna says:

    Do you use F OR C for heating the milk?

  31. Sarah78 says:

    F apparently not C. Would have been nice to have that specified before I started heating my milk…

  32. Julia Withers says:

    How much buttermilk and rennet would you use for one gallon of milk?

  33. Pretty much the same. 1/4 cup culture. Few drops of rennet.

  34. junebugbayer says:

    Uh oh, last night I started a batch with raw goats milk and didn’t add buttermilk (was using a recipe that only called for pasturized milk and the cultures, but I didn’t realize it had called for pasturized milk so didn’t heat it much before adding the cultures). Its been 7 hours and some separation has occurred, but not much. Its just about yogurt consistency and smells sour, like yogurt. Found your recipe and will wait another 12 hours to see…do you think I blew it?

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