I learned my lesson about being hesitant about trying sheep cheese, and eagerly jumped in with both feet to try goat cheese. I was ready to be impressed, and was not disappointed. Goat cheese, with the fresh kind also known as chevre, is made from goat milk. Goat cheese comes in a wide variety of forms, although the most common is a soft, easily spread cheese. Goat cheese can also be made in hard aged varieties as well as semi firm cheeses like feta. Goat cheese is especially common in the Middle East, Africa, and some Mediterranean countries, where the hardy goat thrive, and cows are not to be found.
Goat cheese is distinctive due to the tangy flavor of goat milk. Sometimes this flavor is very strong and some consumers find it disagreeable. In some cases, the flavor is sought after, and some dairies are well known for producing particularly goaty cheese. Hormones cause the strong flavor, which can be reduced if lactating nanny goats are separated from the billies (male). Like all animal products, goat milk is heavily influenced by what the goats consume. Because goats have hardy digestive systems (they eat shoes don’t they?) they tend to favor bitter plants that cows would turn up their noises at, and consequently that diet impacts the taste of the milk, giving it the sharp tanginess so often associated with it.
Goat milk has some advantages on cow’s milk, it is more similar to human milk in makeup. It is higher in fat content, but its fat particles are smaller than cow milk and sheep milk making it easier to digest. As a result, it is often used by those who are young, ill, or have a low tolerance to cows milk. Goat milk and cheese are preferred over cow milk and cheese in most of the world, with the Western countries having a preference for cow milk cheeses. Because goat cheese is often made in areas where refrigeration is limited, aged goat cheeses are often heavily treated with salt to prevent decay, which is why you frequently find the cheese bathing in a salty brine, and why goat cheese is frequently associated with the salty flavor imparted by the brine – feta is the perfect example.
Goat cheese has been made for thousands of years, and was probably one of the earliest made dairy products. In the most simple form, goat cheese is made by warming goat milk, mixing it with rennet to curdle, and then draining and pressing the curds. Soft goat cheeses are made in kitchens all over the world, with cooks hanging bundles of cheesecloth filled with curds for several days to drain and cure. If the cheese is to be aged, it is often brined so that it will form a rind, and then stored in a cool cheese cave for several months to cure. For the fresh cheeses, remember this is a seasonal cheese as goats only have kids in the fall and spring, and consequently do not lactate year round.
Primer on goat cheeses by country - this is by no means a complete list, but it should be enough to give you ideas.
France makes a lot of goat’s milk cheeses, mostly in the Loire Valley and Poitou, where goats are said to have been brought by the Moors in the 8th century.
Banon is a cheese that has been made since the Roman era in norther Provence. The cheese is wrapped in chestnut leaves and tied with straw. It is creamy with a full fruity and woody flavor.
Broccui is similar to ricotta and is considered the national food of Corsica.It is the only AOC cheese made with whey.
Chabis is similar to Epoisses and hails from Bourgogne. It is washed once a week in Chablis which gives it a wine taste and a distinctive smell.
Couronne Lochoise is a cheese shaped like a wheel that hails from the Loire valley.
Crottin de Chavignol (largest produced goat cheese AOC) is about the most famous cheese of the Loire Valley. Its been made since the 16th century in Chavignol near Sancerre. The color of its rind ranges from ivory to black.Pélardon
Picodon is a soft cheese made in the Rhone River Valley.
Pouligny Saint-Pierre has been made in central France since the 19th century. It sometimes goes by the nicknames: Eiffel Tower or Pyramid because of its shape and the golden brown exterior flecked with grey-blue mold.
Valençay is shaped like a pyramid with the top cut off. It is named after a town in France. The story goes that the shape originally was a pyramid, but after coming back from a disastrous campaign in Egypt, Napoleon stopped in Valencay, saw the cheese was disgusted at the shape, and with a swipe of his sword lopped of the top.
Spain & Portugal
Mató is a Catalan fresh cheese
Castelo Branco is a Portuguese goat milk cheese.
Many of the cheeses in this list I found in the wonderful book Great British Cheeses by Jenny Linford. Jenny mentions in the book that the plethora of goat cheese is relatively recent, as there was some hesitation based on taste – I’m not the only one, and we all quickly learned our lesson.
Cerney Pyramid is a cheese from Gloucestershirewith a black ash coating and sea salt from France (oh la la)
Fairlight from East Sussex is a salt free fresh cheese with milk from the British Saanen family. This cheese is sold when it is barely a week old.
Fingals from Cornwall and is ready for consumption in just 24 hours.
Innes Button from Staffordshire uses milk still warm from the milking which is key, apparently, to its delicate texture.
Pantysgawn is a Welsh goat’s milk cheese, and gevrik is a Cornish goat’s milk cheese (literally meaning ‘little goat’).
Perroche of Herefordshire is made by Neal’s Yard Creamery is a rindless cheese made by molding the curds.
Rosary of Wiltshire is ready to eat in 3 days
Vulscombe of Devon is unique in that the curd is created using an acidic curd method where the milk’s acidity is raised through a starter.
Bakesey Meadow of Devon has a bloomy rind cheese that has been aged for 4 to 6 weeks.
Capricorn Goat of Somerset is a molded cheese that has been dusted with salt and aged for 7 weeks.
Cheemy of Devon was named after the British downhill skier Chemmy Alcott, and is a cylindrical white rind cheese.
Dorstone of Herefordshire is another cheese from Neal’s Yard. The curd is pre-drained which gives the cheese a fluffy texture.
A lot of the cheeses of Greece are made with goat or sheep milk, or a combination, so the names are interchangeable. Also, I relaxed et my strictly goat milk cheese rule here as all the Greek cheeses, from what I could find, can and are made with various combinations of milk from goat, sheep, and to a lesser extent cow.
halloumi is a cheese with a high melting point so it is often served fried or grilled. Here’s a great recipe from Belgian blogger, Sophie.
feta is a crumbly and briny cheese that is considered one of the primary exports of Greece.
galotiri is one of the oldest traditional cheeses of Greece made in the Epirus and Thessalia region. It has a spreadable texture with a “sourish and pleasant refreshing taste” and is consumed at the table, and is not intended for cooking.
mizithra is a whey cheese that has been made for thousands of years and considered the mother of all Greek whey cheeses. This cheese is either fresh, which is unsalted and consumed a few days after it was made, or dried and salted and sold as a grated cheese.
anthotyros is a traditional unpasteurized cheese that comes in various shapes and sizes. It is dry with no rind, and is commonly served for breakfast with honey and fruit.
kefalotiri is a traditional Greeek cheese with a long history and is considered the ancestor of many of the Greek hard cheeses around today.
kasseri is a traditional Greek “pasta filata” type of cheese made in Macedonia, Thessalia, Mitilini island and Xanthia. Another pasta filata type cheese is mozzarella.
manouri is a soft cheese made exclusively in Central and Western Macedonia and in Thessalia.
Brunost, literally “brown cheese”, is made in Norway – in the United States it is sold under the name Gjetost (goat cheese) – gjet = goat.
Gamalost - which is apparently “Viking Viagra” is an old cheese dating back to Viking times when it was used to “enhance sexual prowess” Its a hard crumbling cheese with very sharp and intense flavor (you were not expecting mild and delicate, I trust). It uses sour rather than fresh milk to get that intense taste.
Caprino is an Italian goat’s milk cheese, capr = goat, and comes either fresh or seasoned.
Here are the caprino variations according to wikipedia
Caprino di Rimella – The curd is then shaped by hand and drained on hemp cloth for three days. After three days the cheese is dry-salted and ready for eating. The cheese is usually brownish white in color. Produced in Piedmont in Valsesia and the municipality of Rimella.
Caprino Ossolano – This cheese has reemerged after years of non-production. It is made from March to October, and the cheese is aged for three days. It has a soft, firm texture and is cream-white in color. The rind often has a straw-yellow color. The cheese is produced in Piedmont in Domodossola, Varzo and Val Vigezzo.
Caprino di Cavalese – The soft curd is cut into small pieces which are heated to 44°C, and then placed in a mold and dry-salted. They are salted until they can no longer absorb any more salt. This product is then aged in an earth or stone-floored cellar. During the aging process the cheese is rotated weekly and washed with a brine solution. The resulting cheese has a thin rind which is reddish-yellow in color and the cheese itself is ivory-white in color. It is produced in Trentino Alto Adige in the area of Cavalese and Fiavé Pinzolo.
Caprino della Valbrevenna – This version is produced from September to October, it is usually produced as a fresh cheese but can be aged sometimes for up to thirty days. In its fresh state it has no rind but develops a yellowish rind when aged. The cheese itself is soft and milk-white. It is produced in Liguria in the municipalities of Triora, Molini di Triora and Cosio di Arroscia in the province of Imperia, and Ormea in the province of Cuneo.
Caprino dell’Aspromonte – Made from goat’s milk that has kid’s rennet added to it and then heated to 36-37°C. Once the curd forms it is cut with a special knife called a ruotolo into pieces the size of a piece of rice. The resulting curd is strained and then placed into rush baskets and pressed by hand and it is allowed to set for a few hours after which it is dry-salted and then allowed to mature on a rush rack (cannizzo). It is aged to create either a soft table cheese or longer, for a mature hard cheese with a grey-brown rind and an ivory-white to brownish color to the cheese itself. It is produced in Calabria in the Aspromonte area of the province of Reggio Calabria.
Caprino della Limina – Made from goat milk with kid’s rennet added to it and is left to sit for one hour. Once the curd forms, it is stirred with a wooden spoon to break it up. The curd is then placed in rush baskets and pressed to remove excess whey. The cheese is removed from the mold and salted and placed back into the mold for a day and then removed and aged in a cellar. The rind is brushed with olive oil as it ages up to twelve months. The rind is straw-yellow in color and has soft milk-white flesh that hardens as it ages past the third to fourth month. It is produced in Calabria in municipalities found in mountain communities in Limina.
Caprino di Montefalcone del Sannio – Made during the months of April to September. Kid’s rennet is added to the milk and the resulting curd is cut into small pieces which then settles and is reheated to 42°C. Once the curd solidifies it is placed into rush baskets and pressed which is then placed into hot whey from ricotta production. The cheese is then dry-salted for twenty-four hours and then aged for at least two months in a cellar where they are hung from the ceiling in wooden holders called cascere. The resulting cheese has a wrinkled straw-yellow rind with a soft, moist, chalk-white flesh. It is produced throughout Abruzzo and Molise but primarily in the town of Montefalcone del Sannio.
Added information from Simona of Cellar Tours “If you like goat, try FATULI’ made in Saviore Valley in Lombardy. Fatulì, means ‘small piece’ in dialect, is a rare and special goat cheese. This cheese is still made with raw milk from a blonde goat breed collected from a few of the remaining dairies in Adamello.The shape of the cheese is cylindrical with flat surfaces. The paste is straw-colored or deep yellow and generally it is without holes or with few holes. The crust is dark and smoked. Distinctive furrows are found on the crust that is obtained from the grates during smoking, in practice, branches and berries of juniper are used for burning.” Simona also shared several excellent cheese references for Italian cheese that I included under the “cheese” links.
Rubing is a fresh goat cheese from Yunnan Province which comes from the Bai and Sani minorities. The cheese resembles Indian paneer.
Tulum peyniri is a favorite goat cheese of my Turkish friend, Zerrin. Tulum refers to the goat skin in which the cheese encased, and peynir refers to for cheese. It has an incredible taste most probably because it has a long and difficult process. Goat milk is heated and allowed to ferment. When it becomes a solid, it is hung in a fabric bag for 3 days so that it drains much of the water. After that, the clot is crumbled and mixed with a 3% proportion of salt and then it is waited in open air for about 18 hours. This process is repeated a few times to get the right aroma. Finally, the cheese is encased in a goat skin and aged for 120 days. The goat skin gets its own treatment – it is salted for 18 months before it is used to encase the cheese. “After such an arduous process, you can imagine how wonderful it tastes. The goat skin makes it more tasty maybe because it preserves the cheese from light and air”.
More than ten types of Tulum cheese are produced in Turkey. Tulum cheese has a white or cream color, a high fat content, a crumbly semi-hard texture and a buttery pungent flavour. The most popular of these cheeses is Erzincan Savak Tulum which is produced mainly in the eastern region of Turkey and is now produced in many factories; it has higher economic value than the other varieties of Tulum cheese. Some aspects of this cheese are reviewed, i.e., milk used, thermal treatment of the milk, rennet and starters, manufacturing technology, chemical composition and biochemical changes during ripening. The second most widely consumed type of Tulum cheese is Izmir Brined Tulum, the technology and characteristics of which are also discussed in some detail. The other varieties of Tulum cheese are consumed mainly in the region where they are produced and it is very difficult to find them throughout Turkey. They are not well characterized and are discussed only briefly. However, there is increasing interest at present in the manufacture of the other types of Tulum cheese and they have gained an economic value. (source: lait.dairy-joournal.org)
Dil Peyniri is a goat string cheese commonly found in the markets.
Cowgirl Creamery – a local cheese monger/maker has a great tool, that I filtered for to identify goat milk cheeses: Great Tool.
Mixed Greens with Pecans, Goat cheese, and Dried Cranberries
¼ c red wine vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T chopped fresh thyme
¾ c olive oil
10 oz fresh salad greens
1 ½ c dried cranberries
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 ½ c glazed pecans or walnuts
1 ¼ c soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Whisk vinegar, mustard, and thyme in a small bowl. Gradually wisk in the oil and season with S+P.
Toss greens, cranberries, and onion in a large bowl. Mix in enough dressing to coat. Serve topped with nuts and cheese.