This recipe is my homage to a French-style chèvre covered in herbes de Provence (aromatic herbs including lavender). I decided to infuse the milk with fresh herbs as it warmed to keep the floral flavors without the fibrous bite of dried herbs and flowers. To stay truly Provençal, you can hand-shape the cheese into little “kisses” for tempting bites, perfect for a cheese platter.You can use other herbs, spices, and even dried fruit to get different, but no less enticing, results. You can also opt to leave this chèvre as a spread or shape it into logs.
• 1 cup cream
• 4 to 6 fresh sprigs organic herbs, such as lavender, basil, sage, thyme, and rosemary, washed thoroughly and patted dry
• 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
• 1 teaspoon flake salt, or to taste
• 3-quart stockpot
• Cooking thermometer
• Large mixing spoon
• Slotted spoon or spider skimmer (optional)
• Large colander or mesh strainer
• Fine cheesecloth
• Large heat-resistant bowl for whey collection (optional)
1. Pour the milk and cream into the stockpot.
2. Add the washed herbs to the milk. Then, turn the heat to medium.
3. Stay close and monitor the heat, stirring every few minutes to prevent a skin from forming on the surface of the milk. Reduce the heat if you feel any milk sticking to the bottom of the pot.
4. Dip the thermometer in and start checking the temperature when you see steam and little foam bubbles forming. (Don’t let the milk boil, or your creamy cheese will become firm.)
5. Just before the milk reaches 185 degrees Fahrenheit, scoop out the herbs with the slotted spoon.
6. When the milk reaches 185 degrees, add the vinegar and stir it in thoroughly with just 7 quick strokes.
7. Lower the heat to the lowest setting. Gently stir the milk every few seconds for 2 minutes. You won’t want to break up any newly forming curds, so don’t stir vigorously or continuously.
8. You should see coagulation after 1 minute. If you don’t, heat for up to 2 minutes longer.
9. Take the pot off the burner and allow the curds and whey to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.
10. Line the colander with the cheesecloth and place the colander over a bowl if you want to collect the whey; otherwise, place the lined colander in your clean sink.
11. After 10 minutes, you should see increased curd formation.
12. Pour the curds and whey through the cheesecloth and allow the whey to drain for about 10 minutes, or until the curds are the creamy texture of smooth mashed potatoes.
13. Add salt and stir thoroughly. This will flavor the cheese, but also help drain the last of the whey.
14. The whey that’s left behind will appear milkier than in other recipes. This is normal for this creamy goat cheese.
15. After cooling a little, your goat cheese will be ready to shape. Scoop out little 2-bite portions of cheese with your fingers and smooth them into balls in your hands.
16. Pinch the top of each cheese ball and flatten the bottom when you place it on a platter. Your chèvre is now ready to serve and eat as is, or it can be decorated with leftover herbs or edible flowers.
Find more tips for beginning your cheese-making journey in Cheese-Making Basics for Beginners.
Claudia Lucero is the entrepreneur behind Urban Cheesecraft and DIY Cheese Kits, and a frequent speaker at MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS. This recipe is excerpted with permission from her book, One-Hour Cheese(Workman Publishing, 2017), available in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store.