Chèvre Cheese with Rascleberry Appetizer
With a Huckleberry Jam Recipe
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Chèvre cheese is a soft mild cheese made from goat milk. It is a simple two ingredient recipe, perfect for the beginning cheesemaker like myself.
The first thing I discovered is that goat milk for cheese making is ridiculously hard to find. I checked every grocery store and health food store for 150 miles. There was one brand available and it’s ultra-pasteurized, which does not work for cheese making. One store carried local yak meat but the only goat milk they had was powdered.
I ended up making arrangements which included watching my phone for a message about the time a certain black SUV would be unlocked in a certain parking lot. I would leave my money then head home with my gallon of fresh illegal substance. Apparently, the list of raw milk benefits includes the opportunity to pretend I’m a secret agent.
On my first attempt at making chèvre cheese, the milk didn’t coagulate. After 10 hours it still looked like milk. I added a drop of rennet and waiting the suggested 45 more minutes. It thickened a bit but still did not properly separate out into curds and whey. Discouraged and tired, as it was now way past my bedtime, I poured the results through a strainer lined with cheesecloth … and realized I forgot to put the strainer over a pot. As I cleaned the thickened milk off the counter, cupboard faces, and floor I seriously questioned whether I was cut out to be a cheesemaker.
The next few batches turned out beautifully. The second time my chèvre cheese didn’t set I realized both failures used raw milk that had been sitting in my refrigerator for seven to ten days. I told myself I was busy but really procrastinated because I was intimidated by the idea of making goat cheese. It was silly to be intimidated. There is nothing difficult about the process and the active involvement time is fairly short. Getting the milk from fridge to cultured only takes ten to twelve minutes.
Since I am a habitual procrastinator, I used old milk again a couple of months later. It failed to form curd again. Lesson learned: don’t procrastinate. Make chèvre cheese with fresh milk.
Jim Wallace, the New England cheesemaking supply tech from cheesmaking.com, offered some insight. “Raw milk for cheese needs to be fresh. My guideline here is max two days. Some folks seem to push it to three to four days. A week and longer would be very problematic. The problem is that good quality raw milk comes with all the good stuff. This also includes enzymes that can begin changing the proteins from day one. In addition, the milk also contains its own biological load which begins to acidify even at cooler temperatures.”
When the rendezvous with the black SUV didn’t work out, I tried making chevre cheese with ultra-pasteurized milk. Pasteurization reduces the calcium content of the milk. Adding calcium chloride increases your chance of a good set in lower calcium milk. Even raw, some milk is naturally lower in calcium and will benefit from a boost. This is a good article about the best goats for milk.
Even with the addition of calcium chloride, rennet, and an additional ten hours, the ultra-pasteurized goat milk stubbornly remained milk.
The name huckleberry applies to many different plants around the world. My experience is with the western huckleberry which is the official state fruit of Idaho. This recipe is based on the flavor of that specific berry. If you’ve never had the joy of picking wild western huckleberries I suggest adding it to your bucket list. The best method of finding a good patch is to befriend someone who has picked them for years then beg them to let you tag along. Since most serious pickers jealously guard the locations of their patches you may need to bribe them. I have been picking huckleberries since I was nine years old. I am partial to homemade zucchini cake, craft beer, and tacos.
Raspberry + Huckleberry = Rascleberry
One summer my mother met a woman in a huckleberry patch. They talked about uses for the tasty berries. The woman mentioned that her family preferred a jam made with a mix of huckleberry and raspberry. Mom liked the idea because it stretched out the precious, hard-won purple gold. She tried it and we all liked it much better than straight huckleberry jam. My little brother dubbed the delightful new concoction rascleberry.
Our family recipe calls for 6 cups of berries and can be adjusted for taste and how many huckleberries you find. We usually use 4 cups raspberries and 2 cups huckleberries, although on good years when the huckleberries are plentiful and I am able to spend more time in the mountains I go with half and half.
Chèvre Cheese Recipe
- 1 gallon goat milk
- 1 packet chèvre culture
- *optional 1/8 to ¼ tsp calcium chloride in 1 Tbsp water
1 drop liquid rennet
Step 1: Thoroughly wash all the dishes and utensils you will be using.
Step 2: Warm the milk to between 68 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. This is best done by placing your pot or bowl of milk in a sink of hot water. Heating it on the stove works, but it gets too hot very quickly. If you use milk warm from the goat, you may need to let it cool down.
Step 3: Add the culture. Sprinkle the powder over the surface of the milk, wait a few minutes for it to dissolve, then stir it in.
Step 4: Cover and let stand for six to twelve hours. Don’t worry about rushing home right at six hours to check your cheese. You have quite a bit of flexibility here.
Step 5: Drain. After six to 12 hours, your cheese should be partially solid. It might still look like milk or it might have some clear yellowish liquid floating on the top. Tip your pot to make sure it is not still liquid. Cut two rectangles of cheesecloth or muslin and lay them in opposite directions in a colander or strainer placed over a large pot or bowl. Spoon or pour your cheese into the colander. Gather up the edges of the cheesecloth and gently lift out. Alternatively, I use an elastic-top five-gallon paint strainer. Hang over the pot or bowl for six to 12 hours so the whey can drain out.
Step 6: Salt and mold. Stir in ½ – 1 tsp salt. The salt helps slow bacterial growth. Transfer to a bowl or chèvre mold. I pressed some of the cheese into a custard dish to help make the shape I wanted. Refrigerate to further slow bacterial growth.
One gallon of goat milk makes about two pounds of chèvre cheese and a little more than two quarts of whey.
Rascleberry Jam Recipe
- 6 cups prepared berries
- 4 ½ cups sugar
- 1 box low sugar pectin
Step 1. Put the huckleberries in a blender and pulse until they are crushed but not pureed. Repeat the process with the raspberries or mash them with a potato masher. Measure exact amount of prepared berries into a large pot. Optional: add ½ tsp butter or margarine to reduce foaming.
Step 2. Measure exact amount of sugar into a large bowl. Combine ¼ cup sugar from the measured amount with the pectin in a small bowl.
Step 3. Fill a large pot with water and add lids (not rings) and as many jars as will fit. Let come to a boil.
Step 4. Stir pectin/sugar mixture into prepared fruit. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (stirring will not stop the boiling) stirring constantly.
Step 5. Stir in sugar. Return to a full rolling boil then boil for one minute. Immediately remove from heat.
Step 6. Use tongs to lift jars from the boiling water and put new jars in their place. Quickly fill the jars with the hot jam to within ¼ inch from the top. Wipe the rims with a clean cloth then cover with lids and screw bands on tightly.
Makes four pints or eight half pints
For the appetizer:
Unmold or spoon the chèvre cheese onto a decorative plate. Press gently with knife or spatula until you have a round about an inch thick. Spoon the rascleberry jam into the center of the chèvre circle and spread until it covers the entire top. Serve with crackers or crostini.
Cheese and jam photos courtesy of Creating Memories Photography by Becky Rice