Homemade Fromage Blanc, AKA Goat Cheese

herbed goat cheese

I must confess, I’ve never made this with actual goat milk, but if I call what I made only by its proper name, fromage blanc, you’d probably be less likely to recognize it. So, goat cheese it is.

Hi again! Do you like goat cheese? Sure you do. Do you enjoy spending $4-$15 for 4 oz of plastic-wrapped goodness? Sure you don’t. Do you want to know how to make 6-7 cups (24-28 oz) of it for the price of a gallon of milk and some cheese culture? Keep reading.

This cheese, unlike the other cheeses I’ve made so far, has the biggest yield of whey-to-cheese (that is, there is a lot more cheese made and a lot less whey since it’s a soft cheese). I was shocked at first how easily it came together and how much it made, so I figured I’d share the process with y’all so you could enjoy it, too, and save the planet from a few more single-use plastic packages.

Last time, I gave directions for homemade ricotta, which is, by far, the easiest cheese one can make. One of the reasons it’s super easy is because it’s fast and uses high heat to curdle the milk. With other cheeses, especially those that take more than a few hours from start to finish and use lower heat, there are some guidelines to follow that I didn’t specify in the last post:

  1. Sanitize your equipment and work area. This means wiping down the counters, stovetop, and sink, washing your equipment in hot, soapy water, and using a food-grade sanitizer on everything that will or might touch your cheese (besides your own body and the cheese itself). I use StarSani, because it was recommended by a cheesemaker whose short class I attended, and because it’s cheap and easy to use and refill. This is to prevent seriously nasty bacteria from getting into your cheese and causing food-borne illnesses and other bad things. Follow the directions for using any sanitizer carefully.
  2. Wash your hands, a lot. If you touch your face or hair while prepping, wash them again. Same reasons above.
  3. Do not prepare other foods while prepping cheese. I’m a multi-tasker, and I love using residual heat to make other things (think: use hot oven heat from baking bread to bake lower-heat items). However, cheese can be temperamental, mostly for the reasons above, but also because yeasts and other items in the food can mess up the cheese. Also also, heating milk to a precise temperature (rather than watching for curds to form, like in ricotta) takes up your full attention if you want to do it right. No multi-tasking. Wait until after the cheese is done.
  4. Use good, fresh milk. Use the best milk you can afford, and don’t even think about using something ultra-pasteurized. I say this because the heating required for ultra-pasteurization can actually make it so your cheese never coagulates and cultures properly (meaning, you may be stuck with heated sour milk. Meh.). We use a minimally-pasteurized, non-homogenized milk from a local dairy farmer, and it’s produced fabulous cheese every time.
  5. Many cheese recipes, including this one, call for non-chlorinated water. Most water that comes out of your sink is chlorinated. This is easily remedied by putting a few drops of milk into the water, so don’t go out and buy anything fancy.
  6. Keep your cheese covered during the sitting process, especially if you have cats. Man, my cat loves to get into anything with fat.

Don’t let the above rules scare you away from making cheese, however – none of them are super complicated, and most are common sense. I will also confess that I forgot Rule #1 the last time I made this cheese, at least the sanitizing aspect, and I didn’t die. It’s precautionary, and there are ways to tell if your cheese has become contaminated before you eat it, so no worries.

Ready to get started? Let’s DO ITTTTTTTTT!

Homemade Fromage Blanc (AKA “Goat” Cheese)

Note: Using cow’s milk (for fromage blanc) will make a less strong-tasting cheese than if you use goat’s milk. This may or may not be a deciding factor for your cheesemaking journey. I happen to like both flavors.

You will need:

  • 1 gallon whole milk, not ultra-pasteurized (see note in the post)
  • 1/4 vegetarian rennet tablet, crushed and dissolved in 1/8 c non-chlorinated water (see note in the post)
  • 1/8 tsp Flora Danica (you can get this and the rennet at your local brewer’s supply, cheesemaking supply, or online at cheesemaking.com)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp pure salt (not iodized – I use kosher salt)
  • Materials: large pot, slotted spoon (preferably stainless steel – do not use plastic or wood), cheesecloth, colander

Directions:

Step 1: Heat milk in a large pot over medium-low heat until the temperature reaches 86 degrees F. (Yes, use a thermometer.) Stir occasionally with a slotted spoon to prevent scorching, using an up and down motion, rather than a whirlpool motion. (This heats up pretty quickly, so don’t walk away.) Remove from heat.

heat milk
Yes, I use a sanitized meat thermometer. If it works, it works.

Step 2: Sprinkle the Flora Danica on top of the heated milk and let it sit for 3-5 minutes, undisturbed. Using a slotted spoon or ladle, stir gently, using the up-and-down motion, for 2-5 minutes. Time yourself.

flora danica
Hellooooo, culture!

Step 3: Stir the milk using the up-and-down motion (this is to get it moving). Stop stirring briefly and pour the diluted rennet through the slotted spoon, distributing it evenly over the milk by moving the spoon as you pour. Stir the mixture again (same motion) for 1 minute. Hold the spoon over the top of the milk in several places to stop the movement of the milk.

Step 4: Allow the milk to sit at room temperature (68-72 degrees F) until the curd is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pot and the top of the curd is covered with 1/2 inch of whey. This can take between 10-12 hours, depending on the temperature of your room. Do not try to speed up the process, as the cheese may become too sour if it coagulates and ripens too quickly.

Step 5: Using a long knife, cut the curd into 1/2 inch columns in the pot (like a checkerboard). Line a colander with your cheesecloth, and put colander in the sink or over a large pot (you can use the whey to water acid-loving plants, like berry bushes and hydrangeas!). Using the slotted spoon, carefully spoon the curds over the cheesecloth-lined colander (they will break – that’s okay). Gently pour the rest of the curds and whey into the colander.

Note: I mentioned in the post about how to tell if your cheese is contaminated. At this point, if your curds are bubbly and frothy after Step 4, they may have been contaminated by coliform bacteria. It may be harmless, but it may also make you extremely sick. Throw the batch out, sanitize more thoroughly, and start over.

curds and whey
Look at those beautiful curds. Just look at ’em!

Step 6: Tie the corners of the cheesecloth together and onto a wooden spoon set across the top of your colander. You can also tie it directly to the handles of your colander, like I do. (A do-rag is a bit…funnier to tie for this application than a straightforward cheesecloth, but it works soooooo well for cheese!) The key is, you want the package to be raised above the surface of the colander so it drains thoroughly. Allow to drain at room temperature for 4-6 hours, depending on how soft you want your cheese (less time for softer cheese, more for firmer/less moist).

cheesemaking
A nice, tight bag of cheese curds. And a hearty welcome back to the cheesemaking do-rag!

Step 7: Scrape the cheese from the cheesecloth into a bowl using a spatula. Fold in 1/4 tsp of salt, mixing until the salt is dissolved and dispersed evenly. Taste and add more salt if desired. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

fromage blanc
Mmmm, fromage blanc.

This cheese is beautifully versatile – keep it as is, or mix it with fresh herbs, top with dried fruit and nuts, mix with spices, whatever. You now have a bunch of soft cheese for the price of a gallon of milk!

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