In the book, "Chevre! The Goat Cheese Cookbook" by Laura Chenel and Linda Siegfried (Peaks Pike Publishing: $9.95 paperback), Chenel and Siegfried cover chevre from its nutritional value to uses in recipes. Chenel gives recipes for making goat cheese at home, tips on handling and storage, as well as a description of some of the California goat cheeses available in markets today plus some of their uses.
All are excellent eaten any time, as is, with bread, fruit or wine. Chenel prefers the lighter cheeses, such as fromage blanc , before or with meals, but the more complex cheeses, such as taupiniere, for dessert. "That is an individual preference. Goat cheese can be eaten any time," Chenel said.
Here are some of the cheeses found in gourmet markets and some supermarkets. Although we describe only Chenel's California-made cheeses, the same information applies to other American and foreign counterparts, when applicable.
A Light, Fresh Cheese
FROMAGE BLANC (fro mage blang)--A fresh, soft cheese, this is the lightest of the chevres. Curds are drained for one day, then lightly whipped. Fromage blanc is available plain or with chopped herbs. Use as a spread for toast, a dip with vegetables, a topping for potato, or as a filling for crepes. This light, fresh cheese can also be diluted with liquid (cream, wine or broth) to use as a sauce. It is also good as a low-calorie dessert, sweetened with sugar, or with cut fruit or whipped cream added.
CHABIS (sha bee)--The traditional cylindrical shape identifies this cheese. It is light, creamy-textured and very mild in flavor. Chabis is cured about one week. Eat as is any time, or use as you would cream cheese.
DISCS--This young, fresh cheese with a round, flat shape comes plain or coated with pepper, dill, paprika or a mixture of herbs. Discs are cured about one week. Use as you would chabis.
LOG--The traditional log-shaped cheese is creamy but slightly more dense than chabis. It is available plain or coated with ash and it is cured for about one week. Use is same as that of chabis.
PYRAMIDE (pea ra meed)--You'll know this cheese by its pyramid shape in its traditional eight-ounce weight. Pyramide is cured slightly longer than chabis and is usually coated with ash. Use is same as that of chabis.
CABECOU (ka ba koo)--These button-like, one-ounce cheeses are cured two to three weeks, then marinated in virgin olive oil and herbs. Cabecou has a nutty flavor and drier texture. Use as is with olives as an appetizer or part of a meal.
TAUPINIERE (toe pee nyair)--This molehill-shaped cheese is aged for three weeks and has an ashed exterior sprayed with an edible white penicillium mold to produce a more complex flavor. Eat as is as dessert with pears, apples or grapes.
CALISTOGAN--The round, flat disc is very creamy and mild in flavor. Calistogan is aged eight to 10 days and may have beginnings of white bloom on the exterior due to aging. Good as is or eaten warm as appetizers or in a salad.
TOME (toem)--The 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-pound wheels of hard goat cheese age for a minimum of four months. The cheese keeps well and becomes sharper with age. An excellent cheese for grating or slicing. Use as you would Parmesan.
CROTTIN (kro tan)--This round and golden colored cheese with a sharp, pronounced goat flavor and dry texture is aged two to three weeks and comes in 2 1/2- to 3-ounce discs. Use as is any time.
Nutritionally speaking, goat cheese is slightly lower in calories than many other cheeses, containing about 82 calories an ounce, compared with 99 calories for cream cheese and 114 calories for Cheddar. Protein content is 4.5 grams per ounce compared to Brie's 5.9 grams and Cheddar's 7.1 grams. Sodium content (salt is added to goat cheese for flavor), is about 280 milligrams per ounce compared to about 176 milligrams for Cheddar and Brie and 84 milligrams for cream cheese.
However, goat cheese, like cow milk cheese, is good food, providing an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus and other trace minerals important for good health. Compared with cow milk, however, goat milk contains higher quantities of potassium, Vitamin A, thiamine and niacin. Goat milk lacks folacin and Vitamin B-12, whereas cow milk is a major source of these two vitamins in the human diet.
Because of chevre's high moisture content, the cheese has a relatively short shelf life (unless it is the aged type). A reputable cheese merchant is some assurance that the stocked cheese is fresh, but when in doubt, taste before buying. Note how cheeses are cared for, Chenel cautioned. "They should not be stored near meats because they readily absorb the aromas and flavors of stronger foods."
Occasionally, the plastic film used for wrapping cheese causes a skin to develop. "This does not indicate spoilage and does not harm the cheese. Simply remove it with a knife," Chenel said.