Even people who've sworn they didn't like goat cheese couldn't resist this homemade variety. Particularly when freshly made, it has a very mild, pleasing flavor. The cheese becomes more piquant when "aged" in the refrigerator.
The creamy texture means it works well as a dip or spread. Try folding in a little freshly ground pepper and some fresh or dried herbs and serve with crackers. Other additives: chopped shrimp or crab meat, finely chopped chutney, dried fruit that has been macerated in liqueur then well drained.
You can also blend the cheese with a little honey to make a spread for toast, bagels or muffins.
Making the recipe is fun and easy, but you need the following:
* A cooking thermometer with a temperature range from 0 to 200 degrees. It must be possible to accurately determine the temperatures 72 degrees and 175 degrees.
* A 6-quart or larger stainless steel pan and a glass bowl. Other materials will cause undesirable reactions with the milk mixture.
* Powdered goat milk. It's sold in cans at natural foods stores and many major supermarkets.
* Fromage blanc starter culture. If your natural foods store doesn't carry it, order by mail from New England Cheesemaking Supply Co., 85 Main St., Ashfield, MA 01330. Phone: (413) 628-3808; fax: (413) 628-4061. Five packets cost $5.95, plus shipping. Store them in the freezer until ready to use.
* Ice. The equivalent of one of the large bags sold at supermarkets and convenience stores should be plenty.
* A jelly bag or old pillow slip for draining the curds. You can also use a large square of clean, old sheeting. Place it in a colander, pour in the curds and whey, then gather the fabric around the mixture and tie with a heavy string or shoelace.
Start making the cheese a couple of days before you want to use it. That way there will be plenty of time for it to ferment and drain, procedures that take time but little effort on your part.
HOMEMADE GOAT MILK CHEESE
1 (14-ounce) can powdered goat milk
2 cups hot water
3 quarts cool water
1 package fromage blanc starter culture
Place powdered goat milk in 6-quart or larger stainless steel pot. Stir in enough hot (not boiling) water to blend into smooth paste. Add remaining hot water, then cool water.
Heat goat milk mixture, stirring occasionally, to 175 degrees (scalding stage). Remove from heat and place pot in sink or large bowl filled with ice cubes and water. Cool milk mixture to 72 degrees, stirring as it cools.
Pour milk into 6-quart or larger glass bowl. Stir in fromage blanc starter culture. Cover bowl and set in warm place at least 12 hours or overnight. Cheese is ready to drain when it looks like thickened yogurt (it may have thin layer of whey floating on top).
Ladle curd into jelly bag or pillow slip and suspend over pan or bowl. Drain 12 hours or overnight, or until curd stops dripping. Speed process by occasionally scraping down sides of bag and pushing cheese toward center.
Place bag in refrigerator to firm cheese. Remove cheese from bag. Add salt to taste. Place in covered container and store in refrigerator.
Makes about 3 1/2 cups.