As a child, I wasn't even aware that goat cheese existed. However, the regular varieties of cheddar and monterey jack cheese definitely topped my favorite foods list.
I was often found snacking on a slice (ok, maybe a chunk) of cheddar cheese, along with apple slices--still one of my favorite combination snacks today.
In fact, I ate cheese so often, my father often cautioned that I was going to "turn into a piece of cheese!"
That didn't happen, of course, but cheese continues to be one of my favorite foods, both for cooking and for snacks. I've sampled many other varieties since my first childhood encounters with cheddar and monterey jack, and have to say, "I've never met a cheese I didn't like!"
Goat cheeses, however, take the "best of show" awards in my book for overall taste, texture and nutrition. There's a cheese for every palate, ranging from smooth and mild, to firm and tart.
Goat Milk Cheese
Here, we'll look at the factors that give goat cheese its distinguishing characteristics.
Goat cheese in the broadest sense of the term is simply any kind of cheese that is made with goat milk, as opposed to milk from other animals, such as sheep or cows. However, many people synonymously associate the label with one of its most popular forms--the soft, spreadable tangy cheese also known as chevre (the French word for goat).
We'll use the term, however, to apply to any common cheese made with goat milk. Though the same varieties of cheese can be made with goat milk as with cow's or sheep's milk, the distinctive properties of goat milk lend a unique appearance, flavor and texture to goat cheeses that are lacking in the others.
The biggest factor for influencing the properties of goatcheese compared to other cheese is related to the fat composition of goat milk.
The fat globules in goat milk are significantly smaller than those in cow's milk.
The smaller size, along with the lack of a protein known as agglutinin, which causes the fat in cow's milk to clump together, means that the fat in goat milk stays dispersed. Goat milk is thus naturally homogenized, resulting in a creamier texture in both the milk and cheeses.
Second, the percentage composition of three medium chain fatty acids--caproic, caprylic and capric acid--are three times higher in goat milk than in cow's milk. In fact, they were actually named after the goat (caprine) because of their abundance in goat milk!
These three fatty acids play a very important role in the taste and smell of goat milk. For example, when goat milk has been improperly handled, perhaps by not being kept cold enough, it takes on a characteristic "goaty" smell, due to these three fatty acids.
However, it is also these three fatty acids that are responsible for the wonderful tangy taste of certain goat cheeses.
This distinctive taste is impossible to duplicate in cheeses made from other kinds of milk, because they lack the quantity of these fatty acids.
By the way, these properties of goat milk fat are not only important in making cheese; they are also an important factor in the health benefits of goat milk. You can read more about that in Goat Milk Fat and Corresponding Health Implications.
As a food, cheese is a good source of calcium, protein, phosphorus and fat. Health studies have also shown that cheese has a positive effect on tooth enamel, helping prevent tooth decay, and also promoting better sleep when consumed at bed time.
Finally, cheeses produced from goat milk are a pure white in color, unless a coloring agent has been added. Goat milk is whiter than other milk because it lacks carotene, a pre-cursor of vitamin A.
The lack of carotene is due to the goat's ability to more efficiently utilize the carotene by converting it to vitamin A, compared to the cow. The cow's lesser ability to convert the carotene results in its appearance in the milk, giving the milk an off-white to cream color.
Soft, fresh cheeses
use only an acidifier, or very small amounts of rennet, and are the easiest and quickest to make. These are good cheeses for beginning cheesemakers.
Hard, aged cheeses
are the most difficult and time-consuming, requiring extended periods of time to ripen at the correct temperature and humidity.
Raw Goat CheeseRaw goat cheese
is made with fresh, unpasteurized goat milk. Many cheesemakers prefer raw cheese because the natural enzymes and bacteria that are destroyed in the pasteurization process give the cheese a more complex flavor. Although there are some health concerns in using raw goat milk for soft cheeses, raw cheese that is aged for at least 60 days is considered perfectly safe for consumption.
Soft Ripened CheeseSoft ripened cheeses
have mold applied to the outside. As the cheese ages, it ripens from the outside inward, often creating a multi-textured cheese that is semi-liquid near the outer rind, and more solid toward the center. Brie and camembert are classic soft ripened cheeses.
Types of Goat Cheese
Now that you know why cheese made from goat milk is different, follow the links below to find out more about the properties and uses of particular kinds of cheese that can be readily made with goat milk.
You can also go to Goat Cheese Making for more information on getting started making your own cheese.
Note: If the cheese you're interested in isn't listed below, check back soon &mdash this web site is updated daily!
Drunken Goat Cheese
Yogurt Cheese (Labneh)
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