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Tuesday, March 1

Been a long time, but worth it!!!

It's been SO LONG since I posted, folks, and I'm really sorry about that.  However, when you see what I have for you today, you'll be glad I got back to it!!  Ready for something not only truly YUMMY, but also heart healthy?  This post will be right up your alley!!

I love cheese.  Not any specific type, just cheese in general, too.  Cheese is GOOD for you, too.  It's a natural source of calcium...something which we ALL need more of.  Whether it's a hard cheese like cheddar or swiss, or a soft cheese like brie or cottage, it's something that should be a part of your diet at least 3 times a week.

But, with costs skyrocketing pretty much everywhere you go, it's not always easy to keep some of the things you love in the house, and certainly not for just snacking.  Well, folks...I'm going to change ALL OF THAT!!

Have you ever thought about making your OWN?  Yes, I'm serious.  Oh, I know what you're thinking...it's WAYYY too much work.  WRONG!!  It's not hard to do at all, and cost-wise, it's a definite money saver.  Yes, folks...we're going to make some soft cheese, and believe me, once it's done, and you taste it, you will want to do it again, and again, and again...

Today, we will be making chevre, also known as goat cheese.  Now, before you start thinking "Ugh, goat cheese?", understand a few things.  Goat's milk is actually 10 times BETTER for you than cow's milk.  Why?  Well, for one, goat milk is actually digestable by the human body.  Cow's milk takes about 8-10 hours to digest, and can cause issues like constipation and bloating (due to lactose intolerance)...whereas, goat milk takes 1-2 hours to digest, and doesn't contain the lactase enzymes that cause the other issues.  THAT alone is a good reason, but if it's not enough for you, let me add another little snippet of info...goat milk is LOW IN CALORIES!!  Ounce for ounce, goat milk has less than 1/3 of the calories of cow's milk, despite having a much higher butterfat content, which gives it the flavor that most drink milk to taste.  It's sweeter to the palette, too...and some people don't drink milk simply because they aren't fond of the taste.

So, first thing you need to do to make this is get some goat's milk.  Where, you ask?  Pretty much any grocery store now carries it (our local Wal-Mart has it in quarts right by the regular milk).  It ranges about $1.50 for a quart, which I know sounds high, but remember, we aren't drinking it, we're making something to eat, which will stretch it out considerably.  You'll also need to have a stainless steel pot and strainer...the normal acids in the milk will etch other metals.  Last thing you'll need is cheesecloth...about 2 yards of it (you CAN reuse it).  You can get that at any fabric store (I found mine at Hobby Lobby).

Ready to make something you'll love?  Let's go!!

CHEVRE (GOAT'S MILK CHEESE)

1 quart goat's milk (you CAN use ultra-pasteurized, but if you can find it without the ultra-pasteuration, even better)
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1 teaspoon kosher salt (to taste)
white vinegar
assorted seasonings (I love chopped chives in mine, but you can experiment with whatever you like most)

In a medium stainless steel saucepot, heat the goat milk slowly, stirring slowly but constantly to prevent burning, until it reaches a temp of about 180-190 degrees (you can use a meat thermometer to check, or simply do what I do...turn off the burner just when you start seeing bubbles forming prior to boiling).  Remove from heat completely.

Add in the lemon juice, and stir slowly for about 30-45 seconds, just enough to ensure it's well distributed.  Cover the pan, and let rest for about 10 minutes.  Check it...IF it's not somewhat thickened (you won't see curds, it will be more like having put some flour into it), add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar at a time, stirring and letting it rest for 10 minutes between additions, until it reaches that state (shouldn't take more than 2 tablespoons of it...it's the ultra-pasteurized milk that needs this sometimes).  Once it's the right thickness, let it stand for about 30 minutes to finish coagulating.

Meanwhile, line a stainless steel strainer with several layers of cheesecloth.  Why several layers?  Well, when you see the cheesecloth, you'll know...it's VERY porous, and it takes several layers to keep all that cheese from just runnings right out of the cloth.  Pour the thickened milk into the strainer SLOWLY, and drain for about 30 minutes.  What you are doing here is allowing the whey (the liquid suspension for the fat globules) drain off, leaving you the best part...CHEESE!!  After 30 minutes, tie the 4 corners of the cheesecloth together to form a loose pouch, and using a wooden spoon, suspend the pouch over a large bowl to finish draining (or do what I did...use a meat skewer for a grill and simply poke it through each of the corners to make your pouch).  Let drain for 1-2 hours, or even longer if you want it to be drier.

While your cheese is draining, prepare your garlic.  Mince it up, then on a flat surface, sprinkle the kosher salt on it.  Using a fork, mash the garlic with the salt (the salt will help it mash faster) until it's pretty much pulverized.  Put that in a stainless steel or plastic bowl mixing bowl.  At this point, I usually add my chives...about 2 tablespoons worth, chopped fine.

Open your pouch, and put the cheese into the bowl with the seasonings.  You'll have to squeeze the cheesecloth to get it all, kind of like squeezing ketchup out of those little packets.  Mix well with a spoon, then place in an airtight container with a lid (good use for all those old butter tubs we all seem to accumulate) and refridgerate.  It will be good for about 2 weeks (but trust me, it WON'T last that long).  Makes about 1 1/2 cups chevre.

You can spread this on crackers, use as a dip at parties (don't drain quite as long for this one...only about 1 hour...you want it wetter), or even use it to spice up something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich (just spread a little on the bread before you cook it). 

It's versatile, it's simple, and the taste is DIVINE!!  And the bonus?  It's only about 80 calories per tablespoon...and a tablespoon can go a long way!!  ENJOY!!

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