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 Goat Cheese Varieties

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The majority of goat cheeses are called Chevre. The word Chevre means goat, but is regularly used to mean goat cheese. The distinctive, tart, earthy flavor has wonderful subtle variations. Chevres have a unique tang and aroma from the beginning and grow more robust and bold in this rapidly-aging cheese. The flavor comes partly from the fatty acids in goat's milk which differs from cow's milk but feed can also affect the flavor. Fat content may vary by breed.
Goats are seasonal breeders and milk production is greatest from mid-March through October, although many breeders are striving for year-round milk production through use of artificial means which will help US cheese producers. Few goat's milk cheeses are aged more than 4 months and freezing can cause loss of quality.
Goat cheeses are classified as unripened (fresh) or ripened and their texture is defined as soft, semisoft, firm or hard. Texture indicates the moisture content of the cheese.
Unripened cheeses can vary in moisture content. Ripened cheeses have culture introduced to give them a special taste or texture. Most cheese is distinguised by age, density, size, shape and coatings. Young cheese tends to be much whiter and ripened cheese develops a creamy color.
Often cheese with less moisture have a stronger flavor and aroma. The larger and denser the cheese, the more slowly it dries as it ages, and the more complex the flavor becomes. A small log will taste differently from a large log and pyramids and cakes will have an even different flavor. Ash, herbs and carotene also contribute to the flavor and color and may inhibit bacterial activity on the surface.

Soft, unripened goat cheeses represent the majority of the domestic cheese production. They are ready to eat from a few days to two weeks of age. One of the most fragile is the soft, spoonable fromage blanc. Other varieties last longer with a lower moisture content. An unripened cheese has tang and is usually a moist, fresh curd texture similar to ricotta cheese. A light, fresh goat aroma is common.

Soft ripened cheeses include nine varieties. These cheeses usually have a velvety looking white surface mold like cow's milk Camembert or Brie.

Chevrita, Camembert and Chere Feuille will ripen like regular Camembert or Brie and are ready to eat if they give readily when pressed and the center is creamy. The exterior white mold is edible. Others, like Pyramid and Bscheron, don't get as soft and may look crumbly but will taste very smooth. As the cheeses age, the while mold turns darker and brownish and can be trimmed off.

Crottin is an unripened cheese. It can be eaten soft or allowed to dry until very hard, then crumbled to use. Soft-ripened goat cheeses have a more complex flavor and aroma than unripened cheeses.

Semisoft or firm, ripened cheese such as Swiss style, Cascadian, Jack and Chedder styles are comparable in texture to their nongoat counterparts and are relatively long-lasting. All are usually aged three to four months before sale.

Hard, unripened or ripened goat cheese...the most familiar of these is Gjetost which is caramel in color with a very sweet, slightly tangy flavor and a firm buttery consistency. These cheeses have a long storage life.

There are various other miscellaneous cheeses which include ricotta which is a very perishable cheese. Other goat cheeses are packed in olive oil and herbs and are wonderful to eat on bread.

Sources include UC Davis; Goat Cheese Invasion, Sunset 1983; Real-Simple;


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