The Ins And Outs Of Goat Cheese

Tips and ideas for incorporating goat's milk cheese into your diet and recipes.

Goat cheese, creamy, aged or herbed, is becoming widely available in grocery stores, leading to more people utilizing this versatile cheese. Since it's relatively new to the general market, recipes and uses may not be completely understood. Use this guide for tips and ideas.

Goat cheese, cheese made from goat's milk, is rich and creamy but easy to digest for those concerned with lactose intolerance. In fact, due to the method of culturing goat's milk into cheese with lactic acid, it is nearly lactose free. Gouda, Brie, Blue and even Cheddar cheese can be made with goat's milk as well as the most common form, Chevre; a white log or round used frequently for appetizers and spreads. To ensure 100% goat milk cheese look for "Pur Chevre" or "Pure Chevre" on the label, if not found, the cheese may be made from a combination of goat and cow milk.

Aged chevre cheese, usually French, comes in various sizes and shapes. Aging adds and enhances flavors particularly if herbs or spices have been added, and the longer aged the better. Varieties such as Chevrot, Selles sur Cher, and Valencay are white and fluffy on the inside, ideal for a cracker spread, to top a hamburger or sandwich, or to mix into a salad dressing. Often aged goat cheeses are covered with a gray ash to prevent the cheese from drying out and to keep the cheese clean. This ash is edible, or if unattractive, can be scrapped off and discarded.

Hard chevre cheese is called "tomme styled," French for wheel of cheese. Harder cheeses can be sliced for eating, melting or crumbled on top of soups, in omelettes or on salads.

Mixing blue mold into the curds makes blue goat's milk cheese. As the cheese ages, the flavor is enhanced. Most goat milk blues are pungent and earthier in taste and smell compared to cow's milk blues.

Cheddar cheese made from goat's milk is just as sharp and crisp as cow's milk cheddar but leaves a tangy aftertaste. If cheddar is a favorite, only the goat's milk will do.

Gouda, a soft and creamy cheese, becomes slightly sweet when made with goat's milk, while, Brie, a gooey cheese, is less subtle and lighter in taste.

Use dental floss or butcher's twine to slice chevre or the softer cheeses as even a sharp knife can result in frustration and a very messy counter. Also, be certain to watch goat cheeses carefully when melting as their consistency allows a quicker and larger spread during heating.

To ease your family into goat cheeses, try slicing a few thin rounds of chevre from a log, top with olive oil and broil on high for a minute. Add these rounds to soup, salads as a new style of crouton; or top the round with a cherry tomato and serve as a healthy, vegetarian appetizer. Try grilled goat milk cheddar cheese sandwiches or spread some Gouda or Brie on the top of a sandwich instead of mayonnaise. Or try a new homemade salad dressing of buttermilk, goat's milk cheese of your selection and lemon juice.

Given the opportunity to experiment and test taste, goat cheeses will most likely end up as a new family stable. The benefit - a healthier menu!

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