Get Your Goat Cheese

Get to know this sharp, spreadable ingredient - it has more uses than you think.

When we think of goat cheese, you might first think of a soft, creamy cheese, sort of like a spreadable but slightly drier version of cream cheese. This type of goat cheese, available in many supermarkets, is often called chèvre (French for goat cheese and pronounced shev).

But, in fact, almost every cheese made with cow's milk can also be made with goat's milk: gouda, feta, even blue.
Goat cheese can be soft, creamy and mild; it can be aged, hard and pungent. It can be coated in herbs, spices, ash
or even dried flowers; it might be marinated in olive oil, wine or a salty brine.

Why try goat cheese?
To find out, we asked Mary Keehn, owner of Cypress Grove Chevre. She's been making goat cheese on the northern California coast since 1983. "Goat's milk, and thereby goat cheese, is easier to digest than cow's-milk cheese," Mary says. "In goat's milk, the protein chains are shorter and the fat particles are smaller. All of this makes goat cheese a good choice for people who can't tolerate cow's milk or cow's-milk cheese."

Ideas for Enjoying Goat Cheese
Goat cheese can be eaten on its own or used in a recipe like any cow's-milk cheese. Serve with fresh and dried fruits, nuts and whole-wheat crackers or bread for dessert.
  • For an interesting appetizer, try a little goat feta drizzled with honey and sprinkled with black pepper.
  • Dab a little fresh creamy chèvre with hot pepper jelly.
  • Hard, aged goat cheese can be grated on pasta or salads.
  • Bake into enchiladas, crumble into lasagnas, melt into toasted cheese sandwiches and on top of pizza.
  • Keehn suggests sprinkling a bit of a strong goat cheese, such as her Truffle Tremor (a more acidic and flavorful choice), on top of whole-wheat pasta and grilled veggies.

Shopping for goat cheese
Maybe you can't find artisanal goat cheese at your local supermarket, but there will still be good choices, especially for those who like mild cheese or are trying goat cheese for the first time.

Look for plain goat cheese logs (actually called bouchon, pronounced boo-SHON in French). These will taste milky and mild, soft and luscious. Try spreading a little on cucumber rounds or stuffing it into hollowed-out cherry tomatoes.

You may also find little goat cheese wheels, about the size of big coat buttons (called crottins, pronounced croh-TEN in French). These are soft but a little drier, not quite as spreadable, but still mild in flavor. Cut them into wedges and set on top of a salad or grilled veggies.

If you have a specialty cheese shop near you, you might find more exotic goat cheeses: gouda, Cheddar, brie — even blue. The goat versions will have a tangier and also sometimes grassier flavor than their cow's milk counterparts. When in doubt, ask for a taste in the shop. A high-end store will be pleased to help you make a good selection. In fact, Mary Keehn says that a little tasting event at a local cheese shop is the best way to expose yourself to more exotic goat cheeses the first time. "It takes the fear out of it," she says.

In a cheese shop, you'll find goat cheese in both soft (also called young) and aged versions. The young cheeses will almost always be milder, often creamier. For a real treat, be on the lookout for a Spanish goat cheese called Garrotxa: firm, soft, tangy, but quite nutty, a very sophisticated taste.

When it's aged, goat cheese can become quite crumbly. In fact, the moisture content can be so low that many of the aged versions are covered in an edible coating of ash to keep them from drying out. Keehn's Humboldt Fog is a two-layer goat cheese with a line of ash running through the middle. The ash lowers the acidity of the cheese as it ages, keeping it mild and sweet. The outside has a soft white edible mold reminiscent of brie.

For a really intense flavor experience, look for an aged goat gouda. This cheese will take on both the color and the sweet notes of salty caramels with the texture of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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