While I can appreciate flavored goat cheese, the additions—almond mocha, roasted garlic, pumpkin spice, and more—can sometimes obscure the goaty notes. So if my palate is yearning for a little more complexity than plain chèvre can deliver, I look instead to ripening yeast or mold such as Geotrichum candidum. Microorganisms like these add a depth of flavor and transform the paste from crumbly to gooey.
If you’ve already crafted fresh cheeses—ricotta, fromage blanc, paneer, and so on—the following recipe is a small step beyond what you already know. Start with chèvre, add some blue mold spores, shape the drained curd into logs, ripen them for a week or two, and behold: finished cheeses that are not only beautifully blue but also tangy and a wee bit funky. Age them for one week, and you get a delicate, mushroomy aroma. Wait a week or two more, and the logs will sprout a dark blue rind encasing luscious, sticky insides. You really can’t go wrong.
BLUE GOAT CHEESE LOGS
Makes 3 4-ounce goat cheese logs*
12-inch-by-12-inch muslin square (or a fine-mesh cheesecloth or a flour-sack dish cloth)
8-inch-by-8-inch lidded food storage container
Bamboo sushi mat or mesh mat that can lie flat inside the food container
½ gallon goat’s milk (don’t use ultra-pasteurized)
3 tablespoons cultured buttermilk (cow’s buttermilk is fine)
1/16 tablespoon freeze-dried Penicillium roqueforti spores or 2 teaspoons scrapings froma commercial blue cheese
1 drop liquid animal or vegetable rennet
2 tablespoons sea salt
*NOTE: The yield is somewhat variable, depending on the composition of the milk, the temperature at which the curds are drained, and how firmly the curds set.
Fill a 4-quart stockpot halfway with water and bring to 80° to 90°F over medium heat. Place the unopened bottle of goat’s milk into the pot and heat milk to 85°F over the course of 30 minutes. Open bottle to check milk’s temperature (replace cap if milk isn’t ready). Once it reaches 85°F, remove from heat.
Open milk bottle and add buttermilk and mold spores or scrapings. Stir gently to combine (use the handle of a wooden spoon if the bottle has a narrow opening).
Working over a bowl, add rennet to a large, clean spoon. Add 1 teaspoon water to dilute the rennet drop, then stir ½ the rennet mixture into the milk. Discard remaining liquid. Cover bottle and leave on the counter-top at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, or until milk becomes a semi-firm gel.
Place muslin over a colander set in the sink. Gently spoon (or if the bottle is plastic, squeeze) the firmed milk out of the bottle and into the muslin-lined colander. The curds will break apart as you transfer them. When all curds are in the cloth, knot the corners to form a pouch.
Suspend this pouch from the sink faucet or another place that will allow the curds to drain freely at room temperature for 24 hours. Drain until curds are as firm as play dough. Shake pouch at least once during the draining period to break up the curds and encourage better draining.
Transfer curds to a mixing bowl. Gently mix in salt, trying not to whip in any air. Then, with clean hands, gather about 1 cup curds and shape into a log 3 to 4 inches in length. Repeat with remaining curds for a total of 3 small logs (you can also make 2 slightly larger logs if you prefer).
Set logs on the mat set inside the food container. Make sure the logs aren’t touching. Cover container with the lid slightly open to create a “cheese cave.” Keep this cave at room temperature for 3 days. Flip logs daily and mop up any moisture on the inside of the container with a paper towel. By the third day the logs should feel dry to the touch.
Close lid completely and place container in the fridge. Flip logs and mop up any moisture every other day. The cheese is ready to eat after 1 week; keep aging it for another 2 to 3 weeks. When cheeses are done aging, wrap logs in waxed paper and place in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving.