Goat Milk FAQs
Goat Milk vs. Cow Milk
Q. Will all cheese making recipes work with fresh goat milk?
A. Goat milk is not standardized like cow's milk from the store. You may need to make some changes after the first batch.
A lot depends on the particular herd, but here are some general considerations:
- Goat milk typically needs 25-50% less rennet.
- Raw milk is more active, so it needs less culture. This is true for any type of raw milk; goat, cow or sheep.
- Goat milk may need a slightly lower temperature for each recipe step.
Goat milks composition changes dramatically throughout the season. Summer milk has a low fat content, fall milk has a high fat content. Summer milk is superior to fall milk when making hard cheeses because high fat content can lead to spoilage issues when aging. Also, slightly more culture is needed with higher fat milk.
Q. I am in the process of acquiring goat's milk to make cheese. Which rennet should I use?
A. Any of type of rennet will work, but you need to pay attention to the strength of each rennet. Most recipes call for single strength rennet, if it is not stated assume the recipe calls for single strength rennet.
Goat's milk works somewhat differently from cow's milk, a bit less rennet is needed if using a recipe normally intended for cow's milk.
Q. I have two Nigerian Dwarf goats who give high butterfat milk. My Chevre turns out wonderfully every time; however, my buttermilk forms a solid mass in the jar! I follow the directions on the package of the Buttermilk Culture for temp, time, etc. I'm wondering, what is the best way to adjust the directions for goat milk? Also, can I use some of the newly-made buttermilk to make a second batch, or do I need to use a fresh package of culture every time?
A. The problem may be with the number of natural bacteria already in your milk. Too much acid causes the protein to coagulate. This will vary through the year as the seasons change. It will also vary with the time between milking and making and the way the milk is stored.
Factors you can adjust are:
- Amount of bacteria you add
- Ripening time
By adjusting these factors, you should have greater control of the acidity. Your goal is to keep the milk from thickening to the curd forming state, by keeping the acidity slightly lower.
Regarding your second question, yes, you can use the prepared buttermilk as a mother culture.
Chevre and Yogurt Are Too Thin
Q. I have a new goat (Alpine) and now I'm having problems with my usual recipes. My mozzarella has been fine, but my chevre didn't work and my yogurt came out runny. The milk from this goat seems to have a lot of fat in it.
A. It sounds like your new goat is providing more solids and may need more culture and rennet than usual for a good coagulation.
The thin yogurt also indicates a need for more culture.
Changing seasons and weather can also greatly affect goat herds, this is good to keep in mind throughout the year as seasonal changes may affect your cheese making.
Early Season Milk
Q. I have been using your Chevre Culture to make goat's milk chevre for about 10 years. We have 2 does whose kids we just weaned.
- My process is: I pasteurize one gallon of milk by slowly heating to 165F, stirring regularly (takes at least 20 mins to get there), then bring it down to 86F by putting the pot inside a larger one with ice cubes in it. I add the culture package and let it re-hydrate on the surface for a couple of minutes before stirring it in. I incubate overnight, then drain in the refrigerator for 10-12 hours. I put it in a glass bowl and add 1 1/4 teaspoons of sea salt. I stir it and then pack it into small, glass mason jars.
I have made two batches this week and both have come out grainy, like fine-curd cottage cheese. The flavor is good, just grainy. I tried using a large bowl mixer to beat the second batch. It helped, but it still has chewy small curds like cottage cheese. The second batch also had a greenish cast to it. In the past, mine has always had a slightly buttery, yellow cast to it.
A. Early-season milk can be a problem in making this cheese. This milk was intended for the young ones. As the season goes on, the milk becomes more user-friendly for cheese making.
Also, your pasteurization process is probably changing the proteins and making the milk problematic for cheese making. You are using an industrial process that calls for the milk to be heated to a high temperature in a matter of seconds and then to be flashed cold in seconds.
With your method, you are subjecting the milk to excessive heat. The best pasteurization for you would be to heat to 145F, hold for 30 minutes, then chill ASAP.
Late Lactation Milk
Q. I have been making goat cheese for over 5 years, using your chevre culture and have never had a problem. However, the last 5 batches I have made will not make a solid curd.
I bought a batch of culture back in March and was making cheese once or twice a week until about 3 weeks ago. No problem. But then it started not making a solid curd. I tried letting it sit longer, but little improvement. I tried warming the milk to a lower temp (I am in Texas, so, hot); no improvement.
Got on your website (cheesemaking.com) to see what I could find. It sounded like since my Alpine was late in her milking cycle, maybe I needed to add calcium chloride. Tried that last night following directions on the bottle (1/4 tsp in 1/4 c water) when beginning to heat the milk. Same results again this morning.
I did make yogurt last night from the same batch of milk. No problem. Turned out just like it should. Any ideas? Add rennet? The chevre packets I am using all arrived at the same time in a batch of 36. I have kept them in the freezer the entire time. And the first 15 or so worked just fine.
A. "Late lactation" is probably what is giving you the trouble. The other cultures all seem to have worked and you have kept them well, so, you can cross out cultures as one of the factors.
During late lactation, and especially in hot weather (more stress for the goat), the milk becomes more alkaline. Due to this, it requires more biological activity to acidify the milk to the point where it is ready to coagulate. Remember: this is a lactic cheese and totally dependent on acid development for coagulation.
You could try increasing the amount of culture you use by about 50% to see if that helps. But, at some point, the milk becomes so alkaline that the culture cannot achieve the proper acidity.
Yogurt worked because it relies on a totally different process as well as utilizes very different proteins. It is not unexpected that this worked.
Storing Fresh Milk
Q. I get a quart of sweet milk a day from my Nigerian dwarf. What's the best way to save up my milk? Can I just freeze it or will that mess it up? I am now holding it for 4-5 days before making cheese.
A. In general, milk does not freeze well for cheese making. It tends to separate upon thawing. Raw milk like yours tends to undergo some structural changes to the protein if kept for more than 2 to 3 days. This makes it a bit problematic for cheese making.
One note about storing your milk - never add warm milk to refrigerated milk. Make sure you chill the fresh milk before mixing it in with milk that has already been cooled.
Making Blue Cheese
Q. I have made several of your blue cheese recipes using cow's milk. They are all very yummy. Now I am interested in making one with raw goat's milk. Is there anything in the recipe that I should change or is this not a good idea?
A. You can use goat's milk to make blue cheese, but the resulting flavor is quite different. The flavor becomes much sharper because of the higher capric components.
The make procedure is very similar to cow's milk, but with raw milk, it really depends upon your source. You may find that you need to tweak the amounts of culture and rennet in successive batches. Also, you may find that some temperature adjustments may be needed.
Chevre Not Setting with Store Bought Raw Goat Milk
Q. I tried chèvre for the first time today. I used 1 gallon of raw goat's milk purchased at our local food coop. I added 1/8 tsp of calcium chloride and used a packet of chèvre culture. At that point, it was 82°F and I let it coagulate for 12 hours. By then, the final temperature was 70°F.
It had about an inch of whey on the top after 2 hours and the curd looked firm, but when I scooped it out, it seemed like ricotta, as compared to the curd I get when making other cheeses. Is this what the curd should be like?
A. Buying raw milk that is more than 48 hours from the milking itself is usually problematic. This is normally the case with any off- the-store-shelf milk. It would be nice if they indicated milking dates. The older the milk is, the more natural acidity is built up, and this can interfere with the culture activity. You basically end up with a cheese that has been over-acidified.
All fresh milk contains enzymes that remain active and begin working on the proteins as soon as the animal is milked. These proteins have a hard time holding together for a good period. The biggest sign of this is a weak and sloppy curd, as you describe.