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.
Late Lactation Raw Goat 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.