Fresh Goat Cheese
Chèvre, which translates to "goat" in French, is aptly named as it is crafted from goat's milk. Fresh goat cheese is celebrated for its unique and tangy flavor. The taste is often described as bright, citrusy, and slightly earthy, with a hint of sweetness. The tanginess of chèvre becomes more pronounced as it ages, making it a versatile cheese that can be enjoyed at various stages of maturation.
One of the defining characteristics is its smooth and creamy texture. When young, the cheese has a soft, spreadable consistency that makes it an excellent choice for spreading on crackers or crusty bread. As it ages, chèvre can develop a firmer texture, suitable for crumbling over salads or incorporating into a variety of dishes.
The history of goat cheese is a fascinating journey that spans thousands of years and multiple civilizations. This creamy and versatile dairy product has been enjoyed by people around the world and has played a significant role in culinary traditions. Here's a brief history of goat cheese:
Ancient Origins: Goat cheese is one of the oldest cheese varieties in the world. Its origins can be traced back to the Neolithic period, around 7,000-10,000 years ago, when humans first began domesticating goats for milk. Early goat herders likely discovered that they could preserve milk by curdling it with natural enzymes or by using the stomachs of young animals, such as calves or goats, which contain rennet—an enzyme that aids in curdling.
Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Influence: Goat cheese was a staple in the diets of ancient Middle Eastern and Mediterranean civilizations. The Phoenicians and Egyptians are believed to have been among the first to make and consume goat cheese. The Greeks and Romans also had their own versions of goat cheese, which they often seasoned with herbs and spices.
Medieval Europe: Goat cheese continued to be popular throughout the Middle Ages in Europe. Monasteries played a significant role in the development and preservation of cheese-making techniques. Goat cheese, along with other types of cheese, became an essential part of the monastic diet. Monks and nuns perfected the art of cheese-making and passed their knowledge down through the generations.
Renaissance and Beyond: With the Renaissance came the expansion of culinary arts and the exchange of culinary traditions across Europe. Goat cheese found its way into various European cuisines, with distinct regional varieties emerging. For example, France became known for its soft and creamy Chèvre, while Spain developed a range of goat cheeses, including Cabrales and Murcian cheese.
Modern Era: Goat cheese experienced a resurgence in popularity during the late 20th century and into the 21st century. Its creamy texture, unique flavor profiles, and compatibility with various culinary styles contributed to its rise in popularity. Artisanal cheese-makers and small-scale goat farms have played a pivotal role in producing high-quality goat cheese with diverse flavors and textures.
Fresh goat cheese pairs exceptionally well with a range of accompaniments, making it a versatile addition to any culinary creation. Here are some delightful pairings to consider:
Fruits: The slight sweetness of goat cheese complements the natural sweetness of fruits like figs, grapes, and apples.
Honey: Drizzle honey over a log of fresh chèvre for a delightful combination of sweet and tangy flavors.
Nuts: Crushed nuts, such as walnuts or almonds, add a satisfying crunch that complements the creamy texture.
Herbs: Incorporate fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, or chives into the cheese to enhance its savory notes.
Wine: Pairing wines with fresh goat cheese requires a delicate balance, as the tangy and slightly acidic nature of the cheese can interact differently with various wine profiles. We suggest Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Rosé, and sparkling wines.
Today, goat cheese is enjoyed worldwide, with numerous variations, from soft and creamy chèvre to aged and crumbly options. It is used in a wide range of dishes, including salads, pasta, sandwiches, and desserts. Goat cheese has not only stood the test of time but has also evolved to meet the tastes and preferences of modern consumers, making it a beloved ingredient in global cuisine.
Below is a list of our favorite producers of fresh goat cheese—artisans and maestros who have mastered the delicate alchemy of turning the humble goat's milk into a culinary treasure!