Cheese making process
PasteurizingFor fresh cheeses, the first step is pasteurizing the milk. We pour the fresh goat milk into our batch pasteurizer and heat it to 150 degrees and hold the milk there for 30 minutes while it is slowly agitated gently and continuously. This gentle agitation helps keep the fat molecules whole, which contributes to the distinctive delicate taste of our cheese.
Cheesemaking transforms the milk into the whey (the liquid part) and the curd or pāte (which becomes the cheese). Because pasteurization destroys almost all naturally occuring bacteria in the milk, a culture containing select bacteria must be added back in to assist in transforming the milk. What makes soft cheese different is it is produced by a combination of these lactic cultures and a small amount of Rennet. Together, these two cause the milk to coagulate and form the soft, solids that are almost the consistency of yogurt. When the milk has coagulated sufficiently, the curd is gently hand ladeled into draining cloths or perforated forms, depending on the type of cheese being made.
Next, the cheese drains without weight other than its own (spontaneous draining) for approximately 24 hours. After 24 hours, fresh cheese is weighed, salted (at 1%), and hand mixed. We put it into containers and get it to customers as fast as we can. This fresh cheese is neither packaged nor designed to be held for a long time. It should be eaten within one to two weeks and savored for its freshness. The cheese that was ladeled into forms is unmolded and salted with a mixture of salt and a small amount of ash (safe-to-ingest charcoal). It continues to drain and develop until the cheesemaker decides it's ready for packaging.
Curing and Aging
Aged cheeses are really in two categories. Some are derived from the fresh cheese, which are often hand shaped and then dried to varying degrees of firmness. Olive oil cheese is less dry than small grating cheeses.
We make very small quantities of our boulot. This cheese is made from raw milk and reflects the full flora of the milk from our farm-raised goats. It is made in the manner of other aged semi-hard cheeses -- the curd is cut, cooked and aged for a minimum of four to six months.
Raw milk cheeses can be sold in the United States if they are aged for a minimum of two months at a temperature above 35 degrees. Raw milk cheeses require milk of the very highest quality, and they reflect the care that goes into producing that kind of milk.
We are beginng to affinage -- aging and ripening cheeses in a cave-like environment. One of these is our new Fleuri, but others are on the way.