When it comes to making homemade cheese, Bovre is about as easy as it gets. Bovre, the cow’s milk version of Chevre, is a soft, slightly tangy cheese that is easy to spread over toasted bread or crackers. This cheese also lends itself to a variety of additional flavors both savory and sweet, and pairs excellently with my Easy Sourdough Crackers.
There’s a lot to cover when talking about cheese making which is why this post is split into three parts! The first part reviews how to make the actual cheese, the second part looks at draining, salting, shaping and storing. Finally, the third part will look at how to add flavors to your cheese that rival the store bought versions.
Making homemade cheese does come with some upfront costs. Rennet, cultures, molds, presses, along with various tools and pots are required. Luckily this recipe uses the bare minimum of these things and is fairly cost effective when you compare it to the store bought equivalent. You can get away with buying a pre-made culture starter for chevre (which has the everything you need including the rennet) and a cheese cloth.
Don’t use the cheese cloth found in the local grocery store. Cheese cloth comes in different weaves and most of the stuff you will find at the grocery store will be far to loose a weave to effectively drain you curds. For this recipe I actually use butter muslin, a tightly weaved cheese cloth. I’ve purchased almost all my cheese making supplies from New England Cheese Making Supply Co.. I have included links to everything I used for this recipe below.
When it comes to salt you don’t need to buy the specialty cheese salt, all you is a salt that is iodine free. Iodine will kill all the good bacteria we are adding in the form of culture leaving a bland cheese. I use my canning and pickling salt since I already have it on hand, but any non-iodized salt (regular grain) will do. Most salts are clearly labeled as “Iodized” if they contain iodine.
The biggest caveat when it comes to the milk is that it cannot be ultra pasteurized. What does ultra pasteurized mean exactly? To make ultra pasteurized milk the manufacturers heat the milk up to 280 degrees F for a minimum of 2 seconds. This kills all the bacteria in the milk effectively sterilizing it. If you want to store your milk for a long time this is great, but the very high heat denatures many of the proteins and enzymes which are necessary for making good cheese.
Check the labels when buying your milk and avoid anything that says ultra pasteurized. Be warned, ultra pasteurization is not limited to the grocery store brands. If you decide to be fancy and go for a local dairy option, double check their website, or call if you have to, and ask about their pasteurization methods.
If you can find it, cream top whole milk is the way to go, but I can’t always find that in stores. Using homogenized whole milk has never caused me any issues and should work just fine.
As I mentioned above, Bovre has been the easiest cheese for me to make so far. It doesn’t require any heating, washing or pressing of the curd that cheeses like cheddar, edam, or parmesan require. It consists of warming the milk up to 86 degrees, adding calcium chloride, adding the starter culture, letting it rest for a number of hours or overnight, before draining with a cheese cloth. Actual working time is probably less than half an hour and you end up with a delicious cheese that can be flavored a variety of ways (more about adding flavors in the blog pt. 3!).
Storage and Use
Bovre freezes remarkably well. From one gallon of milk you can get up to 2 lbs of Bovre. This is more than enough for creating several flavors and an appealing charcuterie board. If you don’t need the whole amount, simply divide into more manageable portions and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or vacuum seal before placing in the freezer. Defrost for a couple hours on the counter or in a bowl of cold warm water and it’s ready to eat.
Starter Culture – Chevre
Butter Muslim – 1 yd
Cheese Thermometer – 12 inch
Calcium Chloride – 1oz
Molds – 4oz
You can use whatever thermometer you have on hand that can give you a reading for 86 F degrees, you don’t need a specialty cheese one. Same for the spoon.
Calcium Chloride is used for store bought milk to compensate for anything that was lost in the pasteurization process. It will make for a firmer curd and a larger overall yield. You can make this cheese without it, I have several times, but just be aware your cheese may be softer and a little more difficult to handle. If you choose not to add calcium chloride work with the cheese cold when attempting to shape or flavor.
The molds allow you to shape and continue to drain your cheese in the fridge. They are not necessary but make for a more professional looking final product.
1 Gallon Whole Milk (not Ultrapasteurized)
1 Packet Chevre Culture
1/4 C Non-chlorinated Water
1/4 tsp Calcium Chloride
Large Stock Pot
1/4 Measuring Spoon
Before you Start
Make sure everything you will be using is clean and sanitized before you start. This includes the pot, spoon, measuring devices and cheese cloth. You can put all these items in the dishwasher and run it on a sterilize cycle.
Alternatively, place everything in the pot you plan to use fill with water and bring to a boil for ten minutes. After the ten minutes remove the items and lay them out on a clean kitchen towel.
Warming the Milk
Most cultures have a set range of temperatures for ideal growth that you need to stay within. If you are using a different culture than the one linked above, read the instructions and follow any temperature and quantity amounts it may suggest.
Pour the gallon of milk into a medium pot and set on medium heat to warm. Either hook your cheese thermometer onto the side of the pot or take temperature frequently stirring occasionally. Turn off and remove from heat once milk has reached 86 degrees F.
Adding the Culture
In a quarter cup of non chlorinated water, mix in calcium chloride (1/4 tsp. per gallon) before adding to milk. Stir for one minute to evenly distribute.
Open culture packet and sprinkle contents evenly over the surface of the milk. Allow to rehydrate for 2 minutes on the surface of the milk before stirring milk for one minute to distribute.
Cover with pot lid or clean tea towel and set aside for 8-12 hours to set.
Check after 6-8 hours to see how your cheese is setting. You are looking for a “clean break”. A clean break is when you slice diagonally into the cheese and lift slightly upward to see how cleanly the cheese splits.
If the curd is not firm enough it will look similar to below. Note that there are many small fractures along the path of the knife, not one single line. The curds won’t hold their shape and will break apart if I continued to pushing the knife upward.
If your curd is ready it will split nicely like the picture below. This curd is set enough to hold its shape as I lift the knife upward, and splits cleanly in half.
A Note About Curds
Knowing exactly when your curd is ready is one of those things that takes time and practice to get right (I’m still unsure about it half the time). If you feel like it might not be ready yet, leave it to sit longer!
This recipe is fairly forgiving when it comes to the amount of time you can let it set. In theory the longer you let it sit the tangier it will become, but I have let it sit for several hours after the 12 hour mark (this may even be necessary if you do not use the calcium chloride) and it has turned out just as delicious.
After 24 hours if your milk is still liquid, something has gone wrong in the process, and you will need to throw the milk away and try fresh. If your curds are set to any degree you, can go ahead and move forward and see what happens. Part of cheese making is just trying things out and seeing what the results are!
Once your curd is ready you can move on to the draining, salting and shaping!