Through my friends Iva and Kevin, I have recently gotten a source for raw goat's milk. A few months back, I got my first batch and used it to whip up a goat version of Camembert. It turned out fine, and it was very exciting that I finally had the chance to get real curds from goat milk. The goat milk that I had previously used was from the store and ultra-Pasteurized. I could only use it to make soft cheeses, and then only with difficulty.
As happy as I was to be able to use it for making Camembert, the results were not as exciting as I would have liked. The raw bovine milk that I typically use just tastes better in the final product. Late last summer I was reading through one of my cheese cookbooks and found an interesting recipe for a goat cheese called Valençay. About a month ago the opportunity arose to get more raw goat's milk, so I thought I'd give it a try.
There were several features of Valençay that intrigued me. The cheese is made in pyramid-shaped molds (which I had to buy), and uses food-grade ash (which I also had to buy). The rennet is added to the milk at room temperature, so the milk has to incubate for a long time- overnight- before the curds have fully formed. The curds are not cut as they are with most of the other cheeses I have made. Rather, some of the whey is decanted off of the top, then thin slices are cut from the curd and piled into the molds. After two days, the newly-formed cheeses are unmolded and the surface dusted with ash.
The ash serves several purposes. It inhibits the growth of unwanted bacteria, it promotes the growth of the desired white Penicillium mold, and it helps firm the surface of what is otherwise an extremely soft cheese.
The aging process is relatively short for Valençay- just 2 weeks. We opened the first one the other evening, and I was really pleased with the results. It's very different from any of the other cheeses that I have previously tried to make. It had a great flavor, the texture was wonderfully soft and creamy, and it's a very pretty cheese. Leon loved it. I predict that this one will go into my regular cheese-making rotation.