When choosing chevre cheese, it is important to consider the type of cheese, information about the producing company, and any additions that may alter the flavor. It also helps to think about how the cheese will be used; the ideal chevre, or goat cheese, for spreading on crostini may not be the same chevre used to concoct a tangy grilled cheese sandwich. It may also help to taste the cheese before buying, to make sure the consistency and flavor meets expectations.
Chevre comes in many different shapes, sizes, and varieties. While most people are familiar with soft goat cheese, which is sold in logs or tubs, there are also semi-soft and aged hard goat cheeses as well. Gouda and cheddar are both types of firm cheese that can be created with goat milk instead of the more familiar cow milk version, and can provide a wonderful variation in flavor to these classic cheeses. The process of aging deepens and smooths the flavors of chevre as well as altering the texture; a brand new, soft goat cheese will be soft, crumbly and quite tangy, while an aged goat cheddar will usually be firm with a mild, though still noticeable, bite.
Choosing the best chevre cheese can be made easier by knowing something about the grower. Some of the best chevre in the world comes from artisan cheese-makers with relatively small operations. These artisans may be able to quickly describe the flavor characteristics of each type of cheese, how it is best incorporated into recipes, and even which specific goat provided the milk. Farmers can also answer questions about the condition of the animals, their diet, and whether the cheese is created using organic methods and ingredients. For those concerned about animal welfare or environmental health issues, speaking directly to the cheesemaker can answer important questions.
Not all chevre cheese is alike; many contain different flavoring agents to create a unique taste. Herbed goat cheese may come coated in a light herbal layer, or incorporate herbs such as oregano, basil, or chives throughout the cheese. Some goat cheese may come with fruits or nuts incorporated, creating a unique spreadable dessert or breakfast cheese. For a beautiful presentation, consider a chevre that has been coated in edible flowers, such as nasturtiums.
When deciding between different types of chevre cheese, it may help to consider what recipes are desired. For salads, spreads, and dips, using a soft chevre cheese can be an ideal choice. Pasta dishes, such as lasagna, may work better with a semi-soft variety, which has better melting properties. For a truly unique cheeseburger, pizza, or grilled cheese, consider using a firm goat cheese, such as goat's milk cheddar.