Goat cheese, sometimes called chevre, is a food product made from the coagulated milk of goats. It comes in a wide variety of forms, although the most common is soft and easily spread. This cheese can also be made in hard aged varieties, as well as semi firm cheeses like feta. It is especially common in the Middle East, Africa, and some Mediterranean countries, where the hardy goat survives in areas where cows cannot.
Cheese made from goat's milk is distinctive due to its tangy flavor. The taste can sometimes be very strong, which not all consumers enjoy. In some cases, the flavor is sought after, and some dairies are well known for producing particularly "goaty" cheese. The strong flavor is caused by hormones, which will be reduced if milk producing nanny goats are kept away from male billies. In addition, like all animal products, the milk is heavily influenced by what the goats are eating. Because these animals have hardy digestive systems, they tend to eat many bitter plants that more delicate animals, such as cows and horses, will not.
Goat milk is often used by those who are young, ill, or have a low tolerance to cows milk. It is much more similar to human milk than that of the cow, being thinner, lower in fat, and higher in vitamin A and potassium. Although cows are more common in Western countries, goat milk and cheese are preferred in much of the rest of the world. Because goat cheese is often made in areas where refrigeration is limited, aged cheeses are often heavily treated with salt to prevent them from rotting. As a result, many people associate a salty flavor with this food, especially in the case of the heavily brined feta.
Cheese has been made from goat's milk for thousands of years, and it was probably one of the earliest made dairy products. In its simplest form, goat cheese is made by warming the milk, mixing it with rennet so that it curdles, and then draining and pressing the curds. Soft cheeses are made in kitchens all over the world, with cooks hanging bundles of cheesecloth filled with curds up in the warm kitchen for several days so that they can drain and cure. If the cheese is to be aged, it is often brined so that it will form a rind, and then stored in a cool cheese cave for several months.
Goat milk does not have as much fat as cows's milk, so goat cheese tends not to either. For this reason, many dieters craving cheese will choose this type, crumbling it on salads or melting it on cooked dishes. It softens when exposed to heat, although it does not melt in the same way that many cow cheeses do. Firmer cheeses with rinds are sometimes baked in the oven to until they become gooey and warm; they might then be spread on bread with roasted garlic.