Greenpoint: Need a quick answer? Avoid the food blogs

Packing chèvre for the freezer. Photo by Margaret Hartley

Packing chèvre for the freezer. Photo by Margaret Hartley

We’re milking a lot of goats and I’m making a lot of cheese right now. And with the garden in full production, sometimes I run out of cheesemaking time, especially the kinds of cheeses — Gouda, I’m looking at you! — that take a lot of time.

Then there’s chèvre.

Chèvre’s a lovely cheese with a pretty hands-off policy. Heat the milk, culture it for an hour, add the tiniest bit of rennet and then let it sit for 24 hours while you take care of other things, like pickling all those cucumbers or making salsa with all those tomatoes and hot peppers. Then there’s another day of draining the chèvre, time you can spend roasting potatoes with onions and squash for the freezer. Or making Gouda.

You have to age the Gouda, and now that I’m up to my ears in milk I understand that cheesemaking was invented as a storage system for milk. Because you can’t keep milk, and you can’t keep fresh cheeses like chèvre very long.

And how much chèvre can you eat before it goes bad? Every gallon of milk yields about a pound of cheese. If you live in a house full of bagel eaters you might catch up, but here the household dad has celiac disease.

So, I wondered, can you freeze chèvre?

My cheesemaking book doesn’t mention it, so I went online. I was looking for a yes-no answer: Yes, it freezes beautifully; or no, it will end up dry and crumbly.

In the age of food blogs, it’s not that simple.

First you get the question repeated, as a kind of I’ll-tell-you-later tease. Then acres of backstory. Then a discussion of how lovely chèvre is and how simple it is to make if you happen to have an abundance of fresh goat milk, or how you could also just go buy some in the store if you don’t.

Maybe some memories of France. Finally, here it comes: The question repeated once again with the answer, presented as a huge and surprising reveal.

Sure, you can. How? Put it in the freezer.

I read about six cheese sites that all used the same technique. I started thinking maybe I should write that way, too. I mean, around here we start just about every task with the invention of the wheel. Want my recipe for pumpkin pie? It starts “first, you grow a pumpkin.” My husband’s top gardening tip? It all starts with poop. You raise animals, clean out their stalls, pile it up and turn it for a year or so until it’s beautiful black soil, then spread and turn it into your gardens. Then plant your seeds.

So, you want to know if you can freeze chèvre?

Well, about six years ago we got two goats, Gilly and Peaches, from our neighbor down the road. Her name is Denise. Which reminds me, my college roommate was named Denise although, for reasons having to do with an irritatingly upbeat RA and a box of crayons, we renamed each other Jane. But maybe that’s a story for a different topic, like cooking with cast iron, or not cooking with cast iron. Because of that time Jane and I bought ourselves cast-iron cookware sets from a railroad salvage company.

But back to the goats.

Gilly and Peaches are both girls, so we borrowed a little black billy goat from our neighbor, then gave him our neighbor’s name — Mr. B — and ultimately kept him so our neighbor wouldn’t eat him. Which reminds me, the original Mr. B moved from down the road to Tennessee a couple of years ago and since then has been hit by two tornadoes. But that might be a story for a different topic, like beets. Because every year the original Mr. B would grow beets and eat them and then notice his pee was red. Then he’d get scared and tell his kids to take him to the ER quick, and they’d say, “Dad. Beets. Remember?”

Mr. B the billy goat was a lot smaller than Gilly and Peaches, but he climbed on a little stepstool in the yard and managed to impregnate the two nannies, who became the proud mamas of five kids. And once they were weaned we started milking and learned to make cheese and yes, you can freeze chèvre.

Wait, I forgot to tell you about France. Maybe that’s a story for a different topic.

Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on Sept. 13. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

Categories: Food, The Daily Gazette

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