There are two basic types of goat cheese: fresh and aged. The fresh type is creamy, spreadable, and often flavored with herbs or vegetables. The other is firmer and has a stronger flavor. About 87 different varieties exist, based on the region of the world in which they are produced; this number regularly fluctuates as productive regions and farms come and go.
Goat milk cheese, often referred to as chèvre, is available in a wide range of tastes, textures, and firmness. These factors are determined by the animals’ diet and the processing and aging of the cheese. The many areas of the world from which it often comes also contribute to its distinct tastes.
The taste of cheese made from goat's milk is always stronger than that of cow milk cheese because goats traditionally eat a diet of plants that are more bitter than that of cows. This diet makes the milk taste stronger. Since the cheese is traditionally produced in areas where refrigeration is uncommon, it is often preserved with heavy coatings of salt to prevent decay. This treatment contributes to the cheese’s reputation for saltiness.
Goat herds are normally smaller than herds of cows, and they also produce less milk. Their milk is only gathered from the farms about once a week. As the milk waits to be picked up, its acidity increases. This acidity, along with the hormones in the milk, adds to the distinct flavor.
The texture and firmness of goat milk cheese are determined by how it is made. The most common method of making it is called the lactic process, which results in a creamy, easily spreadable cheese. It can be eaten as soon as it is made or soft ripened, which means a light mold forms on the exterior of the cheese and makes it runnier nearest the outer rind.
Goat milk cheese is sometimes preferred over cow milk cheese because it tends to have fewer calories. It is also commonly believed that cheese from goats is easier to digest, which makes it appeal to people who have problems when they eat foods made with cow's milk. This cheese is also lower in fat.
The manufacturing process for goat milk cheese is fairly standard, regardless of its country of origin. Warm goat's milk is mixed with rennet, an enzyme used in many cheeses to make the milk curdle. The soft curds are then drained through cheesecloth and pressed. The cheesecloth bags are hung to cure. The length of the curing process affects the texture and taste of the cheese.