Chèvre is the French word for goat, and chèvre cheese refers to cheese made from goat’s milk. Many of these cheeses are created exclusively from the milk of goats and do not include cow or sheep’s milk. Chèvre cheese is extremely common in many places in the world, including France, and more and more, you’ll see delicious types of goat cheese made in the US, with many small local dairies producing excellent cheeses.
In the US, many people think of a light soft, somewhat crumbly cheese, similar in consistency to cream cheese as chèvre cheese. Actually, there are numerous wonderful forms of goat cheese, including semi-soft versions that taste like jack cheese, and hard versions, which may be smoked, and taste like gouda, or aged to make an excellent substitute for parmesan.
Chèvre cheese, in soft forms, has a sharper taste than does cream cheese. It may be paired with herbs, covered in black pepper, and comes in a variety of sizes and shapes. The cheese is easily molded into small rounds, log shapes, or large rounds that are sliced. You can use this form of chèvre cheese in a variety of ways. It melts wonderfully, making it delicious on pizzas or in calzones. It can merely be eaten on crackers or bread, or spread onto bagels for a delicious alternative to cream cheese. Chunks of soft chèvre are excellent in salads or make a great addition on a cheese and fruit plate.
Harder forms of chèvre cheese are meant to be eaten very much in the same way you would eat their cow milk equivalents. Aged chèvre can be sprinkled onto popcorn, top pasta, or eaten in small slices. Hard goat cheese that has a similar taste to Gouda or cheddar can make great cheese sandwiches.
Substituting chèvre cheese for cow or sheep milk cheese is not exactly direct. You’ll find that the flavors in chèvre are much more diverse. For example, feta, generally made from sheep’s milk tends to be a great deal saltier than soft chèvre. In fact many people prefer the milder goat’s milk soft cheese to feta because it is less salty.
You’re likely to pay quite a bit more for chèvre cheese than you will for cow milk cheese, especially if you buy imported versions from France. In the US, there’s really no need to purchase imports, since so many goat dairies are producing different forms of chèvre that are equally as good as French versions. Still, even US made versions are likely to be more expensive ounce for ounce, by about a third, than would a cow milk cheese.
The price is often well worth it. In addition to complex flavors and styles, many people find they can more easily digest chèvre than they do cow milk cheese. The two “milks” are quite different. Goat milk tends to be more alkaline, while cow’s milk causes an acid response in the body. Milk from goats is also creamier than cow’s milk, and naturally higher in antioxidants.