Chevre is a generic term which denotes a cheese made from the milk of goats, with the word chevre meaning goat in French. This type of cheese can come in a wide range of forms, from soft farmer's cheeses to fully cured firm varieties. Chevre also runs the flavor gamut, with some retaining a characteristic goaty flavor while other chevres are much more mild and buttery.
One of the most common forms of chevre is a fresh cheese which resembles cream cheese. This tends to be slightly crumbly, creamy, and may have a strong goat flavor. Often soft versions are herbed or spiced, and may be decorated with flowers or rosemary by more high-end dairies. Creamy cheese can be delicious in salads, bread, and pizzas. While most of the creamy chevres available in the United States are made from pasteurized milk because the cheese is young, unpasteurized creamy chevres tend to have more complex flavors and an almost buttery feel.
This cheese is also made in firm and semi-firm varieties. Goats milk can be used as the dairy component for most cheese recipes, with popular hard chevres including aged goat Gouda, a creamy and complex cheese. These cheeses can be used much like their cow's milk counterparts, eaten plain in wedges, added to quiches, offered on fruit and dessert platters, or integrated into sandwiches. Some cheeses traditionally use goat milk, such as feta, and feta made with goat milk can be obtained in some parts of the world although it is more commonly mixed with the milk of sheep.
Some consumers have the mistaken idea that chevre cheese tastes strongly goaty, and is accompanied by an unpleasant aroma. Depending upon the source of the milk and type of cheese, some are more goaty than others, but the majority are simply creamy, complex cheeses with savory herbal notes. Chevre tends to be more complex than cow's milk cheese, especially when made by small dairies in limited batches.
Goats are generally allowed more free range in the pasture than cows are, and this will affect the flavor of dairy products produced from them. Summer goat milk tends to be more floral and grassy, while goats will scavenge for bitter greens during the winter to supplement their diets. This winter diet will make the milk more bitter in flavor. In addition, milk from nanny goats kept away from a billy will tend to lack the strong hormonal flavor associated with goat milk.