Chevre, a soft goat cheese that enchants cheese lovers with its distinct flavor that’s somehow, at the same time, rich and mellow, buttery and earthy, might not be what you think it is.
Or, to be more accurate, it is what you think it is. But it also encompasses a rather large variety of robust goat cheeses that sometimes look nothing like we’ve gotten used to when we think about chevre.
In the article below, we’ll break down the complexities of the term and what to pay attention to when setting your sight on chevre cheese.
Meanwhile, Yummy Bazaar hosts a nice assortment of goat cheese at our online cheese store, so if you’re already well-acquainted with chevre and are looking for a gourmet-quality cheese, do make sure to check out our selection.
What is Chevre Cheese?
Chevre, or Le Fromage de Chèvre, to be more exact, is a French term that literally translates to Goat Cheese. As such, chevre cheese is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of goat cheeses and cannot be narrowed down to a specific variety, region, or even country. In France, any goat cheese can technically be called chevre, and it would require further identification of which one it is we’re talking about exactly.
That said, the name has become associated with a particular type of cheese over time. While in France, chevre simply means goat cheese, the rest of the world has begun to associate the name with young and fresh goat cheese in particular.
This type of chevre cheese is of bright milky white color and has a soft and spreadable texture, reminiscent of camembert or brie. However, the taste is drastically different, with delicate creamy flavor notes intermingling with bold grassy, even somewhat earthy notes characteristic of all cheeses made with goat or sheep milk.
The most common shape of this chevre cheese is a small round log or a thin wheel, flattened on top and bottom. As such, the form has become nigh synonymous with the term chevre, as well.
Nonetheless, when purchasing chevre cheese, you must remember that it's a broad term that could be referring to any goat cheese, whether young, semi-mature, or well-aged. The further the cheese is aged, the more its texture and flavors change.
Aged chevre cheese will have a firmer and denser texture (though it’ll never become harder than semi-soft), and the color will get darker, starting from the rind and moving towards the center. Mature chevre cheese will also have a sharper and tarter flavor, with grassiness and earthiness becoming more intense.
It’s always a good idea to check the packaging to learn how long the cheese was aged when purchasing chevre to ensure you’re getting what you’re looking for. Especially if you’re purchasing French chevre, as manufacturers from other countries usually tend to stick to the classic “young goat cheese” designation when it comes to chevre, but you can never be entirely sure there either.
What’s the Difference Between Chevre and Goat Cheese?
In reality, the question should be, “is every goat cheese chevre cheese”? And the answer is: technically yes, but also no. Certain cheese varieties can sometimes be made with goat milk or with goat milk mixed with other kinds of milk, but they wouldn’t qualify. Chevre is a term reserved for cheese made exclusively with goat milk and adhering to specific manufacturing guidelines. If the goat milk can be substituted for or mixed with cow’s milk or sheep’s milk during manufacturing, then the resulting cheese isn’t chevre.
Labneh, a middle-eastern soft yogurt cheese, is one such example: it can be made with goat milk (and the product can be labeled as labneh chevre), but it can be made with other kinds of milk as well, so it’s not chevre by default.
Feta would be another good example. The famous Greek cheese is sometimes made by mixing goat milk with sheep milk, but that doesn’t make it chevre. Firstly, it’s made predominantly with sheep’s milk. Secondly, the manufacturing process involves ripening it in brine (a mix of water and salt), which is not a part of the process of making classic chevre cheese.
How is Chevre Cheese Made?
Chevre cheese can be made with either raw or pasteurized goat’s milk. The milk is heated in large vats and mixed with a blend of cultures and rennet to coagulate. Once the milk turns into solid curds, it’s broken and drained of as much whey as possible.
The curds are then transferred to special molds, where they’re left to rest and naturally expel any remaining whey. At this stage, the cheese is coated in salt to help with whey expulsion and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
By French tradition, chevre cheese doesn’t contain any artificial fillers or additives, and the manufacturers are to rely entirely on the quality of raw milk when making the cheese. Certain artisans adhere to this tradition to this day; however, it’s not uncommon for larger brands to slip in certain additives to prolong the shelf life. It differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, so always check the label if you wish to avoid cheese with artificial preservatives, and go with the product from small artisanal brands if you have the option.
Classic young chevre cheese requires virtually no maturing. The rarer, aged varieties can be matured for up to 12 weeks.
The Most Popular Goat Cheeses in the World:
It should be no surprise that the French have the widest variety of choices regarding goat cheese. More than a few versions of a soft French cheese made with goat milk is categorized as chevre, becoming nigh-synonymous with the term. However, other countries are no slouches either, with many boasting a traditional cheese made from goat milk.
When cheese is labeled simply as Chevre, most manufacturers typically mean Young Goat Cheese with a soft texture and tangy, earthy flavor. These days, it’s popular to rub it with additional flavorings like herbs, spices, ash, etc.
Chavroux, a factory-produced French goat cheese, is quite possibly the most famous soft cheese made with goat milk in the world, despite being launched in 1985. A similar name (and successful marketing campaign) have made this cheese almost synonymous with chevre for those with little knowledge of the term. It comes in a pyramid and log shape and is practically a picture-perfect definition of what chevre cheese is supposed to be.
Bucheron is a type of aged goat cheese, typically matured between 5 and 10 weeks. It has a bloomy rind and is dark ivory color near the rind and white in the middle. It becomes softer as it ages. The flavor is sharp and tart, with very well-pronounced earthy undertones.
Queso de Murcia al Vino is a Spanish goat cheese washed in red wine. It has a semi-soft, elastic, and extremely buttery texture. Traditionally ripened for around 30 to 45 days, the cheese has a tangy and mildly salty flavor, with an intense wine bouquet permeating throughout.
Humboldt Fog is likely the most famous goat cheese in the USA (maybe aside from generic fresh chevre cheese). It was created by an Arcata-based (California) company called Cypress Grove, which specializes in goat cheese manufacturing.
Machedoux is a camembert-style cheese made from raw goat milk traditional to the Westerkwartier region in the Netherlands.
Rubing or Youdbap is a fresh goat milk farmer’s cheese from China’s Yunnan Province. Unlike many other goat cheese varieties, it’s firm and non-melting. It’s frequently served raw with salted beef or pan-fried with chili.
Caprino is the Italian equivalent of chevre. While it’s often associated with a specific type of cheese (slightly matured, semi-soft and creamy), it encompasses over 30 varieties of goat cheese made in Italy, from young and fresh to fully matured. Caprino cheese is typically divided into two distinct types: Caprino Fresco, the fresh and young cheese (similar to what we generally call chevre), and Caprino Stagionato, the cheese that’s been aged for a short period, usually around 20-40 days.
What Does Chevre Cheese Taste Like?
Again, since the term encompasses a wide range of different cheeses, you’d need to check the label for how long the cheese has been aged, as the maturation process will have the defining influence on the flavor profile.
The classic chevre cheese, young and soft (ex. Chavroux), is very mellow and buttery, with distinct grassy and earthy undertones that give the cheese the distinct flavor but are mild enough not to disturb more sensitive palates. If the cheese log is covered with additional flavorings from the outside (usually herbs and spices), it’ll have a bolder flavor when the spices are mixed with the cheese.
The more mature the chevre cheese, the bolder and richer its flavor, with increased tartness and bolder undertones. For example, the aged chevre varieties like Bucheron have a sharper and more complex flavor, with more distinct tanginess and a well-pronounced earthy flavor.
How Long Does Chevre Cheese Last?
On average, young and fresh chevre cheese can last for around two months while still vacuum-packed. Always check the packaging for the best by or expiration date, and act according to the instructions on the label. If the package has been damaged in any way, it could indicate that the cheese has been exposed to outside influences, has gone spoiled, and can be dangerous for consumption. In case of any suspicions, immediately contact the manufacturer!
Once the chevre cheese package has been opened, it can last for around 7-10 days in the refrigerator. Transfer the cheese to a separate air-tight container to prolong its shelf life.
Do You Have to Refrigerate Chevre Cheese?
Yes, absolutely. Chevre cheese is a perishable product that’s very sensitive to high temperatures and humidity. According to FDA recommendations, no perishable food should be left at room temperature for more than a couple of hours, as the chances of harmful bacteria starting to multiply are far too high.
Unlike some other cheeses (like gouda, for example), chevre is very sensitive to heat, and the risk of bacterial growth after 2 hours at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F is far too high to take a risk and consume it.
If you’ve had chevre cheese set out as a part of your charcuterie board for the guests, you should do your best not to have any leftovers by the end of the party.
Can You Freeze Chevre Cheese?
Yes, chevre cheese can be frozen. Freezing will prolong its shelf life for up to 6 months. However, it may not hold up the best after being thawed. Moisture content plays a prominent role in how cheese fares in the freezer and soft young goat cheese has a relatively high moisture content.
As such, when thawed, it can become watery and require draining before using, and likely won’t be as easily spreadable. Crumbling up chevre cheese before freezing may be a good idea, as it does maintain the flavor, unlike texture.
You can add crumbles to complex dishes after draining without worrying about the dish’s flavor profile getting ruined.