With advent of spring comes the start of cheesemaking season, heralded early on by the births of the year's first kids. Unless they are tricked into doing otherwise, goats breed and give birth seasonally: Mating occurs from late summer through early winter, and the kids are born about five months following that. About two weeks after kids are born, the mothers can be milked so that cheesemaking can begin. What does this mean for you? Now's the time to start savoring some fresh goat cheese.
Sometimes referred to as chèvre—a generic French term for goat cheese—fresh goat cheese is one of the most versatile cheeses out there, great on its own or in salads, in omelets or pastries. I particularly like how fresh goat cheese pairs with beets, despite the past decade's obsession with this particular culinary cliché. There's something about the tangy creaminess of the cheese that makes a perfect foil for the sweet earthiness of beets.
Fresh goat cheese has a distinctive musky tang, a flavor that varies, depending on how close the bucks are kept to the milking does on the farm. In fact, it is this musky (some say barnyardy) flavor that turns off even some of the most devout cheese worshippers from fresh goat cheese.
Of course, goat cheeses can be aged as well, as in Valencay or Crottin de Chavignol. But those won't be available for another month or two. So for now it's best to stick with the fresh kind. Some of my favorites are made right here in the U.S.: Coach Farm in New York makes some great ones, as does Vermont Butter and Cheese. Both are readily available throughout the country.
What about you? Are you a goat cheese lover or hater? And what kinds of things do you like to do with it?
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