Goat's milk cheese, goats' cheese, goat cheese or chèvre (French for goat) is cheese made from goat's milk.
Although cow's milk and goat's milk have similar overall fat contents, the higher proportion of medium-chain fatty acids such as caproic, caprylic and capric acid in goat's milk contributes to the characteristic tart flavor of goat's milk cheese. (These fatty acids take their name from the Latin for goat, capra.) Recent studies show that cheese made from goat milk has more protein than cheese made from cow milk, and is actually very similar to that of human breast milk.
When chèvre is served hot, it is known as chèvre chaud.
It is "kidney friendly" and suitable for those with CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) as it is very low in potassium.
Goat milk is often used by those who are young, ill, or have a low tolerance to cows milk. Goat milk is more similar to human milk than that of the cow, although there is large variation among breeds in both animals. Although the West has popularized the cow, goat milk and goat cheese are preferred dairy products in much of the rest of the world. Because goat cheese is often made in areas where refrigeration is limited, aged goat cheeses are often heavily treated with salt to prevent decay. As a result, salt has become associated with the flavor of goat cheese, especially in the case of the heavily brined feta.
Goat cheese has been made for thousands of years, and was probably one of the earliest made dairy products. In the most simple form, goat cheese is made by allowing raw milk to naturally curdle, and then draining and pressing the curds. Other techniques use an acid (such as vinegar or lemon juice) or rennet to coagulate the milk. Soft goat cheeses are made in kitchens all over the world, with cooks hanging bundles of cheesecloth filled with curds up in the warm kitchen for several days to drain and cure. If the cheese is to be aged, it is often brined so that it will form a rind, and then stored in a cool cheese cave for several months to cure.
Goat cheese softens when exposed to heat, although it does not melt in the same way that many cow cheeses do. Firmer goat cheeses with rinds are sometimes baked in the oven to form a gooey warm cheese which is ideal for spreading on bread with roasted garlic, or alone.
France produces a great number of goat's milk cheeses, especially in the Loire Valley and Poitou, where goats are said to have been brought by the Moors in the 8th century. Examples of French Chèvres include Bucheron, Chabis, Couronne Lochoise, Crottin de Chavignol (largest produced goat cheese AOC), Pélardon, Picodon, Pouligny Saint-Pierre, Rocamadour, Sainte-Maure de Touraine, Chabichou du Poitou, Valençay, and Pyramide.