Why is Springtime the Best time for Goat Cheese?
Spring has sprung and so have the kids! Kidding season, the time when baby goats are being born begins in March and with it comes the gift of beautiful fresh and young goat’s milk cheeses. You can of course get goat’s milk cheeses year round, but Spring is the time to seek them out and enjoy them in a myriad of ways.
Goat milk is truly unique and while it is not uncommon for someone to be averse to the flavor, there is a world of subtlety to explore for those who enjoy it. Goaty, as it were, is an easy and apt way to describe said flavor–especially in fresh cheeses–which is tangy, acidic, and at times animalic. As goat cheeses age though, they can take on more herbaceous and nutty notes. It is the unique fatty acids present in goats milk that account for this unmistakable flavor. Another distinctive quality of goat’s milk cheeses is that they will always be white. This is due to the fact that goats process the beta carotene present in grass, and the pigment responsible for golden-hued cow’s milk cheeses, into Vitamin A.
So why is Spring the best time for goat cheese? Goats are hardy animals that thrive in rougher arid climates where vegetation can be scarce. They have a knack for seeking out flowers, herbs and other aromatic plants especially abundant in Spring and Summer and those flavors are expressed in their milk making for a range of tasting notes. It is no surprise that these notes pair beautifully with the seasonal produce of these warmer months.
You’re likely familiar with the word chèvre (pronounced shev) which the French use to refer to any cheese made with goat’s milk; much like the use of caprino in Italy, and cabra in Spain. In America, chèvre specifically refers to a fresh spreadable goat’s milk cheese. Goats are agriculturally important across the globe, but the French are particularly skilled when it comes to goat cheeses, especially the delicate, bloomy-rind type typical of the Loire and Poitou regions. The curd from goat’s milk is delicate and benefits from small-scale production where each cheese is hand ladled into the mold, and this is where the French excel. Mothais sur Feuille and Chabichou du Poitou are two beautiful examples of this (Pictured at top, above) Mothais sur Feuille is rich, lemony and slightly nutty from the chestnut leaf it is aged on. The classic Chabichou has a gorgeous creamline and smooth minerality. These small format beauties are perfect for packing up in a picnic and are lovely with a glass of bright Sancerre or a bubbly Cremant.
Beginning around the 1980s greater America learned what artisanal goat cheese could be and we have in part, Judy Schad of Capriole to thank for that. Capriole creamery in Greenville, Indiana has been making quality goat’s milk cheeses for over 30 years and Judy is considered to be one the pioneering women behind the American artisanal cheese movement. Capriole started as a farmstead operation but has since grown, all the while retaining incredible dedication to craft. In fact Judy’s cheeses are influenced by traditional French chèvres and each cheese is still hand ladled. We have worked with Capriole for years now and we never tire from championing their cheeses. Julianna is a pretty little round coated in Herbes de Provence and calendula petals. It’s buttery, smooth and a little nutty and pairs beautifully with crisp spring veggies and salty olives. Sofia is a stunner of a cheese with a delicate geotrichum rind and rich interior striked through with vegetable ash. Sofia is slightly sweet, minerally and perfectly tangy and we think she tastes great with fresh fruit, jams, and honey.
Chèvre, in the American sense, is so versatile and can really highlight the best of Spring. We carry fresh chèvre from First Light Creamery in Upstate New York. First Light’s chèvre showcases the nuanced tasting notes in the milk of grass fed goats--tangy and slightly floral. This chèvre is great spread on toast with jam for breakfast, adds creamy texture to spring quiches, and is a great addition to many baked goods.
The best part about eating seasonally is that you get to experience flavors in their fullest forms. It’s no coincidence that the herbaceous notes in Springtime goat cheeses go so well with many of Spring’s tender, bright, crisp produce options. We hope you’ll seek out favorites highlighted here and open your tastebuds up to this goaty little world!