The goat cheese recipe is especially prevalent in regions such as the Middle East, Africa, and some Mediterranean countries, where the hardy goat is able to survive in areas and conditions where cows cannot. While cow’s milk may be the norm in most of Europe, the goat variety is the preferred choice for people in many other countries.
Usually goat cheese is of the soft kind and is easy to spread, though occasionally one does come across a harder variety such as the semi-firm feta. Goat cheese is distinctive—and for that reason highly sought after (as well as avoided)—due to the tangy flavor of goat milk.
Although the milk of cows and goats are akin in fat contents, the higher percentage of fatty acids such as caprylic, caproic and capric acid in goat milk gives it its characteristic flavor. Moreover goats, given their hardy digestive systems and their geographical habitation, tend to eat many bitter-tasting plants that more delicate animals such as cows and horses will not, which finds its way through the digestive system and also contributes to their milk’s distinctive taste. A certain salty tang has also come to be associated with the taste of goat cheese.
This too has reasons more historical than biological. Traditionally, goat cheese has been made in societies without facilities for refrigeration, which entails heavy use of salt as a preservative. Ideally, goat cheese has to be brined for a few weeks in order to cure it for long-term use.
While the characteristics of goat cheese are essentially the same, wherever it is being made, each country has its own distinctive treatment, and consequently, its unique subtle flavor. France, along with its share of cow’s milk cheese, also produces many goats’ milk cheeses, in particular in the Poitou and Loire Valley.
Some famous instances French goat cheeses—the Chevres—are:
- Crottin de Chavignol (one of the world’s largest-produced goat cheeses),
- Sainte-Maure de Touraine,
- Pyramide Chabichou du Poitou and Valençay.
The Portuguese Castelo Branco catches the fancy of many cheese lovers, as does the Catalan Mato. A number of Greek cheeses are made form a mix of goat’s and sheep’s milk: anthotyros, feta, halloumi and the mizithra. The Welsh are known for their Pantysgawn. India produces Paneer or cottage cheese, while the Yunan Province in China makes a similar Rubing.
Goat cheese is also considered to be healthier than its bovine counterpart. Goat’s milk has less fat than cow’s milk, which makes it a hit with dieters fighting a cheese craving. Goat cheese also happens to be a hit with the master chef. Goat cheese is an ideal flavor and texture complement when coupled with roasted and grilled vegetables, pasta, and when served hot on green salads. It even makes an excellent option for dessert, particularly sweet fruit salads.
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