In the U.S., goat cheese refers to a pure white cheese made entirely from goat's milk. In France, it's called chevre (French for "goat"). The texture ranges from soft and creamy to dry and very firm, while the flavor can be slightly sharp or more tart and tangy. Left to age several days after purchase, goat cheese takes on a more intensely nutty, "goaty" taste. It's a favorite for hors d'oeuvres, spreads and salads, and is often served as a dessert cheese.
Some of the better-known chevres include:
This French cheese is cured in chestnut leaves and sometimes washed in cognac or marc (the French version of grappa). It has a soft to semi-soft texture and a mild, lemony flavor.
Tangy but mild, Bucheron is soft and spreadable. The logs are covered with either white rinds or black ash.
Made in Burgundy, this moist, creamy cheese has a mildly tangy flavor. It's usually sold in logs covered with gray, salted ash. It's best when young and fresh.
Shaped like a small, truncated pyramid, this chevre is produced in the Loire Valley area of France. It ranges from soft and mild to slightly crumbly and sharp, and is often coated with an edible dark gray vegetable ash.
Goat cheese is available in a wide variety of shapes, including cones, round loaves, drums and logs (the most common). Some will be coated or flavored with edible ash, leaves, herbs or pepper.
To ensure you're buying a cheese made entirely from goat's milk, look for labels marked "pur chevre." Cheeses made with a combination of goat and another type of milk cannot be labeled as such. The cheese should look fresh and moist. Avoid any packages with signs of mold or leaking whey.
Tightly wrap and refrigerate for up to two weeks. Old goat cheese takes on a sour flavor and should be discarded.
For longer storage, goat cheese may be tightly wrapped and frozen in small packages (one pound or less). When ready to use, let it thaw slowly—leave the cheese undisturbed in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours.
For maximum flavor, let your goat cheese warm to room temperature before serving. When adding to cooked dishes, heat until just melted (otherwise it may become grainy and separate).