"Chevre" is the French word for "goat," the term used to describe the family of cheeses made with milk from the kicky creatures and the specialty of Parma's Rollingstone Chevre, Idaho's first goat-cheese producer.
Chevre, which originated in France, is tangier, lower in fat and higher in potassium and vitamin A than cow's milk cheeses. And like any artisan product, can take years to master. Since 1988, when the Evans family moved its herd of Saanen goats to Idaho from the small town of Rollingstone, Minn., Rollingstone Chevre owner and cheesemaker Karen Evans has specialized exclusively in chevre, making fromage blanc, mold-ripened, Montrachet-style logs, Italian-style hard cheese, Banon-style aged, award-winning bleu, tortas--including a sun-ripened tomato with basil from Purple Sage Farms in Middleton--and more, exclusively with milk from Rollingstone's goats.
Although chevre had been popular in Europe for hundreds of years, it hadn't taken hold in the United States. Establishing a company dedicated to chevre was a risky proposition.
"We kind of had to invent the wheel," Evans said.
Fortunately, temperatures and soil composition of Rollingstone's 45-acre farmstead in the Snake River Valley, "mirror those of Provence, France," and with some some cow-milking equipment retrofitted to accommodate their goats, the environment was perfect for Rollingstone's chevre.
Rollingstone's 54 goats are milked twice each day, and the milk is collected in a holding tank and put into a pasteurizer.
"That pasteurized milk is then put into 10-gallon plastic food-grade containers and cooled," Evans said. "Then you introduce cultures [mesothilic, thermophilic or a combination depending on the desired end product], then you add rennet, the agent that causes the curds and whey to separate."
The cheese is then drained, packaged and ready to be shipped to Evans' customers--Rollingstone doesn't use distributors and cheeses are made to order. The entire process for making fromage blanc, for example, happens in about 36 hours.
Rollingstone Chevre is available in stores and restaurants in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Illinois. In Boise, it's available at Boise Co-op, Whole Foods Market and the new Boise Farmers Market where hopefully, Evans will have one of her newest creations: Snake River Mist, a mold-ripened cheve with a layer of ash from burnt oak barrels between the mold and the cheese.
"It has a really earthy flavor," Evans said.