Typically, when it comes to fresh cheeses, I advocate buying as locally as possible. It only makes sense, since something that's as perishable as a young cheese will only benefit from being eaten quickly. A cheese that comes from far away is wrought with potential disruption of this timeline. Capricho de Cabra is an amazing new find, because it's affordable, readily available — like, all over the country — and most of all, it won't go bad like most fresh goat cheeses: the shelf life on this cheese is uncanny.
But most of all, it's a delicious fresh chevre, or rather, considering its origin, cabra.
Capricho de Cabra is from Murcia, the heartland of Spain's goat cheese production. This is a typical fresh goat cheese, like your standard French "chevre," and its texture is creamy, soft, and spreadable, exactly as it should be. Taste-wise, expect a decidedly salty finish, but with an overall clean, milky flavor and a really lovely peppery note. This is the cheese you want for a quick appetizer, drizzled with good olive oil and surrounded with olives, or spread on a baguette with honey or fig jam and a grinding of black pepper. It would be excellent in pasta, egg dishes, salads, or as a garnish on soup. Truly, this is a fresh goat cheese that's so delicious, I'm not inclined to buy anything else for the same application, especially considering its excellent price: $12.99/lb.
I did a lot of thinking about why this cheese is so tasty, and after a bit of research, I've come to some conclusions:
- This is a cheese from a cheesemaker who knows what he's doing. He makes numerous cheeses, like the ever-favorite Drunken Goat, or Murcia al Vino, and also Cabra Romero, another of my go-to goat picks.
- Perhaps most significantly, this is a cheese made from the milk of Murcian goats, a breed which produces an inherrently sweeter milk. While many fresh goat cheeses have a kick that's often referred to simply — and appropriately — as "goaty," Capricho de Cabra has a more mild goaty flavor. Pleasantly aromatic, definitely approachable, and unquestionably delicious and versatile.
- The goats that contribute their milk to the cheese graze outdoors, but they're not free-range. Since goats are notorious for getting into trouble when it comes to their diet — they'll eat anything, really, which can have negative impact on the flavor of their milk — controlling their range of grazing ensures a more regulated milk product.
- The cheese is cryovaced. Each two-pound piece comes packaged in an airtight package, which essentially pauses the aging process of the cheese and guarantees freshness. While packaging like this isn't always the best way to store cheeses with rinds — which actually benefit from some air circulation (or "breathing" in cheese-speak) — a fresh, rindless cheese actually prefers this method of packaging.
- There's a relatively quick trip from Spain to distributor to market. Forever Cheese, the cheese's importer, has a high rate of turnaround; nothing stays much more than two weeks in their distribution center. The cheese is shipped by boat, which has a more regulated temperature-controlled shipping vessel than air shipping, as well. All of this means that the cheese will taste fresh and sprightly by the time it gets to you.
What's most remarkable about this cheese is its ability to hang out for a much longer period of time in your refrigerator than other fresh cheeses. Perhaps it's because of a lower moisture content in relation to other fresh cheeses of this style, and the high-density of the curd itself: a cheese with a fluffier, lighter curd is more perishable because of the greater ability for air (a rottening agent) to make its way through the cheese.
Despite said ability to hang out, don't expect this cheese to chill for too long. With all the ways to incorporate it into your cooking and eating, you'll be waiting for your next shipment before you know it.
• Find it! Capricho de Cabra can be found at The Greene Grape Provisions in Brooklyn and at Whole Foods for $12.99/lb. This cheese has a very wide distribution around the country, so seeking it out at other cheese shops and grocery stores shouldn't be too tricky!
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently an assistant TV chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Images: Nora Singley)