You would expect a holiday gathering at Dame Judy Schad’s home to feature a silky fresh chevre. And you wouldn’t be wrong. But the woman who founded Capriole Goat Cheese 30 years ago wouldn’t stop there.
A cheese assortment this season would include a ripened goat cheese, perhaps O’Banon, a subtle cheese wrapped in Bourbon-marinated chestnut leaves. Or the vegetable-ash-marbled Sofia, named for Dame Sofia Solomon. Or her favorite these days: Piper’s Pyramide with its smoked-paprika accent.
Schad would add an aged cheese, the wildflower-and-herb-dusted Julianna or Mont St. Francis, its rind bathed in Lagunitas Imperial Stout, then complete a cheese trio with a chestnut or lavender honey, nut breads, plus a berry sweet-tart compote or preserves with the Sofia or Piper’s.
Yet Schad doesn’t relegate the nine different goat cheeses (photo above) that Capriole makes to the cocktail hour or a single meal course. She stirs fresh goat cheese, gently, into quiche, risotto, cream sauces or cheesecake and offers more than a dozen recipes that use it, including Apple Clafouti with Fresh Goat Cheese, at capriolegoatcheese.com.
“Fresh chevre is an amazing ingredient. You can use it in almost anything where you want lightness and loft,” she told us. “The creaminess does not come from butterfat, but from the handling of the curd and preserving that fragile texture.”
Her caveat for cooking with fresh chevre: “If you’re putting it in a cheesecake or a sauce, you want to mix it carefully — like folding in egg whites. You don’t want to destroy the airiness of the cheese,” she added. “If you overwork it, you’re going to get something pasty, like peanut butter.”
It was a love of French chevre and a neighbor’s gift of a goat that sent Schad into the kitchen with the little book, “Cheesemaking Made Easy” by Ricki Carroll. As the size of the goat herd increased at her farm near the southern Indiana town of Greenville and the Kentucky border, she founded Capriole Goat Cheese and went on to create award-winning fresh, aged and ripened goat cheeses.
Initially, she tried duplicating French chevres. But inspired by fellow artisan cheesemakers — Cypress Grove’s Mary Keehn, Vermont Creamery’s Allison Hooper and Mozzarella Company’s Paula Lambert among them — she began, over the years, developing a variety of cheeses “that are a reflection of a place and a person and all the things you associate with terroir which is more than geography.” Like the Wabash Cannonball pictured here.
“Wabash Cannonball is a reflection of the little boules we’ve seen in France and we’re not far from the Wabash River,” said Schad, who was “a Renaissance lit major so I loved playing with words.”
Mont St. Francis? There’s a Franciscan Retreat Center near Capriole. And when she saw a cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves, she created O’Banon, trying eau du vie and Cognac then Bourbon, figuring: “I’m almost in the heart of Bourbon country.
“I don’t know if it’s part of the mysteries of the cheese, but you can take that very same basic curd and turn it into a cannonball or a Sofia or Pyramide — it can be the same curd you start out with and they come out differently. I love it.”
Her favorite part of cheesemaking was ladling fresh cheese into the molds and baskets, but “ladling that 400 gallons of fresh curd is not anything I can do by myself anymore,” said Schad, a member of the Chicago chapter and frequent visitor to the Windy City.
The best part of these days? “It’s the people I work with and the customer on the other end. That’s what really keeps me inspired and excited about what we’re doing.”
“And it’s the people I’ve met along the way,” Schad added, remembering her first customers Carrie Nahabedian and Sarah Stegner and Jean Joho and her friendships with Sophia Solomon and Green City Market. — Dame Judy Hevrdejs Photos courtesy of Capriole, Inc.