homemade farmers cheese

Before the age of mass distribution and consumerism, dairy farmers started making cheese to preserve excess milk. Farmer’s cheese was one of the first, and arguably the easiest, they likely made, which is probably why this type of cheese has a wide-ranging culture and long history around the world under a wide variety of names such as chevre, paneer, Neufchatel, and Queso Blanco.

Farmer’s cheese typically refers to any un-ripened, un-aged, soft or semi-soft, white cheese. Essentially all Farmer’s Cheeses are made by combining milk with an acid and heating it until the curds separate from the whey. The curds are then drained to remove the whey, and salt may be added at the end. But that’s where the similarities end!

Farmer’s cheeses around the world differ according to:

Type of milk used and it’s fat content (cow, goat and sheep are the most common)

Type of acid used (buttermilk, lemon juice, vinegar and rennet are most common)

Amount of heat used (some recipes call for low heat and a loooong sitting time)

The length of time the curds and whey sit on the stove cooling down before the curds are drained

Amount of whey drained from the curds. And there’s quite a range: leaving more whey in the cheese results in a creamier, soft cheese sometimes referred to as Pot Cheese; whereas at the other end of the spectrum, which involves pressing the cheese to remove as much whey as possible, you get a dry, crumbly cheese which is your typical Farmer’s Cheese. I tend to go somewhere in between for a soft, spreadable cheese.

Because there aren’t many ingredients, any change in any one ingredient or method can have a big impact on the resulting flavor.

Once the cheese is done, fresh or dried herbs, citrus zest, and/or garlic can be incorporated. Or not! One advantage of making your own Farmer’s Cheese is you can control the amount of salt that’s added, and the type of salt.

But a pinch of truffle salt on this cheese is amazing!

This is an incredibly versatile cheese that can be used a cappella as a spread on crackers, with or without other fruit or veggie spreads; used as part of a dressing over beets à la Jamie Oliver; added to scrambled eggs as they’re cooking; or made into fillings for blintzes. Or you can use it in cheesecake the next time you make it; add sugar, lemon zest and vanilla extract and use it as a dessert topping; or pair it with my Fig Apple Jam! The possibilities are endless!

With all the varieties of milks, acids, and techniques out there, this is my favorite recipe I go to time and time again. I also prefer to have a smaller amount available to me so that I don’t risk spoilage – so this recipe is for a convenient 1/2 cup.

Over time, it has become one of my pantry items I always have in my refrigerator, so you’ll also find this under the ‘My Pantry’ tab at the top. I hope you like this too! If you have a favorite way of making Farmer’s Cheese, please share it!!

A Few Cooking Notes:

Because it is by definition un-aged, Farmer’s Cheese has a short shelf life in the refrigerator. I typically use mine within 10 days to 2 weeks of making it.

Do not use ultra-pasteurized milk as it will not form many curds.

Homemade Farmer’s Cheese

     by Susan Pridmore

     Makes 4 ounces fresh cheese


Ingredients 

  • 1 quart whole milk (NOT ultra-pasteurized!)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I use reduced-fat)
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Pinch of fennel powder

Instructions

Combine milk, buttermilk, vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium pot over medium heat.

Curds separating from the whey.

Bring the mixture to 180° F, using a temperature probe to track the temperature. As the mixture heats up, curds will start to develop. With a spoon, gently move them to the center of the pot to allow them to accumulate in one large cluster. Once the mixture has reached 180° F, turn the heat off and let the mixture sit for 20 minutes. I have found this to be an important step in developing flavor and maximizing the amount of curds yielded from the milk. Even longer is fine, but I don’t recommend shorter.

Building a nest.

Line a strainer with at least 4 layers of damp cheesecloth and place over a large bowl. This is how you’ll strain excess whey from the cheese.

Resting comfortably

Transfer the curds to the cheesecloth by pouring the pot of whey and curds into the strainer, allowing the large bowl to contain all the whey.

Whey

The whey can be discarded or saved for another use. The biggest thing I’ve used it for is making bread.

Off to bed

Strain the curds for at least 4 hours, and preferably overnight. If you choose to strain the cheese overnight, wrap it in the cheesecloth and keep in the strainer over a bowl in the refrigerator.

It’s cheese!

 

Done!

Place the cheese in a bowl and add the lemon zest, pepper and ground fennel. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add the remaining salt if needed. Enjoy!!

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21 Responses to “Farmer’s Cheese Fresh From Your Kitchen” Subscribe

  1. lizthechef October 7, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

    I already taste your cookbook. Where did you learn all this? Farmers cheese is very Pennsylvania Dutch, where I grew up and visited this June…

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian October 7, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

      Oh yes Liz, I’ll bet you grew up with this! Did your mom and grandmother make it? If you’ve got an old recipe for it, I’d love to see it!! We had a couple weeks or more in school on preserving and one of things we did was to make cheeses that we would use for the next few months of cooking. Very fun. And soooo easy.

  2. Ashley Pierson (@AshleyAnPierson) October 7, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

    I agree with lizthechef!! Cookbook, Cookbook!!! Great article, I am definitely giving this a try!!

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian October 7, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

      Thanks sooo much Ashley!! I would love to do a cookbook, but that’s a little ways off still, but thanks so much for the support – both of you!!! Feel free to have fun with the herbs, too, to make it your own. I think the lemon zest always brightens it up. But I’ve found lavender to be really interesting in it and then I have it with a compote with roasted lamb.

  3. TasteFood October 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    Great informative post, Susan! I love to make my own cheese.

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian October 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

      Thanks so much Lynda!! It can be so satisfying, I find, to make my own cheese, ketchup, brown sugar, etc.

  4. Winnie October 8, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    Hey Suzanne! I make something similar from raw milk I get from a local farm. I love it!

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian October 8, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

      Thanks Winnie, and thanks for stopping by. How wonderful to have a local source for raw milk – that will give you a better cheese IMHO than pasteurized. Much better curd development!

  5. current vintage October 9, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

    Susan, I made this today and it turned out delicious. The recipe on food52 that Jennifer Perrilo posted is very similar, but she calls hers ricotta…I think she made farmer’s cheese, not ricotta?

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian October 10, 2011 at 9:48 am #

      Really great question, Mare. There are a bunch of soft, mild cheeses that fall into the same general category of Fresh Cheeses, including Farmer’s Cheese and ricotta. They all use some kind of milk product(s), combine it with some kind of acid(s) over some level of heat, and sit for some length of time. The type of milk(s) used, the type of acid, the level of heat, and the amount of draining/pressing determine the type of fresh cheese you’re making. They all look really similar to each other, but since there’s only a few ingredients, one change can made quite a difference in flavor and texture. Farmer’s Cheese is typically cakier/more crumbly, and more tangy than ricotta. The one posted on Food52 is technically not really a ricotta as ricotta is actually made by briefly fermenting that whey that results from a rennet separated curd. It can’t be made from a lemon juice or buttermilk separated curd from what I’ve read and heard. The word ricotta actually stems from this process of a second “cooking”: ri-cotta means re – cooked. And I should mention that I’ve seen a number of ricotta cheese recipes on the internet that do not use this process of “re-cooking” the whey. So is the one on Food 52 really Farmer’s Cheese then? Technically, no. It looks to be a lot creamier by texture and taste with the addition of the cup of cream. I’ve been trying to find my chart of fresh cheese to see which one it likely really is, but either way, it looks really delicious.

  6. Jay October 11, 2011 at 3:54 am #

    wow…looks absolutely yumm n tasty..
    chanced upon your space while blog hopping..
    love your space…very interesting posts..
    Am your happy follower now..:)
    do stop by mine sometime..
    Tasty Appetite

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian October 13, 2011 at 9:16 am #

      Thanks so much for stopping by and “following”, Jay, and thanks for your kind comments about my new blog!! I went on your blog yesterday and it’s really impressive! Really great! Thanks for providing the link to it!!

  7. Hannah October 12, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    I made this and loved it! I gave my chickens the whey and they slurped it up. Next time I’ll save it for bread. I’m intrigued by the variety of all the soft cheeses. I’ve made one before with lemon juice that I thought was ricotta, but apparently wasn’t! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian October 13, 2011 at 9:14 am #

      Thanks so much for the feedback – I’m so glad it worked so well for you (and your chickens!)!! Most the ricotta recipes I’ve seen for people to make at home tends to be milk + buttermilk + lemon juice. I’m guessing this gets close to the flavor of a ricotta we’d purchase since it’s pretty difficult to make it from the whey in our kitchens. It’s just that technically you’re not taking it through the two processes of curd development. It affects the type of bacteria you’re developing, but the flavor is likely the same. And like I wrote before, that doesn’t prevent it from being a delicious cheese and a very fun kitchen project!

  8. Bevi October 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    This looks very easy – I love the step by step photos you took.

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian October 13, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

      Thanks Bevi! Yes, it’s actually a very easy cheese to make. Most of the preparation can be done while you’re either sleeping, or doing errands! If you make it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    [...] Farmer’s Cheese Fresh From Your Kitchen (thewimpyvegetarian.com) [...]

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