Farmer’s cheese is a crumbly, spreadable cheese somewhere between cream cheese and ricotta. It doesn’t require rennet — just milk, vinegar, sea salt and your flavorings of choice.
I’ve started making my own cheese on occasion, which I realize immediately creates a picture of me me as some type of Suzy homemaker eschewing modern techniques and living off the land, fermenting cabbage and pickles, canning my own jams, rows of put-ups stored in a picture-perfect pantry.
While that is not the case, I’ll allow you to go on believing it. Perhaps someday, if we all believe in that pantry together, it will materialize in my tiny home as if by magic.
When I first started experimenting with making my own cheese it was because we were getting our milk delivered. I was not very good at remembering to change our order each week if the week before we hadn’t used as much, and so there was excess. I can’t stand the thought of throwing food away, and that meant I needed a way to turn our milk into something else before it went bad. We made ice cream a few times, but that’s really not a sustainable option. And that is when I turned to cheese.
Suddenly all of our extra milk was becoming a part of our everyday meals. I used it in pastas, stirring it into the sauces. I spread it between layers of lasagna noodles. I served it with baguette and a spread of fresh produce for an easy dinner. And then I was carrying it with me to parties, setting it on the table next to crackers and toasts, and smiling knowing that I actually made that.
Farmer’s cheese is a good beginner cheese, using no rennet or other hard-to-find ingredients. It comes together quickly, and you don’t need to age it, so it can be made and consumed in the same day. One of my favorite varieties is to stir in fresh chives from my garden or other fresh herbs and just a bit of lemon zest.
Garden Chive Farmer’s Cheese
Total time: 2.5 hours
- 1 gallon whole milk, not ultra-pasteurized
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced chives
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt (more to taste)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the milk over medium heat until it reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit and just starts to boil. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Curds should immediately start to separate, creating curds and whey. The whey is a watery, yellowish liquid. Allow the vinegar to sit for 5 minutes for the curds to form completely.
- Line a large colander with a double layer of cheesecloth. Slowly pour the curds and whey into the colander to remove the whey. Pull the cheesecloth together, gathering the curds into a ball, and tie together and suspend to allow more whey to drain.
- Once most of the whey has drained, open the cheesecloth and put the curds into a bowl. Sprinkle the curds with chives, salt and lemon zest and stir to combine. Return the cheese to the cloth and again wrap tightly. Hang the cheese for 1 to 2 hours, or until it has reached the consistency desired. You can also press the cheese, placing it in a colander and weighing it down with a 10- to 15-pound weight to press more of the whey out.
- Once your cheese has been drained of all its whey, remove it from the cheesecloth and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Use within 5 days.
Makes about 1 pound fresh cheese.
- Other flavoring ideas include roasted garlic, any fresh herbs or soaking the curds in wine after straining and then draining off.
- Farmer’s cheese is great on baguette slices, bagels, crackers. It is a crumbly spreadable cheese similar in consistency to Boursin.
- Ultra-pasteurized milks are harder to curd and sometimes impossible due to the high heats they are processed at. Look for a low-heat pasteurized milk or use raw milk if available.
Photo credit: Shaina Olmanson