Farmer Cheese

Farmer cheese with crackers, sliced cucumber, and grape tomatoes

The Spruce

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Curdle, Press, & Refrigerate: 80 mins
Total: 105 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 1 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
40 Calories
2g Fat
3g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 40
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 3%
Saturated Fat 1g 6%
Cholesterol 6mg 2%
Sodium 105mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 3g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 70mg 5%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 81mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Farmer cheese is a mild white fresh cheese that's not pressed or aged, with a crumbly texture and subtle flavor. Incredibly versatile, this type of cheese can be eaten with bread or crackers or crumbled on top of salads. It is commonly used to make cheese blintzes, makes amazing stuffed pasta, and adds a lot of flavor and texture to lasagna and casseroles. It's blended with cheeses such as ricotta or full-fat yogurt, and it can be made into dips or as part of parfaits and desserts. Farmer cheese can be an alternative for ricotta or mascarpone in certain recipes in which there is no need for a silky texture in the end product—the curds of farmer cheese will indeed give a texture to all dishes in which it's used.

This cheese can be easily made at home; it just requires some patience and three ingredients. Once you start using this amazing product, you'll fall in love with its versatility and will incorporate it into countless recipes. Since this is a fresh cheese, it can easily be customized with your favorite add-ins. Mix in fresh herbs with the curds or sprinkle them on top of the finished farmer cheese along with olive oil and red pepper flakes. Add dry spices like black pepper, cayenne, or cumin to make wonderful dips. Use it as you would cream cheese or goat cheese.

Before you start, be sure to have at hand a cheesecloth and good-quality milk. Whole pasteurized—don't use ultra-pasteurized—is best as the cream will have a lot of body and flavor, but 2 percent milk will also yield good results, even though the cheese will be thinner and less rich in flavor.

1:16

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"I can attest that the recipe is a perfect introduction to cheesemaking. It was a simple process that takes less than an hour, and worked out perfectly. After an hour in the fridge, the cheese solidified more but still had a slight milky taste; another two hours, that flavor mellowed and created a very tasty cheese." —Colleen Graham

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon pasteurized whole milk

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill (or chives), optional

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. 

    Ingredients for farmer cheese on a wooden table
    The Spruce
  2. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, bring the milk to a slow boil, stirring occasionally. Keep the heat at medium or medium-low; otherwise, you risk scorching the milk on the bottom of the pot.

    Milk being poured into a heavy-bottomed pot
    The Spruce
  3. When small, foamy bubbles begin to form in the milk, but it is not yet at a rolling boil, turn off the heat. If using a thermometer, the temperature should be about 190 F.

    Foamy bubbles begin to form on the milk
    The Spruce
  4. Slowly add the vinegar and stir the milk. Curds will immediately begin to form.

    Curds start to form after vinegar is added to milk
    The Spruce
  5. Let the milk sit for 15 minutes without stirring.

    Milk sitting in a pot with curds for 15 minutes
    The Spruce
  6. After 15 minutes, add the dill or chives, if using.

    Finely cut fresh herbs are added to the milk
    The Spruce
  7. Place a colander over a large bowl or pot. Drape either a dampened cheesecloth or thin dampened clean dish towel over the colander. Pour the curds into the cheesecloth. The whey, all the liquid in the mixture, will drain and be collected in the bowl below, while the solid curds will be caught in the cheesecloth. (Use the leftover whey for bread making, add it to soups, or use it as a protein boost in smoothies.)

    Straining the curds using a cheesecloth
    The Spruce
  8. Lift the cheesecloth and wrap it around the curds, twisting and squeezing to remove as much moisture as possible.

    Wrapping the cheesecloth around the curds
    The Spruce
  9. After squeezing out the moisture, the curds for farmer cheese will be dry and crumbly. If you want a creamier texture, mix a little of the reserved whey back into the curds.

    Adding whey with a spoon over the curds
    The Spruce
  10. Add the salt and stir it together.

    Adding the salt to the curds
    The Spruce
  11. To shape the cheese, keep it wrapped in cheesecloth and form it into a mound on a plate. Set another plate on top and press the curds into a flat disc that is 1 to 2 inches tall. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or so before removing the cheesecloth.

    Shaping the cheese into a smooth ball
    The Spruce
  12. To make a ball, tie the cheesecloth with a length of butcher's twine, attach it to a shelf in the refrigerator or a wooden spoon, and suspend it over a bowl. Gravity will help shape the cheese into a ball and remove any excess moisture.

    Suspending the cheesecloth over a bowl using a wooden spoon
    The Spruce
  13. Enjoy the cheese as is or in any of your favorite recipes.

Tips

  • Cheesemaking produces a lot of whey; this recipe creates about 6 cups of whey from 1/2 gallon of milk. Keep this high volume in mind when deciding which bowl to use for straining. Choose a large, deep bowl that will keep the bottom of the colander out of the liquid as it drains.
  • If you have time, let the whey drain out of the cheese on its own before pressing out the excess. A good amount of whey will drip out of the cheesecloth in 5 minutes or so and reduce the amount of time you need to squeeze it.
  • A thermometer really helps you figure out when the milk is at the perfect temperature for better curd development.

How to Store

  • Farmer cheese will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight container.
  • You can freeze farmer cheese; wrap in plastic wrap and place in a zip-top freezer bag. Upon thawing it, however, the texture will be a bit crumblier.
  • If saving the whey, store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Why Not Use Ultra-Pasteurized Milk?

UHT, or ultra-high temperature processing, is a widely used food process that sterilizes dairy and other products like wine, fruit, and soy products to eliminate many forms of bacteria. Ultra-pasteurized milk is not always labeled as such; the extremely long expiration date—usually 30 to 90 days from purchase—is a good indication of it, however. When using UHT milk, the curd in the farmer cheese will not set because the proteins have been destabilized from the high temperature used in the process, and the calcium in the milk won't bond adequately to make the curds. Regular pasteurized milk works fine, but raw milk, if it's available in your area, works the best.