Farmer’s Cheese with basil

In honor of back to school, I’ve decided to cook the alphabet.  A little A-Z of recipe goodness.  Today’s post is brought to you by the letter F. Stay tuned for the rest to come.

Finished Farmer's Cheese

CSA mini-workshop number two was on making homemade cheese.  When it was announced, I thought it would be interesting, but I wasn’t sure how much I would really use it at home.  But never one to miss a learning opportunity, I was first to arrive again.

Let's eat.

The woman who taught it had lived on several organic dairy farms and had made all types of cheeses.  She was a wonderful resource for questions and ideas and, of course, I took full advantage.  We focused only on soft cheeses in order to complete the entire process (including prep, cooking, and taste testing) in under an hour and a half.  We made two soft cheeses: a farmer’s cheese and ricotta.

Bringing the heat.

It’s incredibly simple, like silly simple.  I actually could be heard saying a bit too loudly, “It’s that easy?  You’re kidding!”  The basic idea is to separate the curds from the whey.  Though the method is very simple, there are plenty of opportunities to make the recipe your own, starting with your choice of dairy.  Animal (cow, goat, etc), diet (grass fed, grain, etc), and fat content are all important factors that influence the flavor.

Separating the curds from the whey Miss Muffet style.

The process of making Farmer’s Cheese starts by heating the milk, removing it from heat, and then adding an acid.  The acid causes the curds (fats) from the whey.  The choice of acid will influence the final flavor and can add to the overall flavor profile.  I chose to use fresh lemon juice because I like the light freshness it adds to the flavor, and went with a less is more philosophy as far as volume.  If you don’t get good separation, you can always add more.

Strain carefully! Mixture is VERY hot!

The firmness of the cheese will depend on how long you strain it.  For a drier, more crumbly cheese, strain the cheese longer.  Once you are done straining, additional flavor can be added with fresh herbs or flavored salts. It’s perfect for ravioli filling or just spread on a good piece of crusty bread.  It’s so fresh and simple, and it tastes like nothing you buy in the store.  And eating it warm is pretty awesome too.

All strained and ready for flavoring

Farmer’s Cheese

For this demo:
2 cups whole milk
1+1/2 tbsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
1 leaf basil, chiffonade
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Heat milk to 140°F with gentle stirring.  Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes or until there is a distinct separation between the curds and the whey.  Strain through cheese cloth, using a mesh strainer to support the cloth.  Be very careful, as the mixture will be extremely hot (trust me, I have the blisters to prove it).  Hang cloth (or wring gently) to remove excess moister.  Once desired firmness is obtained, stir in salt and other flavors.  Consume immediately or store in the refrigerator for a few days.  Cheese does not contain preservatives, so use the sniff test to check for freshness.
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Enjoy!
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