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Saturday Experiment: Farmers’ Cheese

October 8, 2011

Great success, we think.

Mom and I have been immersed recently in a diary by a lady (distantly sort of related to us) who lived in Wisconsin on an island, mostly. Her diary spans from in 1896-1899. It has been pretty neat to see how she lived, mainly taking care of people who made their way to her cabin in route to somewhere else. An interesting thing about food in that time period is that they ate what they could get. Sometimes in the late summer, they had strawberry shortcake for lunch and dinner or just a “mess of dandelion greens.” In the winter they would usually have mince meat pies or just canned fruits or vegetables. At some point a calf is born and the cow produces a lot more milk than the family is used to. She writes about making butter (a treat then) and also making farmers’ cheese.

Well, mom looked it up finally and farmers’ cheese is a lot like a soft dutch cheese. Very simple and quick to make, also very simple in flavor and compatible with almost any added spices you choose. So we decided to spend some time this weekend creating cheese.

Here is the recipe (makes about 1.5 cups of cheese).

Farmers’ Cheese:

1/2 gallon of whole milk

juice of one lemon

pinch of salt (about 1/4 tsp)

spices (we used pepper and a garlic, tomato & basil mix)



Line a colander with a few layers of cheese cloth and set over a mixing bowl (for draining later). In a large pot, bring milk, salt and spices to boil over medium-high heat. Do this slowly and stir the entire time to avoid scalding. It will probably take about 10-15min. Once the milk begins to boil remove from heat, add lemon juice and stir just to incorporate. Let sit 5-10min so the milk can curdle (it will separate into a clearish-yellow liquid-whey and white cottage cheese-type curds). Pour the entire contents of the pot into the cheese-cloth lined colander (we did this over the sink and then sat it back in the bowl to wait for the dripping). The whey will drain out. Twist the cheese cloth so that the curds are formed into a ball. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes or until no more whey is dripping. Wrap in plastic and place in airtight container in the fridge (we hung the ball of cloth on a wooden spoon).

^Mom, cheesing for the cams as she stirs. ^Prepared colander and curdling milk. ^Ball of cheese in the cloth as it drains.

Success! The cheese has the texture of goats’ cheese but is very mild in flavor. The spices we added add a nice zing and we have been eating them on our homemade sourdough crackers. It is very soft and spreadable, though not crumbly…Mom wants to work with it  to be a bit harder and more shape-able/slice-able. We are excited to do some more experiments with flavors and adding things (like olives or sun dried tomatoes?). The recipe makes a decent amount of cheese, too, especially if you consider the price ratio of a half gallon of milk ($2) to a container of store-bought soft cheese (4-5oz for $5-6).

We also bought some great pickled onions in the European section of the new Publix. Best hors d’oeuvres plate ever this evening.


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