Recipe for Homemade Farmer's Cheese Recipe (With Photos) | Almanac.com

Homemade Farmer's Cheese Recipe (With Photos)

Bowl of cheese next to a plate of bread
Photo Credit
Julie Laing
Makes about 2 pounds
Julie Laing
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Farmer’s Cheese is a quick and easy way to make cheese at home! This 3-ingredient recipe takes only 20 minutes of hands-on time. No prior experience is required—but once you know how, you’ll make it often. Learn more about Farmer’s Cheese and see my step-by-step recipe with photos.

What Is Farmer’s Cheese?

“Farmer’s Cheese” is a classic from pioneer days, when most cheese was made by homesteaders from their own cows for family meals. But whether it was invented by the ancestors of European immigrants to America is unknown.

This style of cheese has a long history throughout Europe, northern Asia, and Russia. Spanish settlers likely introduced it to Mexico, where it’s known as queso fresco. The same technique is used to make paneer throughout India and in nearby countries. Ricotta, which is traditionally made with just the whey from sheep’s milk, today is often made from whole milk to resemble a lightly drained farmer’s cheese. See a Ricotta Cheese recipe.

Popular worldwide, farmer’s cheese can be made quickly with readily available ingredients and tools. The fresh, unaged cheese relies on an acid and high heat to separate the curds from the whey so that they can be drained or pressed until they form cheese.

Before You Begin

Farmer’s cheese ingredients are easy to find, but some work better than others. 

Avoid ultrapasteurized milk when making any type of cheese; the ultrahigh heat used to kill harmful bacteria and extend shelf-life also prevents cheese curds from bonding. Pasteurized, nonhomogenized whole milk makes the best farmer’s cheese, but homogenized milk will work too. Cow’s milk can be replaced by sheep’s or goat’s milk, but the flavor and texture will be a bit different.

Vinegar is the traditional acidic ingredient in farmer’s cheese that helps to separate the curds and whey. American pioneers likely used apple cider vinegar, which gives a hint of apple-flavored sweetness to the cheese. In southern climes, lemon juice may have been the top choice. Today, some people prefer distilled white vinegar because of its neutral flavor, or you can make a more flavorful choice for specific uses, like lime juice for cheese to sprinkle on fish tacos or orange juice for a blintz filling. The pH of each acid varies slightly, so you may need to add an extra tablespoon or two to encourage curds to form. You can also mix fresh herbs, citrus zest, spices, and other flavors into the finished cheese.

Our Basic Cheesemaking Guide explains more about the general process of how to make cheese at home and the best ingredients and tools to use.

Farmer’s Cheese Recipe

This simple cheese recipe takes about 20 minutes of hands-on time and is ready in about an hour to eat. In many cultures, Farmer’s Cheese is always in the fridge, ready to enjoy with breakfast or as a snack.

1 gallon whole milk
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1 teaspoon cheese salt or flaky kosher salt, or to taste
First, pour the milk into a large, heavy-bottomed pot as shown above.
Next, heat the milk over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the temperature is between 185°F and 190°F. (A food thermometer is helpful here.)
Remove the pot from the heat. Slowly pour the vinegar into the milk, stir well, and then cover the pot. Let it sit for 15 minutes, until the curds and whey separate.
Check for clear separation. If the whey looks milky, add another 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar and let it sit an additional 5 minutes.
Set a colander over a large bowl or pot and line it with a single layer of butter muslin. Ladle the whey and then the curds slowly into the muslin so that most of the whey runs through before the curds slide into the colander. Let the curds drain for 5 to 10 minutes, until most of the whey has dripped into the bowl; the whey can be reserved for another use.
Sprinkle the curds with the cheese salt and then gently mix it in. Tie two opposing corners of the muslin into a knot, and then tie the other two corners around a wooden spoon handle or other support so that it can hang over the pot to drain.
Let the cheese drain for about 30 minutes for a soft, spreadable cheese and up to 2 hours for a dry, crumbly cheese.
Remove the cheese from the muslin and store it in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Spread on toast! 

Farmer’s Cheese is deliciously fresh and refreshingly tart. Spread the farmer’s cheese on toast, with some jam or savory accompaniments such as green onions or tomatoes. It’s a tradition in Europe, too, and often sitting on the breakfast table, and sometimes used as a filling such as in a blintz.

Want to turn your farmer’s cheese into paneer? Instead of hanging the cheese curds, shape them into a 1-inch-thick brick and wrap them in the butter muslin. Sandwich them between a couple of cutting boards, set the “sandwich” in a container or clean sink, and weigh it down with a large cast-iron pan. Compress the cheese for 20 to 30 minutes, until it feels firm with minimal whey still leaking out. Refrigerate the cheese for 30 minutes and then cut it into cubes.

Let us know how your cheeses turn out!

Julie Laing has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years and is the author of The Complete Guide to Pickling (Rockridge Press, 2020). Julie also writes the weekly Twice as Tasty food column for the Flathead Beacon, named after her food blog, and her writing and photos regularly appear on The Spruce Eats, Taste of Home, Kitchn, Health.com, and other websites.

About The Author

Julie Laing

Julie Laing has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years and is the author of The Complete Guide to Pickling. Read More from Julie Laing