“Mommy is making farmer’s cheese again,” I overheard my 5-year old talking to his sister, just as the sweet nursery-soothing scent of warm milk started to fill the house. “Can we make farmer’s cheese together some day?” he asked, as both of them crowded around the stove, watching me stir the pot.
I never turn down an opportunity to cook with my kids, so this past weekend, I chose to turn cheese-making into a fun science project. Having always made farmer’s cheese with buttermilk, I decided to experiment with other less conventional souring agents.
I set up a test kitchen with 3 pots of organic whole milk and 3 acids: buttermilk, vinegar, and lemon juice. My son was assigned a task of warming the milk and combining it with the souring agents while my daughter took on a role of the main stirrer.
What a fun experiment it was! For all three of us! Heating, stirring, watching the curds and whey separate… Milk’s metamorphic transformation into cheese seemed almost magical.
And so were the resulting cheeses. Fresh and magically unique, each held its own in texture, color and taste. Buttermilk cheese came out familiarly tangy, spongy and soft, while the lemon-juice cheese resulted in a richer and creamier product, tasting fancy and deserty. The version made with vinegar turned out most extraordinary: a little sweet, a little tonic and very irresistible.
The first place was unexpectedly but rightfully taken by the vinegar-based cheese – which came as a complete surprise to everyone in the family.
Homemade Farmer’s Cheese (also known as Tvorog, Ricotta, Queso Blanco, Cottage Cheese, Paneer.)
- 1 Gallon Organic Whole Milk (but you can use any milk here, whether it is Whole, Low Fat or Fat Free)
- Souring agent (quart of Bulgarian Buttermilk, ½ cup vingegar or ½ cup lemon juice)
- In a large soup pot, combine milk the souring agent.
- Place the mixture in a warm place until it develops the consistency of thick yogurt (a kitchen counter or the back burner of a stove work just fine). This will take about 24 hours. In the summer and in very warm homes, this may take only 12 hours
- Place the pot containing the milk mixture over very, very low heat for about an hour. Choose the lowest setting on your stove
- You can stir the milk if you want to end up with the grainier cheese
- After about an hour, the milk will curdle, and the curds and whey will begin to separate
- Take the milk off the heat
- Let the milk cool for about 30 minutes. Line a large colander with a large piece of cheesecloth or towel paper. Pour the cheese and the whey in the colander
- Let the farmer’s cheese drain for a few hours
- Farmer’s cheese is done when all the whey has escaped
I like sneaking Farmer’s Cheese into Yogurt Parfaits, Breakfast Granola, Pancakes, Crepes, Lasagna, and, of course, Mac and Cheese.