How to Make Simple Farm-style Cheese at Home

Each week, from April through November, we pick up 4 gallons of fresh, raw milk from our local dairy. We like to visit the farm that houses our milk cows – all doe-eyed guernseys and jerseys with their pale tan-colored coats and their soft muzzles. Like many traditional foods enthusiasts, my family belongs to a herd share; that is, we collectively own an interest in a small herd of grass-fed cows, and as the owners of the cows, we’re entitled to their milk.

It started slow – a small share that provided about a half gallon a week, then progressed to 1 gallon, then to 2 and now to 4. Dutifully, each week, I skim the cream off of two gallons of milk, leaving the other two whole. I use the cream for desserts and to serve with fruit, while using the skimmed milk for homemade raw milk yogurt or for simple homemade farm cheese – sometimes seasoning it with fresh herbs, and sometimes leaving it plain as I do below.

How to Make Farm Cheese

Making Cheese at Home

While making cheese often involves purchasing both starter culture and rennet, you can also make cheese very simply with only heat and something acidic like lemon juice or vinegar, the combination of which will cause the cheese curds to separate from the whey. The resulting cheese doesn’t offer up the complexity of an aged cheese, but, rather, tastes milky, sweet and mild. Its simplicity makes this farm cheese my go-to recipe when I have too much milk on my hands; however, for more complex cheeses, I tend to rely on Artisan Cheesemaking at Home - a book that guides novice cheesemakers (and I am most assuredly a novice) through very simple cheese, to more complex cheeses with simple, step-by-step instructions.

This cheese, a simple and easy farm-style cheese, comes together quickly and is an excellent way of using up excess milk.  We always seem to have more milk than we need now that we buy extra to provide for our cream and butter needs.    Paneer, a classic Indian cheese, is made the same way – though often substituting lemon juice in place of vinegar.  You can use this cheese for snacks, in place of mozzarella, or in casseroles.  Children, who can often find aged and complex cheeses too overwhelming for their tastebuds, typically like this simple, homemade farm cheese.

How to Make Farm-style Cheese

Simple Farm Cheese

Cook Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Yield: about 1 pound

Simple Farm Cheese

This simple farm cheese can come together quickly. It tastes mild and sweet, and doesn't require rennet, making an excellent cheese for beginners.

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon milk, not ultrapasteurized
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons very fine sea salt

Instructions

  1. Line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth or a single layer of butter muslin (find it here).
  2. Pour the milk into a large, heavy-bottomed kettle, and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Stir it frequently to keep the milk from scorching. When it comes to a boil, immediately reduce the heat to low, and stir in the vinegar. The milk should immediately separate into curds and whey. If it does not separate, add a bit more vinegar one tablespoon at a time until you see the milk solids coagulate into curds swimming within the thin greenish blue whey.
  3. Pour the curds and whey into the lined colander. Rinse them gently with cool water, and sprinkle the curds with salt. Tie up the cheesecloth, and press it a bit with your hands to remove excess whey. Let the cheesecloth hang for 1 to 2 hours, then open it up and chop it coarsely. Store in the fridge for up to a week.

Notes

You may set the lined colander over a bucket or crock to catch they whey rather than discarding it; however, keep in mind that it is not a cultured food, and if you are accustomed to using whey as a starter culture for fermented vegetables, it will not work as it doesn't contain live active bacteria. It can, however, be reserved for feeding pigs and chickens, or for soaking grains and flour.

http://nourishedkitchen.com/farm-cheese-recipe/

 

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What people are saying

  1. Kristi G says

    I thought you needed whole milk to make this… You skim your raw milk? Also, my raw milk comes in a regular carton. Does yours come differently? How do you skin it !?

    • Robin Mitchell says

      My milk comes in a glass jar. I dot know what the writer here does but I skim the cream off the top by using a 1/4 cup measuring cup and slowly dipping it into the milk so only the very top layer can go into the cup. This allows me to use the cream for other recipes.

    • says

      Skimmed raw milk is still SUPER rich and creamy! So different from how they make the skim milk you can buy at the store. I think this is why it still works.

    • Caitlin says

      I was going to say the same thing as Lisa. My raw milk comes in big glass jars and even after I’ve skimmed it (I skim all of them so I can use all the cream), the milk is still so creamy. “Skim” milk from a store has so many chemicals in it, it’s insane. Skimmed whole, raw milk is entirely different. I actually use an ice cream scoop because it has the nice long handle, it’s slim enough to fit well into the top of the jar, and it has a nice round scoop to get all the cream. I just made this cheese for the first time and it’s hanging over the kitchen sink right now. I’m so excited to try it!

    • Erica says

      My milk comes in regular plastic gallon jugs. I use a turkey baster to remove the cream from the top of my milk. Just dipping it in far enough to get the thick cream on top. Another option is stab a whole in the bottom and drain out the skim milk into one container then when you reach the cream switch to another container.

  2. says

    planning to try this soon, we just joined a herd share as well. I’m wondering though what would be the benefit of soaking the grains in the whey since it wouldn’t be a cultured product?

    • Brittany says

      Amanda,

      You’re right, it would not make a cultured product. However, a lot of people use an acidic medium for soaking grains before cooking them to make the grains more digestible. I’m sure Jenny has an even more eloquent explanation of the hows and whys. :)

    • says

      Brittany is correct – it doesn’t matter if you’re using a cultured dairy product to soak; rather, acids help to deactivate phytic acid.

  3. Alex says

    Do you have any experience with using goat’s milk to make this style of cheese? I’ve always had success with cow’s milk. However, the one time I tried it with goat’s milk, I just couldn’t get the curds to separate from the whey. This despite adding additional acid and cooking longer (I may have eventually let it go to 20 minutes or so)…

    • Abby says

      I make it with raw goat’s milk. Heat your amount of milk to 180 (or a little higher) for 10 minutes — then get the milk moving with a stainless steel spoon while you slowly add the vinegar. Add enough vinegar to see the separation start. Let it sit for awhile — this seems to help too. Then pour through a colander (cheesecloth if you like). My curd is usually sufficiently solid that a mesh stainless steel wire colander catches it. I find the cheesecloth too hard to clean. I do not rinse the curd. I let the colander drip (on top of a tall stock pot to catch the whey) for up to an hour. Sometimes it needs a knife cut through it to help let a puddle of whey off the top. — THEN…. you can salt it to taste, add spices that you like, or fry it in slices with a little salt on top. Yum. I have neighbors ask me to make this cheese for them.

  4. Janira says

    I can’t wait to make this. Sticking to real food, what type/brand of white vinegar do you recommend?

    • Dawnann says

      I use the same exact recipe for my raw goats milk except after it boils I don’t turn it to low heat, but I actually just turn it off. I don’t know if it makes a difference. And I use Apple Cider Vinegar. I get the Organic brand at Fred Meyer. I believe it is called Braggs. And it comes in a quart sized glass bottle. Shake before each use. I try to steer clear of white vinegar because most of it is made from genetically modified corn, unless it clearly states non-GMO on the label. The 365 White vinegar brand is non-GMO and we get it at Whole Foods Market. Happy cheese making!

      • Mary P. says

        I have been wondering about the source of white vinegar, but have not taken the time to research it. Thanks for the tip of it being most likely from GMO corn. I am an anti GMO gal.

  5. says

    This looks simple and delicious. I have all the supplies to make hard cheeses, but sometimes I just feel overwhelmed to deal with aging them correctly. This I can handle, it seems similar to homemade ricotta, which I have made. I wish I had a great supply of raw milk, unfortunately we are stuck with organic gallons from the grocery store.

  6. says

    I am wondering if this would work with coconut milk kefir or almond milk – - or coconut milk creamer? I am severely dairy allergic, as well as gluten and soy. Thanks for any help you can offer.

    • Time says

      Some people find that raw, A2-cow milk is completely tolerated by and even heals their strong milk allergies.

      Pasteurized milk is often both adulterated through heating and homogenized, which can adulterate the milk fats.

      Many people who are supposed to be “dairy intolerant” tolerate raw milk very well or thrive on it.

      Perhaps do some more research?

      • Alice says

        Yes ! Everyone in my family can tolerate store bought milk except my 18month old. Luckily we have moved to an area close to a dairy where I now buy raw milk straight from the farmer and she has no problems with it. Great for the family too :)

  7. Jennifer says

    Why can we not use raw apple cider vinegar to make this cheese? I have not used nor considered using white distilled vinegar for anything but cleaning in more than 15 years. I appreciate your site and all you share here:-)

    • Jean says

      I would not use white vinegar for any food preparation either. Something else comes to mind as well. I would only use raw milk and skip the boil process. If that would not work I would prefer not to try this cheese but I can see no logical reason why boiling is necessary since raw milk is so much more healthy. You don’t need to fortify raw milk with Vitamins A & D because they are naturally present. Only pasteurized milk needs the fortification because the vitamins and enzymes are destroyed during the pasteurization process. They would be destroyed in the boiling process too.

      • Kate says

        The milk won’t separate into curds and whey if it’s not heated/boiled…you’d just have vinegary milk instead of cheese curds.

        • Lynn says

          Then what DOES it separate into? I put my raw milk into a glass container, set it on the counter and wait while the curds and whey separate (a few days). Then I pour it all into cheesecloth and let the whey trickle into a jar, while the cheese curds are left in the cheesecloth. What would you call that? Without heat and/or vinegar, I mean. Thanks!

          • Jenny says

            It separates into clabber or Bonny clabber and whey. It is not technically cheese, but Bonny Clabber – a wild-fermented milk product.

          • Valerie says

            I do the same thing! Well, almost. I also put 1/2 of yogurt to 1/2 a gallon of milk, to cilture it. And I do not just leave the milk on a countertop. I place the glass mason jars on top of a heating mat, the one that is usually used for sprouting seeds. That speeds up the process of separation of the milk into…whatever it’s called :-) We call the final strained product “farmer’s
            cheese”. And that’s our staple breakfast

      • Dawnann says

        Interesting point you brought out! I am going to consider this. It will cut my cheese making time spent by a long shot! I have both raw cow and goat milk and a excess of it. I boil it and then add ACV (apple cider vinegar) but I will try the cold method.

  8. Mya says

    You make this with your skimmed milk? We get raw milk and I’ve never tried to skim the cream, I have wanted to though! This will have to be on my to do list :)

  9. Donna says

    I have always called this type of cheese “paneer”. I think that’s an East Indian name for it. By the way, your article says you use the cream “to serve with fur”. What was that supposed to say?

    • Jenny says

      I honestly have *NO* idea what that’s about. Really. I was writing it all jet-lagged in the wee hours of the morning. I’m surprised I got anything coherent on the page.

    • says

      IIf you add lemon instead of vinegar, that is paneer. I just watched a video about this at showmethecurry.com… I wanted to find out about farmer’s cheese and that’s what led me here.

  10. Terry in Oz says

    I too am fortunate enough to purchase 10 litres of raw milk per week. Four litres are transformed to daily kefir, and the remaining six are used to make this very sort of cheese. It is however not necessary to bring the milk to the actual boil, and works well when bubbles have formed on the milk surface. The plain white vinegar works and tastes better than the lemon made cheese. For ease and less clean-up I recommend dispensing with the cheesecloth as it is not really needed unless you want a dry harder cheese. The colander is sufficient by itself to drain the curds and does not let chunks through. Sit the colander on a bowl and spoon curds in from your cooker with a seive ladle. After a few minutes of draining I tip the whey from the underbowl, retaining about a mug full. To this I add and dissolve a large teaspoon of himalayan salt, then add this salted whey back to the curds and mash through with a potato masher to bring it back to a moist evenly salted cheese. PS, The trick to evenly clumping curds in the making is to briskly stir the near boiled milk immediately before pouring in the vinegar (25-30ml per litre of milk), and then directly after, reverse the flow direction wth your ladle. Good job, well done!

  11. Lisa says

    I am wondering if this is the same as making ricotta cheese? I have made ricotta from organic whole milk (raw milk not available near me yet) using the same process. Is it merely a matter of how much the cheese is drained? Is it just the name? I love your site and all of the information and feedback you provide! Thanks!!

  12. says

    This looks similar to recipe I have for Queso Blanco/Paneer cheese, but I think this calls for more vinegar…I wonder if it is different. I might try it out and see. I got a cheesemaking kit for Xmas that does aged cheese, but I’m too afraid to try it yet! I know how to make Queso Blanco/Paneer, Mozzarella, and Ricotta. I also made yogurt cheese once but wasn’t crazy about it. I also have a recipe for Schiz cheese (Italian) that looks easy. I love cheese!

  13. Sheila says

    Do you have to heat it to 180 degrees? That pasteurizes it. I would like to do it raw. Hoping to get some guidance before I try it. Our raw milk is very expensive.

  14. Jennifer Smith says

    I I have friends who leave their raw milk out on the counter for several days allowing everything to separate. They call the 2 layers on the top 2 types of cheese (the middle would be curds I think). Is this safe? She gave me some of the top stuff, it smells like parmesan, but I’m afraid to try it.

    • Kari Carlisle says

      Yes, if you’re using raw milk from pastured cows, leaving it out in a glass jar for 2-3 days to separate the curds and whey is perfectly safe. I keep both in the fridge after draining the whey in a colander lined with cloth (I just use a cotton cloth). The whey will last several months. I use the whey for drinking and fermenting/soaking.

    • Linda says

      I lived on an organic farm and when we made cheese, we would leave the raw milk in gallon containers on the counter until the curds and whey are separated. The jar lids were not tightened.

      We would then pour the contents into a large stainless steel pot and heat on low until you could not keep your hands on the side of the pot.

      We didn’t boil the milk or add anything. After the milk cooled, we would pour into a cheesecloth and let hang for a day.

      Cheese was wonderful!

  15. Michelle says

    I only heat mine to 130 degrees. I have made different flavors like add garlic powder or dried salsa mix. Also Italian seasoning is very good.

    • Karen says

      You can heat the milk to 104 degrees, leaving it in its raw state which will not kill the good bacteria, and then add the vinegar. It separates just fine. The high heat is not required for separation.

  16. Elle says

    Jenny, I have to admit that this process fascinates me.

    I’ve always wanted to try this, and have considered it many times, but have never had the nerve to go ahead and give it a try.

    I think I just never felt like I had enough information to be confident in my ability to make cheese successfully.

    Thank you for this post. The step by step instructions are very easy to follow.

    I think I am ready to go ahead and give this a try now. Thank you so much for all of your help. I look forward to reading more posts in the future!

  17. Christy says

    I just made this cheese with raw milk using the tutorial above and saved the whey to soak my grains/flour. I put it in a glass jar in the fridge. How long will the whey keep in the fridge?

    • Julie says

      Or freeze the whey to use later. I use leftover whey in pancakes, bread, etc. Anything that calls for milk or water.

  18. Kelsye says

    Yumm!!! This sounds amazing. Mix in some fresh herbs and spread it on a slice of toasted sourdough … Makes my mouth water just thinking about it!

  19. Katie says

    I’m curious – why can’t you use the whey in lactofermenting vegetables? Is it because it was heated?

  20. Ginger Masters says

    I will freeze the whey and use it when I’m cooking rice, or beans. I’ve also used it when I made my homemade dog food.

  21. Laura says

    In the past, I have made make-shift mozzarella cheese or farmer’s cheese by just heating up soured milk sufficiently. Why does this happen?

    Also, we get our raw milk in gallon jugs… any tips on how to skim the cream from them? I can’t exactly insert a spoon or a measuring cup in it.

    • says

      When I want to separate the cream, I pour my milk into a glass 1/2 gallon mason jar, let it sit in the fridge overnight so the cream rises to the top, then using a small ladle, I get the cream out that way.

    • Angel says

      I also get my raw milk in a plastic gallon jug. When I get home I immediately transfer my milk to 4 quart mason jars/ big mouth. I let sit in the fridge over night then I skim the cream off the top. Your ladle will fit in the big mouth jars.

  22. BROOKE says

    Growing up we used to get 5 gallons glass jars of raw milk that came to a small opening at the top. We used a turkey
    baster (for milk only of course) to remove the heavy cream and then the cream before we got to the milk. It works great and you can really control what you remove this way! Hope this helps :)

  23. Melissa says

    Can I use organic pasteurized milk from the store? My husband just asked that I not use our precious (and expensive!) raw milk for my experiment! I think our health food store as some decent brands. I know you said “not ULTRApastueurized” so I assume it’s okay, but thought I’d confirm. Thanks for eat another great post!

    • Julie says

      I’ve successfully made this sort of cheese with regular milk from the store. We don’t have a raw milk source (and I think I’d agree about heating up the raw milk!).

    • Julie says

      Absolutely! Don’t waste it. Freeze it and use it in place of anything that calls for milk, buttermilk, sour milk, or water. (Pancakes, breads, etc.)

  24. Sheila says

    We get our raw milk in plastic gallon jugs. To skim the cream I actually drain the milk. I loosen the lid, puncture a whole in the side near the bottom. I let the milk drain into a glass jar untill there is only cream left. Then I tip the jug, open the top and pour the cream into a mason jar. You’ve got milk and cream!

  25. Lisa says

    I left the cream in the milk (whoops) and added the salt pre-boil (possibly another whoops). I now have what resembles and tastes like ricotta. Is this because I left the cream in or because I added the salt too early in the process OR a combination of both? Curious…

  26. Jill says

    So…I just finished the recipe and realized that I used too much vinegar. Instead of using one gallon milk, I used half but then forgot to use only half the vinegar. Will this affect the cheese?

  27. Sara says

    You can also make an easy cottage cheese from skimmed milk adding only cultured buttermilk. I culture the cream when we make butter and keep a live culture going in the buttermilk strained off (it’s a flora danica culture but you could use store-bought buttermilk), so it’s easy to have what we need on hand. Just add cultured buttermilk to your skimmed milk (1/4 cup to 2 gallons), leave at room temperature for 24-36 hours until firm. Cut and then slowly warm the curds over the stove to about 105-110 and hold for a half hour or so, or until curds have firmed. Then drain and rinse with very cold water, drain well, put in a container, salt to taste, and voila. It’s SOOO much better that commercial cottage cheese and has the benefits of live bacterial culture.

  28. Stacey says

    Made this today and it is yummy! I seasoned one batch with garlic and Italian herbs and the other with raw honey. Delicious! Thanks!

  29. says

    Thanks for the recipe. Curious how long this cheese lasts in the fridge, and if it can be frozen. My Russian mother in law makes it to use for fillings in some Russian dishes and it would be nice to have on hand.

    • Julie says

      I’ve frozen this cheese with success. Only I’ve used it as a ricotta – like in lasagna (or similar Italian dishes), so after being baked the texture doesn’t really matter. I know other cheeses can get crumbly when frozen (altho freezing grated cheese doesn’t seem to be a problem).

  30. Lisa in TX says

    Oh, my. So many ideas. Flavored with garlic and basil, stuffed into squash/nasturtium blossoms, and panko fried…or not. Mixed with chopped edible flower blossoms (including garlic and onion flowers, marigolds, dianthus, rose, etc.), maybe a little orange rind and raw honey, and served with gourmet crackers like a cheese ball. Stuffed in jalapeños and wrapped in bacon. Caprese salad. Grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. I am SO going to be making this cheese this weekend. :-)

  31. Deborah Rowden says

    My grandmother was Hungarian and she would set her raw milk out until it clabbered. She would then pour the very soft curds into a clean tea towel over a colander (or on the clothesline!) until it gave up all it’s whey. What was left she called dry cottage cheese. Creamy solid little curds of yummy goodness! no heat or vinegar involved. I do they same today with my raw milk! :)

  32. Wanda Jackson says

    i live in canada where you cannot buy raw milk. can this recipe be used with pasturized milk? we also have the ultrapasturized available.

  33. says

    I live in Canada and have bought raw milk in the past. Yes you can’t buy it retail but it can be purchased independent of a actual grocery store. I bought my eggs and milk from a local farmer. But it would be interesting to have a herd share. Never heard of that. But it makes perfect sense doesn’t it?

    And for that person enquiring about alergies. I have been able to drink raw milk without any problem, but the pasturized variety always gave me trouble….all that junk in the milk is usually the culperate.

    Strangely though my mother (who will be 80 this year) grew up with a milk cow and only started drinking milk about 10 years ago. Hated the stuff all her life. I don’t know if it was the cow, or what but she told me years ago that the BARN and everything in it turned her off milk growing up.

  34. says

    i sure enjoyed reading all the questions, replies and comments.I was heating my milk/half&half that I bought discounted and I used my aunt’s recipe to add vinegar and tomorrow after all the whey has drained, I will add a little salt and mix it and wrap it in banana leaf and use it as topping for rice cake. Yummy, just like back home in the Philippines. I’d like to see more recipes from you and thanks a lot”’. Bon Appetit

  35. Tomas says

    Why kill all the microorganisms and clump the proteins with heat? I let my raw goat’s milk sit at room temperature overnight and the curds separate. Is the heat due to fear of pathogens? If your animals are healthy, and technique for getting milk is clean, no problems.

    • Jenny says

      Because it tastes good. Dairy doesn’t need to be raw all.the.time just like it doesn’t need to be cooked all.the.time.

  36. Candace says

    I was wondering if white vinegar is an absolute must? Can you use red wine vinegar? I have a garlic red wine vinegar I was thinking would taste good but don’t know if the product will come out right. Anyone try it before? Thanks!

  37. Christianne says

    Trying this now… I had some extra raw cow milk so figured what could I lose? I didn’t separate the cream from the milk, just heated it all. I only heated it to approx. 105 then added the vinegar. Separated great! I have it sitting in my chinois now covered with salt. So excited. Fingers and toes crossed it tastes great. Thanks so much for step by step instructions!

  38. Valery says

    I made this cheese this morning with my 8 yr old homeschooler as a lesson and he loved it!!! It was super simple and he was begging me to make this every week from now on. He said and I quote “I’m going to teach my children how to make this!” Thank you so much for sharing this simple recipe.

  39. Betsy says

    Haven’t tasted it yet, but I wanted to say that even if the milk almost boils over (thanks to a hubby who when he “helps” clean the kitchen ;-) is “go fish” time for me frantically searching for (vinegar) – it still makes cheese…

  40. Julie O'Brien says

    My kids are allergic to corn, so we never use white vinegar. Do you think we could use apple cider vinegar for this recipe?

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