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.
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.
If using raw milk all you need to do is: cool it down overnight then collect cream and leave the milk on the kitchen counter for about two days. Milk is going to curdle by itself. Heat it up to about 45 C. Now you can pour it through cheese cloth folded couple of times. Let it strain to consistency you like. Note, if you heat, the curds to higher temperatures cheese is going to be harder and dry. I prefer 45C. because cheese comes like ricotta, moist and soft. It's really easy.
Jenny McGruther says
What you're describing is clabber, not farm cheese.
Ruth A Veltkamp says
So I made this with raw milk. It turned out quite stiff and rubbery. Is this the way it's supposed to be?
Jenny McGruther says
Great recipe! Except I was wondering why unpasteurized is needed, as you're not using the microbes for fermentation with this type of cheese... ?
Jenny McGruther says
I actually ask that the milk not be ultra-pasteurized. It can still be pasteurized. This is an important distinction because the proteins in UHT milk are so denatured that they cannot curdle effectively for cheesemaking. Raw or low-temp, vat-pasteurized will work fine.
In reply to those wondering about pasteurization, you ARE using pasteurized milk, whether you intend to or not because YOU are pasteurizing it by bringing the milk up to a simmer. If you have heated your milk to 162 degrees (F) for at least 15 seconds, you've pasteurized your milk! For those doing it commercially, after reaching that 162 degree mark, they'll cool it quickly down to around 39 degrees or so and it will keep under refrigeration for a couple of weeks. (There are other temperatures and times, but that is a common example.) Ultra-pasteurization is heating milk to a much higher temperature (280 degrees or so and then rapidly cooling to 39 degrees, not even possible in practical terms for most home kitchens). It will kill a lot more things that may not be deadly but might cause spoilage. It will also change the structure of the milk such that it won't work as well for making cheese, yogurt, stuff like that. But, the shelf life goes from weeks to months, which is a big deal for supply chains, grocery stores, etc. Anyway, the above recipe isn't seeing you consuming raw milk if that's at all a worry. And honestly, I kinda like that. There are recipes that do use raw milk that doesn't go into the temperatures that would pasteurize it. Anyway, too long of a post already...
Thank you for this recipe. I have elways wanted to try and make this.