My wonderful Mother-in-law taught me how to make homemade cheese recently. She is this tiny little firecracker of a woman, straight from Italy, who can’t be more than 90 lbs wet, but has enough personality for a person 3 times her size. It’s that vivacity that I love about the Italians. On occasion when my husband and I get into a particularly spirited discussion in front of our 5 year old, he will tell us “Mom! Dad! Stop yelling!”, to which I reply “We aren’t yelling, we’re Italian!”
I have an excess of raw milk lately, so she suggested I make cheese. I had always assumed homemade cheese was a long process, requiring things like rennet to make, but she showed me this very quick and easy way to make cheese that takes all of 20 minutes and tastes wonderful.
Many people call this cheese Ricotta, but true Ricotta involves a few more steps. This cheese is actually called Farmer’s cheese. It’s a very adaptable and forgiving recipe and can be made in small or large batches depending on the amount of milk you have to work with. You can also make a quick version of Cottage cheese from the same recipe.
I highly recommend using organic raw milk from pastured cows (need help finding some? Check here), but you can use any whole or 2% cow or goat milk with one exception – ultra high pasteurized milk – the whey proteins have been altered by the high temperature. The higher the fat content the better the homemade cheese.
Quick and Easy Farmer’s Homemade Cheese
1 gallon of milk (or as much as you want to work with)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Pinch of salt (optional)
Slotted/holed spoon – something like this one is perfect – the smaller the slots or holes, the better.
Jar or container to save whey (approximately 1 quart)
Put milk into a pot and bring just to simmering, then turn off heat. Add optional salt, then vinegar and stir slowly. I found it worked best just to sort of push the liquid around slowly. The milk will start to separate almost immediately. If you want your cheese to end up as one solid chunk, try and keep the solids all together by pushing the water around slowly. If you plan to make small curd cottage cheese, you can stir more rapidly and vigorously to break up the curds.
Using a small strainer or slotted spoon, scoop out curds and put them in a separate dish. Most curds float to the top which makes straining easy.
The gorgeous yellow liquid that is left is whey. Let this cool and save it for later (keep reading).
To make solid cheese, put the chunks in a strainer in a bowl in the fridge for a day. It will dry out and form a nice slice-able solid cheese – great for sandwiches or melting.
To make cottage cheese, add a small amount of whole milk or cream to the still slightly wet curds (I scooped the cream right off the top of my milk), and mix it in with the small curds.
That’s all there is to homemade cheese! So easy.
There are a ton of ways (ha!) it can be used. Check out these ideas:
Making Ricotta Cheese
Make Lacto-Fermented Foods with Whey
Make Your Own Condiments with Whey
Use Whey in Place of Milk, Buttermilk, or Water in Recipes
Lemony Iced Tea with Whey
Chai Spiced Whey Rice Pudding
Whey Water Bath Natural Spa Treatment
5 Ways to use Whey
8 More Ways to use Whey
If you still have some left, it can also go in your compost bin…all those nutrients are great for your soil.