How to Make Farmer's Cheese

Farmers cheese made with goat milk, draining in cheesecloth

Farmers cheese is an easy-to-make soft cheese that is an excellent introduction to cheesemaking. You need just two quarts of milk and some simple equipment you probably already have in your kitchen to make this versatile and delicious cheese. Here's how to make farmers cheese.


How to make farmer's cheese

Several years ago in celebration of National Goat Cheese Month, I challenged myself to make a different kind of cheese from goat milk every week.

Some of the cheeses I'd made many times before, such as this farmer's cheese. It's delicious and so easy to make. It's a good substitute for cream cheese and for ricotta cheese, as well as being delicious in its own right.

You don't have to use goat milk, but if you're buying cow's milk from the grocery store I recommend buying whole milk. Your results won't be as successful if you use skim or low fat milk.

The first cheese I ever attempted to make years ago was farmer's cheese, which is sometimes called lemon cheese. It's an easy-to-make soft cheese that requires just milk and lemon juice. How easy is that?

Another version of farmer's cheese uses apple cider vinegar instead of lemon juice. I've tried both versions but I prefer the taste of the cheese made with lemon juice. 

If you'd rather try making vinegar cheese, just substitute apple cider vinegar for the lemon juice and follow the same directions.

You can add herbs to your cheese for additional flavor if you wish.

Farmer's cheese doesn't require using a mold, or aging the cheese. 

Two quart jars of goat milk on a blue background, with a thermometer in front of the jars

Farmer's cheese ingredients

To make farmer's cheese you'll need:

  • 1/2 gallon (two quarts) of whole milk
  • Juice from 2-3 lemons, about 1/4 cup
  • Cheese salt (optional)
  • Herbs (optional)

Just in case you don't have cheese salt in your pantry, you can substitute a non-iodized table salt instead. But continue reading to see which kind of salt is best for farmers cheese and for other kinds of cheeses, and why.

Equipment you'll need to make farmer's cheese

You'll also need the following equipment and supplies. You probably already have most of this in your kitchen.

  • a large pot for heating the milk (a stockpot is ideal)
  • a thermometer that attaches to the side of the pot, such as the candy thermometer pictured here
  • a large spoon
  • a wire strainer
  • cheesecloth or plyban
  • a large rubber band
  • a pitcher

A large pot of milk heating on a stove with a candy thermometer clipped to the side of the pot.

Farmer's cheese directions

Pour a half-gallon (2 quarts) of whole milk into the stock pot, and attach a thermometer to the side of the pot. The tip of the thermometer should not touch the bottom of the pot. 

Heat the milk to 185°F, stirring occasionally so it doesn't scorch. 

When it reaches the right temperature, move the pot off the heat.

Add 1/4 cup of lemon juice, stir gently just once around the pot, cover the pot, and set the oven timer for 15 minutes. 

Like bread making, cheese making has a lot of waiting time. Tell yourself that it's good for developing patience.

A large pot of milk that has separated into curds and whey

After 15 minutes you should be able to see a definite separation of the curds and whey.

However, sometimes I don't. When that happens, I add the juice of one more lemon, stir once around the pot again, and wait another 15 minutes. 

I've never had a failure after that. I've always been able to see that the curds and whey have separated. 

But I'm always on pins and needles until I can see the difference. This cheese hasn't failed me yet and after the additional waiting time it always works. Huge sigh of relief!

A cheesecloth-line wire mesh strainer on top of a green bowl. The strainer holds curds of goat milk cheese

Next, gently move the curds into a strainer lined with fine cheesecloth. 

Not that gauzy stuff they sell that has large holes. You want a fine-meshed cheesecloth with small holes and more structure. This reusable Plyban cheesecloth is another good choice.

If you're using goat milk to make this farmer's cheese, be very gentle when moving the curds. Goat milk curds are fragile, so handle with great care. 

I gently scoop mine out with a measuring cup and carefully pour them into the cheesecloth-lined strainer.

You can let the whey go down the sink drain, but it's good for so many other things. I strain the cheese into a pitcher so I can save the whey. 

Whey can be used in the following ways and more:

  • Make skim milk ricotta cheese
  • Use it as the liquid in bread dough
  • Lacto-fermented foods
  • Feed it to your chickens

A cheesecloth-covered strainer on top of a bowl, full of goat milk curds. The whey is draining out of the curds.

Drain the cheese

The next step is to drain the cheese.

Gather the four corners of the cheesecloth together and make a knot with a rubber band, then stuck the handle of a plastic spoon through the knot. 

The handle lays across the top of a pitcher, and holds the cheesecloth "bag" with the curds suspended inside the pitcher so that the whey can drain off. 

Let it drain for an hour or so, until the curds stop draining. 

Suspending the cheesecloth "pouch" inside a pitcher to allow the soft cheese to drain.

Remove the cheese from the cheesecloth, and add cheese salt and herbs if desired. I add 1/8 teaspoon of salt to my farmer's cheese.

Do you need cheese salt, and where to buy it

If you don't have cheese salt, you can substitute non-iodized salt. Don't use iodized table salt, it will ruin your cheese.

Because the salt in farmer's cheese is added at the end of the process, fine non-iodized salt can be used in this case instead of cheese salt. 

However, when making other types of cheese, the salt is added in an earlier step. In that case, flake salt such as cheese salt is best to use. 

Fine salt will dissolve too quickly in the brine, and coarse salt won't dissolve fast enough, so when making cheese other than farmer's cheese you should use cheese salt.

You can purchase cheese salt from Hoegger Farmyard, or from Amazon. If you have Amazon Prime, this cheese salt is the better buy since you don't need to pay for shipping. (If you're not an Amazon Prime member, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial here.)

The soft cheese in the cheesecloth-lined strainer is allowed to set and drain.

If you like a drier cheese

If you like a drier cheese, just let your farmer's cheese drain longer. 

We like it a little creamier. I've used it like cream cheese and as a substitute for ricotta cheese (you can learn how to make ricotta cheese here). 

Creamy farmer's cheese with added herbs makes a great dip for crackers or chips. 

It's really satisfying to make your own cheese, like baking your own bread or gazing at a dozen jars of peaches that you canned yourself. 

These are all great skills to have, and they lessen your dependence on the grocery store. 

More soft cheeses you can make at home

Ricotta cheese is almost as simple to make, and can be made with the leftover whey from making farmer's cheese, or with fresh whole milk for a greater yield. Learn how to make ricotta cheese here.

Chèvre is a soft goat cheese that can be substituted for cream cheese, is delicious with salads and bread, and seems to make any dish just that much better. Learn how to make chèvre in this post.

While mozzarella cheese is a bit more challenging to make, it's definitely a cheese that we all love to eat and stretching the curds is rather fun. Learn how to make mozzarella cheese in this post.

For more self-sufficient and homesteading posts subscribe to The Acorn, Oak Hill Homestead's weekly-ish newsletter, and join me on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest. I'd love to see you there!

Related posts:

Text: Learn how to make soft cheese such as this farmer's cheese (also known as lemon cheese). Soft cheese doesn't need a cheese mold or aging time, and can be used a substitute for ricotta or cottage cheese, or as a dip for crackers or chips.

In celebration of National Goat Cheese Month


My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at: 
InstagramFacebook | Pinterest | Subscribe