When it comes to the wide world of cheeses, farmer’s cheese may be the most humble, but not for long. While you may not have heard of this variety of cheese before, it’s quickly becoming a favorite among cheese lovers thanks to its subtle flavor and smooth, spreadable texture.
What’s more, the neutral taste of farmer’s cheese perfectly lends it to both sweet and savory dishes, and it can even be made super easily at home. Beyond being a versatile secret ingredient, farmer’s cheese offers some very notable health benefits, especially varieties that contain probiotics, or healthy bacteria.
So, what is farmer’s cheese?
An unripened curd cheese, farmer’s cheese is very similar to cottage cheese and ricotta. It’s got a spreadable texture like the latter and a tangy flavor like the former. However, it does tend to be drier and more mild than either of these cheeses.
Also known as tvorog, farmer’s cheese is wildly popular in Eastern Europe, though its origins are said to lie in France. You’ll often see this spreadable cheese in Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian dishes like blintzes, pierogies, pastries, and pancakes.
Farmer’s cheese can be either cow, goat, or sheep milk-based and there are quite a few ways to make it. It can come together in less than 30 minutes through warming milk, combining it with an acid, like distilled vinegar, to separate the curds from the whey, and squeezing all the whey from the curds resulting in a deliciously basic farmer’s cheese.
But this method won’t enrich your final product with probiotics. Rather, to achieve this kind of farmer’s cheese, a fermentation process must occur. Some cheese makers will ferment their milk for 24 hours to naturally separate the curds from the whey. Others will add enzymes made for cheese, also called rennet, and a bacterial starter to their milk to bring about separation. Regardless of which method is used, both will result in a farmer’s cheese rich in probiotics.
Farmer’s cheese can come plain or rolled in seasonings and/or herbs, though some will have these adornments mixed directly into the cheese. Because this cheese is unripened, once the whey is squeezed from the curds and it’s seasoned, it’s ready to be enjoyed, which is super convenient.
The health benefits of farmer’s cheese
Beyond the probiotics some farmer’s cheese varieties can contain, there are many nutrients found in this cheese that qualify it as a healthy choice. These include calcium, phosphorus, protein, and B vitamins. Because farmer’s cheese and cottage cheese are so incredibly similar, any health benefits associated with one will likely be the case for the other. Let’s get into what those are.
The calcium and phosphorus found in farmer’s cheese may very well be two of the most important minerals in the bone health cycle. This is because they both play a vital role in bone growth and the maintenance of healthy bone tissue.
Energy and tissue health
As one of the three major macronutrients, the protein in this versatile cheese will offer us sustained energy through its ability to slow digestion (in a good way), stabilizing our blood sugars. Plus, protein is a critical building block for effectively every tissue in the body, from organs and blood cells to our skin, hair, and nails.
Growth and development
With vitamin B12, folate, niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin, there’s no shortage of B vitamins to be found in farmer’s cheese. This vitamin group is super important for growth, development, and efficient metabolism throughout the body.
The probiotics found in many brands of farmer’s cheese primarily support our gut health through their impact on the gut microbiome. Given that probiotics are beneficial bacteria, when we consume them we’re boosting the population of supportive microbes in our gut. The gut microbiome is a community of over a trillion microorganisms housed in the large intestine and it is intimately linked with not only better digestive health but brain, immune, and overall health as well.
But the gut benefits of farmer’s cheese don’t stop there. The process of making this cheese yields it to be nearly lactose-free. This is because the lactose found in milk is almost entirely removed in the cheese-making process through the whey that is discarded. In fact, many farmer’s cheese brands will advertise their product as 99 percent lactose-free, as it’s nearly impossible to get every last drop of whey out of the curds when making this spreadable cheese. For the lactose-intolerant, this is great news as farmer’s cheese won’t result in tummy troubles the way regular milk often will.
Finally, farmer’s cheese is notably low in sodium compared to many other popular cheeses—perfect for those with heart health concerns. This is because high salt intake over long periods of time can lead to elevated blood pressure levels or hypertension. Plus, while the saturated fat readily found in full-fat dairy products is not nearly as much of a concern for heart disease as once thought, fermented dairy products have an added leg up when it comes to heart health benefits. This is due to the fact that the fermentation process involved in making probiotic-rich dairy products, like farmer’s cheese, converts some of the saturated fat found in this product to heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
How to make farmer’s cheese
One of the most enticing aspects of farmer’s cheese for many is that it can easily be made at home, perfect for both seasoned and beginner cheese makers alike.
Yields about 8 servings
1 gallon of whole milk of your choice, either cow’s, goat’s, or sheep’s. Opt for raw or pasteurized milk over ultra-pasteurized as ultra-pasteurized milk will result in curds that are too small. Similarly, whole milk is important for smoother cheese texture and richer flavor.
1/2 cup acid of your choice, either white distilled vinegar or lemon juice—though some like to use apple cider vinegar for an added flavor note.
1 tsp salt
Optional: Any mix-ins you’d like including (but not limited to) olive oil, fresh herbs such as dill, chives, rosemary, basil, mint, or tarragon, or spices like black pepper, red pepper flakes, paprika, cayenne, or cumin
1. Over medium-low to medium heat, start bringing your milk to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pot.
2. Just as you see foamy bubbles start to form, turn off the heat. Use your thermometer to check the temperature of your milk, it should be around 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Slowly stir in your acid. The milk should start to curdle pretty quickly. Let this mixture sit until it reaches room temperature.
4. Prepare your colander by lining it with cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel.
5. Then, stir any mix-ins you’d like into your milk mixture and pour the mixture into your colander.
6. Squeeze all the moisture out of your curds and add them to a large mixing bowl.
7. Mix with salt to taste.
8. Now you can optionally shape your cheese into a ball using your cheesecloth or a disc with two dinner plates. If you didn’t add mix-ins directly to the cheese, now would be the time to roll your cheese in any herbs or seasonings you’d like. Then enjoy!
This fresh farmer’s cheese will stay good in the refrigerator anywhere between seven and 10 days, if not devoured long before. Also, be sure to hang onto the whey you’re left with as it’s the perfect addition to homemade soups, smoothies, and even bread recipes as a natural source of protein.
While this recipe doesn’t contain probiotics, you can purchase probiotic-rich farmer’s cheese at the supermarket. Some excellent options to look for include Friendship Dairies and Lifeway.
Ways to enjoy farmer’s cheese
Whether you make your farmer’s cheese or opt to purchase it at the grocery store, there are so many delicious uses for it in the kitchen.
On the savory side of things, this mild cheese can be used as a substitute for cream cheese on bagels, mayonnaise on sandwiches, or avocado on toast. It’s also the perfect base for creamy dips as well as filling for casseroles, pierogies, lasagna, ravioli, and stuffed shells. It’s even an excellent swap for feta cheese in Mediterranean recipes, ricotta in Italian classics, and paneer in Indian dishes. Farmer’s cheese also rivals hummus for the ideal snack with cut veggies or tinned fish.
There are just as many possibilities for sweet applications when it comes to this tasty cheese. You can stuff it into crepes or add it to baked goods like cakes, tarts, and pies. Farmer’s cheese is also a great substitute for yogurt or cottage cheese when mixed with honey, fresh fruit, and chia seeds for a satisfying afternoon pick-me-up.
From the impressive nutrition it delivers to its delicious flavor and versatility in the kitchen, there’s no shortage of reasons to love farmer’s cheese.
Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
- de Souza, Russell J et al. “Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 351 h3978. 11 Aug. 2015, doi:10.1136/bmj.h3978
- Vieira, C P et al. “Kefir Grains Change Fatty Acid Profile of Milk during Fermentation and Storage.” PloS one vol. 10,10 e0139910. 7 Oct. 2015, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0139910