November 27, 2012

Making Farmer's Cheese with Kefir Grains!

A good while ago when I was at my partner's parents house, we had some bread and soft cheese as a snack. The cheese was really good and the consistency reminded me of goat cheese but tasted slightly sour and her mom casually remarked that she made it. I pretty much responded like this: YOU MADE THIS CHEESE? HOW?!

Turns out, it's quite simple to make farmer's cheese! There are many types of farmer's cheese, but this particular kind is made with kefir, so you need to have kefir grains (a combination of yeast and bacteria). You can sometime obtain some from friends or family if they have any, or perhaps putting a call out on craigslist or something similar. The grains grow over time so people are often giving a portion away to others. Otherwise, you can buy cheese making kits that come with a starter.

To make the cheese, you need the following:
  • clay or glass jar
  • cheese cloth & elastic
  • milk (we usually use 1% or 2%)
  • kefir grains
  • plastic or wood spoon, strainer (not metal), and a baking pan

Place the kefir grains in the jar and fill the jar up with milk. Cover with cheese cloth and secure with an elastic. Leave the jar somewhere where you don't get too much sun for one or two days (depending how strong or sour you want the cheese). My partner's mom has a really nice clay jar that we used this time but back at home, we just use a mason jar and it works fine. Less light exposure is just more ideal so look for a clay jar eventually if you don't have one.

After two days, the milk will become creamy (good job kefir grains!). You can then pour the mixture into a strainer (must be a plastic strainer. Metal will rob the keifer grains' nutrients, making them not good anymore!!) over a baking pan. Gently move the mixture through the strainer with a wood/plastic spoon until only the kefir grains are left. Put the grains aside and place the baking pan into the oven. Bake at 175°F for three hours (it actually doesn't really bake, but separates the curds and whey). At this point you can rinse the kefir grains under cold water and then start a new batch, or place them in a small container and fill it up with just enough milk so the kefir is covered to preserve it until you make a new batch. If you don't add any milk, the kefir will lose its nutrients and die.

Once done baking, turn the oven off and leave the pan in there overnight. Next morning, you will see how there is a thick layer of cheese floating on top and the bottom is some yellowish liquid (whey). Cover the strainer with some cheese cloth and pour the content out of the baking pan over a bowl. The whey will run right through. Make sure save it. After you're done pouring, scoop the cheese cloth and gently squeeze it to force the remaining liquid out.

If you're wanting soft white cheese, you can start using the cheese immediately. If you prefer a bit more solid cheese, you can tie the cheese in the cheese cloth and let hang for several hours. We haven't tried doing this, we are usually too impatient and just want to start using the cheese and the consistency is just right for us. We usually don't add anything to the cheese afterwards but we have once added honey to it which was delicious. You can add pretty much anything you want. I'd like to experiment with adding herbs one day.

Remember the whey you saved? It has a ton of good nutrients and is super healthy. We like to use it in smoothies, and also in sauce and soup. Some people even drink the whey but that's a bit too much for me. I prefer to mix it with other things.

[My partner, the photographer for this post couldn't stop herself from taking a bite!]

BTW: Once I messed up and turned the oven to 425°F to bake some pizza and completely forgot that the kefir cheese was in there from last night! By the time I opened the oven to put the pizza in, I was devstated to realize the cheese was in there and it looked terrible. The layer of cheese was all crumbly with tons of boiling liquid. Yikes. We decided to just keep it and see what happened. The end result was very dry, crumbly cheese that actually reminded us of parmesan cheese! Obviously it didn't taste the same but the texture was very similar. I'm sure all the nutrients in the raw cheese and whey were gone but it was still good, and we put it on top of pasta.

Have you made anything like this? If so, I'd love to hear about it!


  1. wow! love that post and thanks! i'll have to experiment with that one day. (after i taste some at your house soon!) heheh..

    1. My pleasure! Sounds like Manuel has some kefir grains so you should take some from his batch and experiment. I think you'd like it lots!