How to Make Easy Farmer Cheese (and supporting your local farmer)

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A ex dairy farmer who then has to begin purchasing from other farmers has a small heart attack when billed.  Never mind the cost of sweet feed, alfalfa, minerals, milking implements, and boyfriends, we don’t see all that, we just hear $8 for a half a gallon of fresh, frothy, raw milk.  $6 for free roaming delicious eggs.  “Oy, I used to get that for free!” I yelp. (Of course it wasn’t free…)

Okay, so yes, for a buck fifty you can get subpar, pasteurized, feed lot cow’s milk.  Some cheap eggs from chickens that don’t move…ever.

Now, relooking at costs.  I made 3 cups of fresh farmer cheese last night for the cost of the milk.  $8.  If we consider how much 4 ounces of goat cheese or farmer cheese costs in the store (around $5) we can easily see the deal we are getting.  This constitutes the protein in a meal, so replaces meat.  Eggs make several meals and additions to recipes, making it a very economical meal, even at $6.

The key is changing one’s perspective that farm food is the same as supermarket food.  It is much higher nutritionally and much more delicious.  It provides more meals at home around the table.  And helps a farmer.  We are a dying breed.  Women farmers represent 20% of all farmers.  But with up to 5000 farmers calling it quits (or losing, like we did) we need to support local agriculture.  We just have to.  I’ll be joining the ranks of women farmers again but I cannot have goats in the city we are moving to so no milking…yet.  In the meantime, I will support a farmer.  It is well worth the extra few bucks.

Here is an easy recipe for farmer cheese.  You can use store bought milk but if you can get a half gallon of raw, please do so.

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Pour 1/2 gallon of milk into pot and heat over medium heat stirring often until just boiling.  Turn off heat.

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Pour in 1/4 cup of homemade red wine vinegar (click here for the recipe), other vinegar, or lemon juice.  Watch the curds separate from the whey.  If needed add another 1/4 cup.  The red wine vinegar makes a pretty color.

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Once separated, pour into a colander lined with good cheesecloth.  I mean it, spring for the good cheesecloth.  (Geez, I don’t even have clothes pins anymore.  I am starting my homesteading journey again from scratch!  I used a headband to secure the cheesecloth to the colander.)  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sea salt over cheese.

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Fold sides together and hang off the side of the pot for 2-12 hours.

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When finished, remove cheesecloth while placing cheese in bowl.  From here you have a very plain tasting cheese.

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Here I added 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning.  1 teaspoon of truffle salt.  A drizzle of garlic oil.  1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  A dash of sugar.  Use hands to combine and crumble.

Other ideas would be sugar and cranberries, and orange zest.  Or minced garlic and chives.  Use your imagination!  Put in enchiladas, lasagna, in salad, on crackers topped with jam.  Homemade cheese is an easy homesteading staple!

The Farmers’ Market (true tales)

There are two kinds of people at the farmers’ market.  The first one comes up to the farmer’s booth and says, “Where is the corn?”  He/she will kindly reply that it is May.  Geez, it snowed last week, where the heck would corn come from?  Here it is June and people are demanding peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers because it is summer.  Many, many people have truly lost sight of where their food comes from, what season food grows in, or who grows it.  The above customer will then say something like, “What kind of farmer’s market is this?  There aren’t any apples?”  Many farmers early in the season will buy from their friends on other farms.  Remember, farmers know each other.  There is a lot of camaraderie among those that make their living out of dirt.  The farm I follow around doing markets with and also my friends, Miller Farms, will buy produce for the early markets, all pesticide free from reputable farmers in their circle from California to fill in the tables.  We have a very short growing season here, and our first crops just coming up.  Of course, we had a very late freeze and snow in May, so now everything is a tad behind.  By bringing in healthy produce at a reasonable price, much lower than the grocery store, the farmer stays in business while waiting for their own fields to ripen, and the customer gets delicious, well priced food.

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The second kind of person that comes to the farmers’ markets is a bit more educated on seasons.  They say with just a touch of sarcasm and irritation, “Green peppers…..in June?”  They know the jig is up.  They know the pepper plants are only a wee foot tall, just starting their petite white flowers that will turn into delicious summer eating in August.  They will turn their nose up and leave the market.  And go to the grocery store, where the food was trucked in from California or Mexico.  My friend who owns the farm, Christine, said once while we watched someone walk away, “They head straight to the grocery store to buy the same thing (only often with pesticides on them) instead of buying from me.  They want farms to survive so why don’t they just support us?”  They won’t disappoint.  Their tables will be heavy with fresh pesticide-free produce from their own fantastic farm.

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Another sect of farmers’ market growers sadly included myself before I started doing markets.  The bargain shopper.  The deal maker.  The try to cut costs.  I have been joking at the market when people ask for a deal, “I already make fifty cents an hour!”  My first week as a farmer at the markets has been brutal.  Wake well before dawn and fall into bed (or close to it) at eleven.  I am sunburned, wind burnt, have two tons of food to put up today, exhausted.  The farm needs tending to.  I work non-stop to make sure there is enough on the tables to give people what they want.  Nancy has done the same thing.  No deal, you will pay the five bucks and like it!

Farmers’ markets are a wonderful thing and it is fine moment during this time that they are ever so popular and trendy because it is an excellent way to bring the goods you make to people that will enjoy them.  Support your local farmers and farms.  Thank them for what they do.  Appreciate the dirt beneath their fingernails, their messy houses until January, their heart and soul that is so passionate for growing food and making homestead items that they will work non-stop for you.  They live for market season.  They are a class amongst themselves.  We recognize each other in stores.  We bicker, support, and feel like we are all one family.  Market people make farmers’ markets a place to take the family on the weekend, to grocery shop in the open air, and to feed your family wholesome food and fill your home with unique and lovely items.  We are a fun and interesting bunch.

I bought a case of Roma tomatoes from Miller farms and a box of pickling cucumbers.  The tomatoes are rubbed with olive oil to preserve them longer.  They were grown in a green house.  They will be turned into pints of diced tomatoes today.  The cucumbers are ready to become pickles.  Cucumbers here will be ready at the end of July but I need to get a head start on canning for the winter because we are now becoming a full time farm and moving our Apothecary to our house so we need to have our larder stocked up to brimming so that will be one less thing to worry about.  I froze several bags of broccoli this week and will put up several jars of tomatoes and pickles.  Will that be enough?  Not even close but I will be a dozen jars ahead of myself when the produce starts flowing through the door like the Nile.

Get Your Tomato On

Wash tomatoes.  Cut an X over the top of the tomatoes and place in boiling water until the skin starts to crack.  Transfer to cold water and peel.  (This is all real messy business, but so worth it!)  Dice and place in clean, hot canning jar (I simply cut corners and pour boiling water over them rather than boiling in a pot.) until it comes to the shoulder.  Add one tablespoon of lemon juice for a pint, two for a quart and top with tomato juice or water.  Use a knife around the edges trying to get those pesky air bubbles out and make sure you have water up above the tomatoes leaving a half inch to the very top of the jar.  Replace lid, making sure that the rim is clean so the lid sticks good.  Boil in a large pot with water covering the jar for 35 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts.  Add one minute for every 1000 feet above sea level you live.  So here on the high plains of Colorado I need to boil my pints for 42 minutes.  Set on towel on counter and let cool off.  You should hear the joyous sound of lids popping and sealing in that early summer taste.  Label your jars and store in cool dark place.

www.millerfarms.net