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Farmer's Cheese - what is it? And what to do with it?

I love cheese. When I am in the store, forget the the cookies, cakes, and sweets. I am tempted by the cheese aisle. Recently I have really enjoyed Bel Paese - a creamy, soft Italian cheese that comes wrapped in individual servings in gold foil. I had always loved it, but last weekend I had friends over unexpectedly. When I served some wine, I wondered what hors d'ouvre I could offer. Then I remembered I had the Bel Paese! Served with some crackers, everyone loved it and thought it was great because they had their own little "wheel" of cheese.

I digress a little. After enjoying the Bel Paese, I started thinking about other soft creamy cheeses. I have also served Cream Cheese with assorted savory jams and salsas - chutney, salsa, carrot jam - and on a cracker it is addictive. So I decided to see what creamy cheeses were readily available at my local grocer (not my gourmet grocer). And? Right there by the cream cheese, ranch dip, and guacamole (?) was Friendship Brand "Farmer's Cheese". I figured since it was near the cream cheese it would be similar - if not the same. But as you may know, what it actually is is a mild cross between cream cheese and ricotta cheese, flavor and texture-wise.

I find it delicious and a good base for other flavors. I use it like I describe how I use cream cheese above - but I wonder. Farmer's Cheese sounds old fashioned. Is there a traditional way to enjoy or cook with this cheese? And if not, what do you do with it?

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  1. - spread on toast or bagels
    - if it's pressed & well-drained you can pan-fry it or use as a substitute for paneer in Indian dishes
    - use as filling for pierogies, blintzes, or filled pastas (stuffed shells, ravioli, lasagna, etc)
    - cheesecake or other baked desserts (if you're Jewish - kugel!)
    - blend with yogurt, sour cream or mayo as a base for dip
    - use as a substitute for cotija or a less-salty alternative to feta

    6 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      Hi, GHG, and thanks! These are all good recommendations. I wonder, is this one of those old school cheeses like "Roca Blue" that has been in the dairy aisle since the '40s? And if so, how was it used?

      1. re: SamuelAt

        Farmer's cheese is the traditional filling for cheese blintzes, and it's used in other Ashkenazi Jewish American recipes (like some kugels, as GHG mentioned). Definitely an old-school ingredient, now hard to find, especially outside the Northeast.

        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

          In Michigan, Zingerman's of Ann Arbor has wonderful farmer's cheese. when i find it at various area markets always buy it. my fav way to eat it is spread on crusty bread with preserve or marmalade.

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            I made noodle kugel for Shevous-
            delicious-chag sameach

          2. re: SamuelAt

            It's flavor is close to cottage cheese, but the texture is much dryer.

          3. re: goodhealthgourmet

            I love it on toast or spread on tomato or cucumber rounds. It's also good in a sandwich on pita with lettuce, tomato, and some olives. A friend of mine fills mini peppers with a mixture of farmer cheese and chopped scallions.

          4. "Queso campesino" = "Farmers' cheese" is ubiquitous and fairly similar all over Latin America. It is the first off, traditional, bland palate on which you can do thousands of things.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              I am from Uruguay, and we call it 'queso blanco' (meaning: "white cheese").

              elisa

              1. re: ElisaS

                In the Andes, including here in Colombia, most of the quesos campesino are cuajados; while quesos blancos are more refined, more solid.

            2. Is the stuff used in blintzes and queso campesino really the same thing?

              I don't know how to eat it 'properly', either, but I cut the stuff that's marketed as queso campesino into a fine dice, mix it into my arepa dough and pan fry the arepa until the cheese is gooey through and through. *Great*

              2 Replies
              1. re: cimui

                Farmer cheese (also farmer's cheese or farmers' cheese) is a simple cheese often used for fillings in blintzes and other foods. Farmer cheese is made by pressing most of the moisture from cottage cheese; pressed drier still, it is sometimes rolled in a mixture of herbs and flavorings, or wrapped in very thin slices of flavorful smoked meats. Around the world, farmer cheese is variably made from milk from cows, sheep, or goats, each with its own final texture and nuance of flavor. There are several forms of cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is the fresh drained curds of slightly soured, low fat pasteurized milk. When the curds are drained, the cheese is called cottage cheese; if drained longer it is called pot cheese. When the remaining moisture is pressed out so it becomes dry and crumbly, it is called farmer's cheese. Another variety is paneer, or Indian farmer cheese, which is easily made at home. It should be consumed fresh, as it goes stale if kept too long, and becomes brittle and useless with refrigeration. In Canada, the term "farmer's cheese" refers to a different type of white cheese that does not have a rind and is firm but springy in texture. It is mild, milky and buttery in flavor. Canadian "farmer's cheese" may be used in a similar fashion to Colby or Cheddar.
                -----------------------------------------------------

                I agree with the bagles and crackers, etc. Something to try ... Champagne jelly (usually available at farmers markets or in a regular grocery store with the cheese on crackers. Addictive as you mentioned. A total favorite.

                I also make a toasted baguette toasted with the cheese and then topped with a spicy cucumber salsa.

                Stuff small jalapenos ribs and seeds removed stuff with the cheese mixed with some scallions and pancetta and bake until peppers begin to get soft and the cheese melts.

                Good revioli filling too

                My favorite, pecans, cheese, scallions, thin pear slices and honey with strips of maple bacon. I stuff a thin chicken breast. Spread the cheese mixed with the nuts and scallions, then top with bacon and then pears thin diced. Roll and then dip in egg and then dip in a mix of bread crumbs and nuts. Pan saute and then bake to finish off. I make a light white sauce in the pan while the chicken rest with apple cider, scallions, maple syrup, some red pepper for spice and fresh thyme. A very light sauce. A really good dish. The cheese is gooey and mild and a great flavor.

                1. re: kchurchill5

                  Wow - thanks to you and all the other posters for the explanation and also the ideas. I am sure I will be finding ways to enjoy what I have. What is interesting, texture-wise, is that the Friendship brand cheese I bought in my dairy section (probably a North East brand) is a dense, moist texture. It is exactly what I imagine in a cheese blintz now that you mention it. (I am not Jewish but have had blintzes on a few occasions.) It is a good cheese base for a lot of other flavors. The recipes and ideas above sound great - I look forward to trying.

              2. I made a cheesecake with it last week. It was delicious! A bit softer and creamier than philedelphia, but free of vegetable gums and thickeners.

                1. My German grandmother uses farmer's cheese to make her Christmas Stollen every year, and has also used it in cheesecake. She says if you can't find it you can use ricotta cheese, but drain it first.

                  1. We mainly use farmers cheese for filling blintzes, but another one of my favorites is to crumble it and toss it in with some bow tie pasta along with some onions sauteed in butter, salt and pepper for a quick lenten meal.

                    1. As everyone has mentioned there are a lot of uses for this cheese. If you check out Anne Mendelson's new book called Milk, she has some recipes for these types of cheeses. You can see her making one of the recipes from the book on my website http://www.thedairyshow.com/the_dairy...

                      mjc

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: thedairyshow

                        Great website! And thanks for the recommendation. Anne Mendelson's recipe sounds like real comfort food. I will be trying that.

                      2. In my neck of the woods what is called “Farmer’s Cheese” seems to be something different. It isn’t anything like Ricotta or cream cheese. It is more akin to Mozzarella. It’s a solid but pliable cheese with a creamy flavor a little less “sharp” than that of Swiss. It’s delicious and cheap and made locally.

                        I’m beginning to wonder if it is “Farmer’s Cheese” at all, and not a home made Mozzarella.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: cuccubear

                          Hmm, that sounds different from what I am talking about - but let's face it, with a name like "Farmer's Cheese" there is probably a large variety! This is the standard available in groceries in the NYC area.

                          1. re: cuccubear

                            Yes, in the USA there are vastly different types of 'Farmer's Cheese'. In Wisconsin is a 'normal looking cheese'. I think here we are talking about the one that's hard to find, comes in a block, and it's like a very dry, crumbly cottage cheese. Used for blintzes, German cheesecakes (the ones with no crust or filling), and many other fantastic dishes (good with plain boiled noodles). Of course, it also goes into lokshn kugel (noodle ... something).

                            1. re: ElisaS

                              In Canada, or at least southern Ontario around Toronto, we also have an inexpensive ripened cheese we call Farmer's Cheese that looks a lot like a mild tasting mozzarella. My Mom used to make cheese and tomato sandwiches with it all the time growing up.
                              However, we also sometimes use the kind of unripened Farmer's Cheese and refer to it as Quark at the market. I am Latvian and use it to make the cheese (not bread) version of Paska at Easter. As someone noted below, it is made with butter, cream, sugar, almonds and candied fruit then molded and drained. Ends up like a crustless cheesecake with fruit and nuts. This one is closest to my Mom's recipe: http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/...

                            2. re: cuccubear

                              Sad but true. The "Farmers Cheese" that's readily available at many supermarkets these days is NOTHING like authentic "Farmers Cheese".

                              The "new" Farmers Cheese is like a rubbery Mozzarella. "Authentic" Farmers Cheese is as others posted have described - a somewhat dryer cottage cheese-type product.

                              Years ago, local deli counters used to sell it in blocks like some do with Feta cheese these days.

                            3. Add jfood to the blintze list with Farmer's Cheese. but his variant is to combine 50-50 with cream cheese.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jfood

                                Add some honey and some warm spices and then I also like some cottage to break up the texture and a spoon a powdered sugar to add some sweetness. Add some fresh fruit, just simmered and presto, perfect. Top with fresh chopped nuts which I love.

                              2. Hello,
                                Went to a resturant and had this as an appertizer
                                Farmer's cheese mixed with a basil paste, drizzled with olive oil, and pine nuts. Served with crusty toasted rounds, or crackers. very yummy.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Chelleim2009

                                  Yum. Will try this - I have some pesto i froze after making last summer. Thanks.

                                  1. re: SamuelAt

                                    My Italian mother-in-law used this cheese to add to pesto (I cannot find the link now), instead of Parmigianno

                                2. Tastes great straight- used to call it "ice cream cheese". Slice and eat like feta (of course much lighter and milder, and hold the olive oil).

                                  1. I eat it right from the package (all we get is Friendship here in VA), or spread it on matzah. It's very healthy for cheese, just 50 calories per ounce! Don't forget to re-wrap the cheese in the wet paper or it will dry out fast.

                                    My family used to take slightly moldy farmers cheese, melt it in a pan, and scoop it up with bread or bagels right from the pan. This was a big sunday morning treat (I never partook). It was known as "Shmudra." Do not ask me why.

                                    1. My mother's family would mix it with cream cheese, whatever ratio you prefer-I usually use 16 oz of farmers cheese and a small brick of cream cheese add a little milk to make it creamy and some green onions and cilantro and a dash of tabasco. mix well and spread on a bagel-delicious! God, I have to make some....

                                      1. The Friendship farmer's cheese, which I prefer, is hard to find in my local area. Can you successfully freeze it? If so, can I just stick it in the freezer or do I need to re-package it? Thanks!

                                        1. Here in Texas, at least, farmer's cheese means homemade cheese, made, well, by farmers in rural areas--or more accurately their wives. My grandparents (now deceased) ran a small dairy in Williamson County, Texas (in an area populated by Czech and German immigrants), and my grandmother and her other Czech-American friends and relatives used to put homemade farmer's cheese, mixed with sugar and egg into kolaches as a filling. My grandmother's cheese kolaches were always my favorite. Sadly, she never gave me the recipe. But, you can find similar kolach recipes on the Burleson County, Texas website. http://www.burlesoncountytx.com/Kolac.... I'm not sure how the ladies in my grandma's hometown made their farmer's cheese, but since I can't find an organic version available even at any of the local health food grocery stores, I'm going to try making it myself using a recipe on the internet.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: cindyprp

                                            Interesting! Sounds like a similar cheese to what I purchased. I'd be curious to hear how the recipe works out for you.

                                          2. I use Friendship brand farmers cheese (along w/an = amount of gruyere), bacon,garlic and chives to make a cast iron skillet new potato dish. Cook the bacon. Slice the potatoes, add the other ingredients, and sort of smush them as they cook. It's great!

                                            1. My family makes a filling for pierogies, We eat them traditionally on Christmas Eve. Found your post, because I am looking for a place to purchase it about 30 miles east of Atlanta, GA. I grew up in Niagara Falls, NY!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: May66

                                                It's not hard to find-most of our local groceries sell it. That said, I've encountered three problems: 1)most grocery staff do not seem to know WHERE in the store to display it-sometimes it's in the "specialty" cheese area, sometimes it's in the cheese aisle w/the velveeta, sometimes it's in the dairy case w/the cream cheese... 2)Most grocery staff don't know WHAT it is, so if you ask them "Where is the farmer's cheese?" they have no clue what you're talking about, and 3)There usually aren't very MANY (as in quantity). To further confuse things, some stores sell pre-packaged and sized Friendship cheese blocks, and some cut off what you need from a larger block (which can then be wrapped and placed somewhere in the store...).

                                                Pretend you are on an important mission! The goal? Farmer's cheese! There will be obstacles in your way. There will be people in your way, whose job it is to make your mission impossible. Then, when you finally find that block of farmer's cheese, you can feel victorious!

                                                Or you can just substitute cream cheese. Or blanco queso. Or creme fraiche. Or neutchafel. Or chevre...

                                              2. It is the main ingredient in Pashka, that low calorie health food served at Orthodox Easter. In addition to 2 lbs of farmer cheese, the recipe I use takes 6 egg yolks, 3/4 lb of butter, a cup of heavy cream, and 1.5 c of sugar.

                                                This is definitely a once a year treat.

                                                1. Grew up with the stuff. I like it simply on good toasted bread with salt and pepper. My mother used to serve it to us when we were home sick from school mixed into egg noodles with a dollop of sour cream and cinnamon, sugar.

                                                  1. Friendship Farmers Cheese is made in the very small town of Friendship in NY, a few miles from where I live. They also make Cottage Cheese & alot of other dairy products. Sad to say, I drove by by the Friendship Dairy Plant the other day and was shocked to see that all their signs were down and were replaced by another company. I think we no longer be seeing any more Friendship products. So sad.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: DonnaMarie620

                                                      Really?!?! That's awful. I buy the cottage and farmer cheese weekly