Farmer's cheese is a simple, fresh cheese which is used in a variety of ways in many cultures. It is also sometimes referred to as pot cheese, farmer cheese, or improperly, as "farmers cheese." It can sometimes be difficult to find this cheese in stores, because it has classically been made on dairy farms for personal use. Some farms sell the cheese to customers, and it can also be made at home.
When this is made, milk is curdled to make cottage cheese, and the curds are ladled into cheesecloth and strained for several hours in a cool place. Some cooks leave the cheese relatively loose and crumbly, while others prefer to compress the cheese by squeezing the cheesecloth. The resulting cheese has a very mild, slightly creamy flavor, and it can be used as a filling in various dishes, a spread, and a component in a variety of other foods.
Cream cheese is similar to basic farmer's cheese, as is ricotta, although ricotta is made differently. All three of these cheeses can be substituted for each other in recipes, but it's best to stick with minimally processed cream cheese, rather than the heavily stabilized and extremely smooth types which are designed for use as spreads. Some people make this cheese at home by simply straining cottage cheese to remove the whey, although more ambitious cooks can make their own from scratch.
When making farmer's cheese at home, it's important to make sure to keep the working environment clean. This cheese is very low in acidity, and it can pick up a variety of bacteria which can cause people to get sick. Make sure to wash all utensils and use fresh cheesecloth. When hanging the cheese to drain, consider hanging it in the refrigerator. Although refrigerated cheese will take longer to drain than cheese drained at room temperature, it is less likely to pick up harmful bacteria, making it safer to eat.
This cheese generally keeps less than a week under refrigeration. It is not designed to be aged, and it will pick up a colorful assortment of molds and bacteria if it is kept around too long. This light, soft, simple cheese is designed for rapid consumption. It can be crumbled onto salads or mixed with herbs to make it into a spread which can be used for snacks and sandwiches. Fresh farmer's cheese can also be eaten plain, and many people who have access to dairy-fresh versions enjoy eating this cheese as a snack.