Easy Farmhouse Cheddar Hard Cheese Recipe

A Yogurt Cultured Cheese That is Perfect for Beginners

by From Scratch Farmstead
easy farmhouse cheddar hard cheese recipe

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Making hard cheese at home does not need to be intimidating. In fact, you might have everything you need on hand already! This yogurt-cultured farmhouse cheddar recipe is a tasty and versatile hard cheese that you’ll come back to time and time again.

Make Your Own Cheddar Cheese at Home!

Our family started in cheesemaking several years ago. Our real food journey led us to source the highest quality, locally produced farm goods – including milk!

Living in the suburbs at the time, raw milk was a luxury. But we’d go out of our way to buy it and enjoyed making homemade mozzarella occasionally.

Then we got a family milk cow on our homestead and milk was no longer in short supply! Cheesemaking became a weekly activity and venturing into the world of hard cheeses was inevitable. 

milking cow by hand in a field

But where to start? All the recipes I came across involved special cultures, expensive cheese presses, long aging times and techniques, and unnatural seeming ingredients.

At the time we were living in the middle of Amish country, and these simple and resourceful people gave us the inspiration we needed!

Farmhouse, or farmstead, cheddar originated with the Amish. I was thrilled to find, 1) it only needed a basic starter culture like yogurt or kefir, 2) I was actually able to rig up an easy homemade cheese press with items I already had in the kitchen, and 3) this cheese has a very short and uncomplicated aging process.

Natural Cheesemaking

I can’t talk about cheesemaking without mentioning David Asher and his book, The Art of Natural Cheesemaking. Every cheesemaker needs this book on their shelf!

book on the art of natural cheesemaking

Modern cheesemaking techniques have strayed far from their traditional forms. Cheddar is a perfect example. In fact, the bright orange coloring of cheddar we are used to seeing is a byproduct of industrial farming practices and the addition of annatto: A coloring agent used to cover up the vitamin deficiencies of non-pastured cows milk. 

Asher explains,

“Cows make colorful cheese when they feed on fresh green grass. Carotene, an essential vitamin as well as pigment in grass, colors the milk and the cheeses of pastured cows. But confined cows do not get their daily dose of carotene in their hay, haylage, or grains, and their milk shows its vitamin deficiencies when made into cheese: A cheddar made with pastured cows’ milk has a beautifully creamy color because of its carotene content; cheese made with milk from confined cattle is unnaturally white.”

While this farmhouse cheddar recipe is not found in Ashers book, his philosophies and techniques have influenced how I view the cheesemaking process and the type of natural cheese I want to make to feed and nourish my family.

How To Use Farmhouse Cheddar

Farmhouse cheddar has a mildly sharp taste. It’s texture is hard, but it will melt when shredded or sliced thin and is still smooth and creamy enough to enjoy fresh.

sliced farmhouse cheddar cheese

We use this cheese for about everything! You can dice it to top a creamy soup, savory porridge, or even a fresh salad. Thin slices go perfectly on any sandwich, or better yet, melted on a grilled cheese or toasted sandwich. And our absolute favorite is combining it with our homemade mozzarella on our deep-dish sourdough cast iron pizza!

This cheese also grates well and has hints of a parmesan. Farmhouse cheddar is truly versatile!

How Long Does It Take to Make Farmhouse Cheddar?

Traditional cheddar ages between 6 months to 1 year. This farmhouse cheddar recipe is ready in 3-5 weeks.

The cheese itself is made in just a couple hours. Then it undergoes a drying process for a few days. Once dried, the outside of the cheese is coated in butter to form a rind and preserve the cheese for aging.

aged farmhouse cheddar cheese

We age ours for about 4 weeks. The longer the cheese ages, the sharper the taste will get. The rind will also continue to dry out and get harder the longer you wait. We’ve found 4 weeks of aging to typically be the right amount.

Sourcing Ingredients

Both from David Ashers book and from experience, we’ve learned a lot about how to source the highest quality and most natural cheesemaking ingredients.

Milk

Cheesemaking pairs best with fresh milk that is as close to its natural form as possible. Finding raw milk from a local farm with cows raised on pasture is your best bet. Or, looking for milk that is not ultra-pasteurized and/or non-homogenized is an alternative. The beauty of this farmhouse cheddar recipe is that the milk never gets above 90° F. This preserves the native bacteria inside raw milk making a truly raw cheese.

fresh cows milk for making cheese at home

Yogurt/Kefir

Any plain yogurt or plain Greek yogurt will work to culture this farmhouse cheddar recipe. For best results, look for options without added thickeners or artificial ingredients. Culturing with kefir also works. Kefir will actually contain a higher quantity of the bacteria needed to culture your cheese.

Rennet

Rennet contains the enzyme from the fourth stomach of a calf that naturally coagulates milk to set it into a firm curd. Coagulated milk is easier to digest making nutrients more bioavailable. Nearly all cheesemaking requires rennet. We use WalcoRen tablets. They offer a pure and natural form of dried chymosin (enzyme from calf stomachs) with minimal additives. Many liquid rennet options are plant based and can contain genetically modified ingredients and other preservatives.

farmhouse cheddar cheese ingredients

Butter

Farmhouse cheddar ages with a thorough coating of butter. Raw milk butter will age best with the cheese. Lard can also be used to coat your cheese. If your sourcing of butter or lard is questionable, you may want to scrape off or cut off the rind once the cheese is aged before you eat it. We use homemade butter with milk from our cow and don’t remove the rind.

Salt

There are special cheesemaking salts that are more course. But any granulated salt will work. We recommend an unprocessed sea salt option and use Redmond Real Sea Salt as our salt of choice.

Do I need to buy cheesemaking equipment?

As I was thrilled to find out, you may not need to buy anything to make this farmhouse cheddar recipe! If you have a large stock pot, wooden spoon, slotted spoon, food thermometer, colander, strainer, drying rack, cookie sheet, and some other basic kitchen items, you likely have what you need!

Here are some equipment considerations:

Cheese Press

If you have a cheese press – great! If not, they can range from $50 up to hundreds of dollars to purchase. I don’t own a cheese press and have been making this cheese for years without one. We have a stainless-steel colander that came with our stock pot. I found a pot we had lying around that fits snuggly within that colander that acts as a follower. To apply weight, I simply add three (kombucha) filled quart sized mason jars to the follower pot. As more weight is needed, I stack heavy books on top of that. There are many ways to rig up a homemade cheese press and this system has worked perfectly so far!

simple homemade cheese press

Cheese Cave

Because of the low aging time of this cheese, your aging conditions are very forgiving. Typically, cheeses are aged in a cheese cave that maintains a temperature of 50° with high humidity. However, a cool basement will work for farmhouse cheddar, or even just a spot on your countertop. We have found it easy to forget about your cheese in the basement and have had fine results on the countertop. Aging in your fridge is also an option.

Thermometer

Any kitchen thermometer should work – especially considering that traditionally cheesemakers just used their finger to gauge temperatures! However, we did purchase this thermometer that works very well with cheesemaking.

farmstead cheddar cheese equipment

Curd Spoon

For years I used a standard large slotted spoon to scoop curd out of the pot. It works! But recently I did upgrade to this curd spoon which, I’ll admit, makes the process go much smoother and quicker!

Cheese Cloth

Picking up some cheese cloth is helpful for squeezing or straining out some whey from your curd. Butter muslin also works, or even a smooth thin cotton towel.

Farmhouse Cheddar Recipe

Equipment:

  • Stock pot
  • Cheese press*
  • Long handled wooden spoon
  • Long-bladed knife
  • Curd spoon or large slotted spoon
  • Thermometer
  • 1 cup liquid measuring cup
  • Strainer
  • Large bowl
  • Drying rack
  • Stock pot larger than the pot your milk will be in (or double boiler)
  • Cookie sheet
  • Cheesecloth for pressing
  • Smooth thin cotton towel for lining press
  • Cloth napkin to cover aging cheese

*If you don’t have a cheese press, see note earlier in post about making your own with common kitchen items.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 gallons fresh, good milk*
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt or active kefir**
  • Rennet (use dose that corresponds with milk quantity)
  • 2-3 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2-3/4 cup unchlorinated water
  • 3-5 Tbsp butter or lard

*The minimum amount of milk you will want to use is 2 gallons. Our stock pot fits 2.5 gallons, hence the 2.5 gallons for the recipe. Anywhere from 2-5+ gallons, depending on your equipment capacity, is great.

**Use around 1/8–1/4 cup active culture (yogurt or kefir) per gallon of milk used.

homemade aged farmhouse cheddar

Directions:

This recipe is broken down into many simple steps. Don’t be intimidated! Take it one step at a time.

Step 1

Pour milk into stock pot and place on medium heat stove top. Heat milk slowly to 90° F stirring often. 

Step 2

As milk is heating, dilute 1/3 cup yogurt or kefir with a couple tablespoons of fresh milk (I just use the milk that settles at the bottom of the milk jugs). Stir.

Step 3

Once milk has reached 90°, remove milk from stovetop. Pour in diluted yogurt or kefir. Stir immediately for about a minute. Place cover on stock pot and let milk sit undisturbed for 10 minutes to culture.

Step 4

Add rennet to unchlorinated water in a liquid measuring cup. I generally use about a ¼ cup of water per gallon of milk. Make sure tablets are fully dissolved.

rennet tablets being disolved in water
Step 5

Create a double boiler system to keep your milk at 90°. I do not have a double boiler and use a second larger stock pot filled about ¼-1/3 with 90-100° tap water. Once milk is cultured, place that stock pot inside the larger pot so the pot with the cultured milk is mostly surrounded by water.

Step 6

Pour in rennet and water. Stir quickly for about a minute. Place cover back on stock pot and let milk sit undisturbed for 20-40 minutes, or until a clean break* is achieved.

homemade double boiler for cheesemaking
Step 7

Once you have a clean break, slice the formed curd into roughly 1-inch cubes using a long-bladed knife. Slice top to bottom and left to right vertically, and also do your best to slice horizontally in 1-inch increments. Any large curd chunks missed can be made smaller during stirring.

Step 8

Stir the cubed curd for 15-20 minutes with a wooden spoon to release the whey. If large curd chunks that missed being cut are observed, break them into smaller pieces with your spoon. The curd cubes will go from having sharp edges to rounded edges. Once the curd is roughly the consistency of a poached egg, the curd is ready.

Step 9

Scoop a baseball sized portion of curd into a waiting strainer lined with cheesecloth. Be sure your strainer is sitting on top of a large bowl to catch the whey. Gather up the cheese cloth and gently squeeze the curd to drain some whey. This step is just to remove some excess whey; the cheese press will remove any remaining whey. Place ball of curd into waiting cheese press (or colander if using my cheese press method mentioned above) lined with smooth thin cloth. Place cheese press on top of a cookie sheet to collect whey.

Step 10

After 2-3 balls of curd are added to your press, sprinkle about a tablespoon of salt on top of your curd. Work salt into the curd with your hand. Repeat this step along the way until all your curd is in the press and salt is thoroughly distributed throughout.

Step 11

Add follower to cheese press. Apply just enough weight to your press to see steady drips of whey flowing below. Let sit in press for 12 hours increasing weight gently to remove whey. Your cookie sheet collecting whey may need to be emptied during this process.

homemade cheese press using colander

Step 12

After 12 hours, remove cheese from press, flip it, and reinsert into press. Apply weight again to gently remove whey and let sit another 12 hours.

Step 13

Remove cheese from press. Place on drying rack and cover fully with cloth napkin. Allow cheese to dry out for 3-5 days flipping a few times daily.

Note: As cheese dries, it may form mold on the surface. This is normal. Wash down moldy spots with apple cider vinegar.

Step 14

After the outside of the cheese dries or mold has formed (clean as noted above), coat the cheese thoroughly in butter (or lard). Room temperature butter works best. Place buttered cheese back on drying rack and cover with cloth napkin.

spreading butter on wheel of cheese
Step 15

Put cheese away to age for 3-4 weeks, flipping once a day.**

*If you are new to cheesemaking, like I was, the term “clean break” won’t make sense. Essentially, this is just the home cheesemakers method knowing if the curd has set. To check for a clean break, simply insert your finger into the top of the curd 1-2” at a 45 degree angle. Lift your finger out, pulling on the curd. If the curd breaks clean and there is minimal or no curd remnants on your finger, then you have a clean break. If the curd is not yet separated, or fully separated, wait 5-10 more minutes then try again.

**Should cheese form moldy spot while aging, spot clean the moldy area with apple cider vinegar and reapply butter (or lard) coating.

A Note on How To Use Whey and Why

Whey is the natural byproduct of cheesemaking. Milk contains curd plus whey; making cheese separates the two. Whey is a nutrient rich food that contains protein along with vitamins and minerals.

Because of this, don’t just discard your whey! Pouring it down the drain is a missed opportunity to use this amazing food.

scooping curd while making cheddar at home

Here are some ways we use leftover whey:

  • As a stock for soups, stews, or porridge.
  • To cook things like rice, beans, and oats in.
  • As a water replacement in breadmaking or baking.
  • Pour in garden or landscape areas for fertilizer.
  • Feed to animals like pigs or chickens. (Dogs or cats will appreciate it too – just in small quantities to not upset their stomach!)

Best Hard Cheese Recipe for Beginners

In my opinion, this is the best hard cheese recipe out there for the beginning cheesemaker.

The steps and techniques are remarkably forgiving and entry level. Over time you’ll dial in the process to end up with just the right flavor and consistency for your liking. And, regardless of how your cheese ends up looking, your family and friends will be blown away that you made your own hard cheese at home.

Enjoy this farmhouse cheddar recipe and drop us a comment if you have any questions!

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easy farmhouse cheddar hard cheese recipe

EASY FARMHOUSE CHEDDAR HARD CHEESE RECIPE

Yield: Approx. 2 lbs. of cheese

Making hard cheese at home does not need to be intimidating. In fact, you might have everything you need on hand already! This yogurt-cultured farmhouse cheddar recipe is a tasty and versatile hard cheese that you’ll come back to time and time again.

Ingredients

  • 2.5 gallons fresh, good milk*
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt or active kefir**
  • Rennet (use dose that corresponds with milk quantity)
  • 2-3 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2-3/4 cup unchlorinated water
  • 3-5 Tbsp butter or lard

Instructions

    1. Pour milk into stock pot and place on medium heat stove top. Heat milk slowly to 90° F stirring often.
    2. As milk is heating, dilute 1/3 cup yogurt or kefir with a couple tablespoons of fresh milk (I just use the milk that settles at the bottom of the milk jugs). Stir.
    3. Once milk has reached 90°, remove milk from stovetop. Pour in diluted yogurt or kefir. Stir immediately for about a minute. Place cover on stock pot and let milk sit undisturbed for 10 minutes to culture.
    4. Add rennet to unchlorinated water in a liquid measuring cup. I generally use about a ¼ cup of water per gallon of milk. Make sure tablets are fully dissolved.
    5. Create a double boiler system to keep your milk at 90°. I do not have a double boiler and use a second larger stock pot filled about ¼-1/3 with 90-100° tap water. Once milk is cultured, place that stock pot inside the larger pot so the pot with the cultured milk is mostly surrounded by water.
    6. Pour in rennet and water. Stir quickly for about a minute. Place cover back on stock pot and let milk sit undisturbed for 20-40 minutes, or until a clean break* is achieved.
    7. Once you have a clean break, slice the formed curd into roughly 1-inch cubes using a long-bladed knife. Slice top to bottom and left to right vertically, and also do your best to slice horizontally in 1-inch increments. Any large curd chunks missed can be made smaller during stirring.
    8. Stir the cubed curd for 15-20 minutes with a wooden spoon to release the whey. If large curd chunks that missed being cut are observed, break them into smaller pieces with your spoon. The curd cubes will go from having sharp edges to rounded edges. Once the curd is roughly the consistency of a poached egg, the curd is ready.
    9. Scoop a baseball sized portion of curd into a waiting strainer lined with cheesecloth. Be sure your strainer is sitting on top of a large bowl to catch the whey. Gather up the cheese cloth and gently squeeze the curd to drain some whey. This step is just to remove some excess whey; the cheese press will remove any remaining whey. Place ball of curd into waiting cheese press (or colander if using my cheese press method mentioned above) lined with smooth thin cloth. Place cheese press on top of a cookie sheet to collect whey.
    10. After 2-3 balls of curd are added to your press, sprinkle about a tablespoon of salt on top of your curd. Work salt into the curd with your hand. Repeat this step along the way until all your curd is in the press and salt is thoroughly distributed throughout.
    11. Add follower to cheese press. Apply just enough weight to your press to see steady drips of whey flowing below. Let sit in press for 12 hours increasing weight gently to remove whey. Your cookie sheet collecting whey may need to be emptied during this process.
    12. After 12 hours, remove cheese from press, flip it, and reinsert into press. Apply weight again to gently remove whey and let sit another 12 hours.
    13. Remove cheese from press. Place on drying rack and cover fully with cloth napkin. Allow cheese to dry out for 3-5 days flipping a few times daily.

      Note: As cheese dries, it may form mold on the surface. This is normal. Wash down moldy spots with apple cider vinegar.
    14. After the outside of the cheese dries or mold has formed (clean as noted above), coat the cheese thoroughly in butter (or lard). Room temperature butter works best. Place buttered cheese back on drying rack and cover with cloth napkin.
    15. Put cheese away to age for 3-4 weeks, flipping once a day.**

Notes

*If you are new to cheesemaking, like I was, the term “clean break” won’t make sense. Essentially, this is just the home cheesemakers method knowing if the curd has set. To check for a clean break, simply insert your finger into the top of the curd 1-2” at a 45 degree angle. Lift your finger out, pulling on the curd. If the curd breaks clean and there is minimal or no curd remnants on your finger, then you have a clean break. If the curd is not yet separated, or fully separated, wait 5-10 more minutes then try again.

**Should cheese form moldy spot while aging, spot clean the moldy area with apple cider vinegar and reapply butter (or lard) coating.

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