Finding perfect cheese pairings for farmhouse styles is difficult. The beers are so varied that there isn’t a clear assignment for each style. You can be sure most Imperial Stouts will pair well with most blue cheeses. But what will most saisons pair with? Nothing! There is too much variety within the style.
The ideal cheese for a saison would be something customizable, something that can shift without too much effort. Enter: Farm Cheese!
Farm Cheese (or Farmers’ cheese) takes about 15 minutes to make, depending on how quickly your stovetop can heat milk. You end up with a blank canvas of squeaky fresh curds ready to be mixed and flavored however you please.
I like to mix in farmer’s market fresh basil and lemon zest. But I’ve also made it with blueberry jam and toasted coconut flakes. It works with sundried tomatoes as well as it can be mixed with pureed roasted garlic, the only limit to the flavors it can take on is the ingredients you can find to add.
Below is my recipe for Easy Farm Cheese, along with a few ideas for customizing it for your beer of choice.
Recipe for Easy Homemade Farm Cheese
This recipe for farm cheese uses bright flavors of lemon zest and herbs. However, it can be customized to your taste. I have a few suggestions below to make even stronger farmhouse ale pairings, too.
Homemade Farm Cheese
- 2 Quarts Whole Milk Anything but “Ultra Pasteurized”
- 1 Lemon
- 2 Tablespoons White Vinegar
- Herbs that will complement the farmhouse beer of your choosing
- In a medium pot over medium high heat, heat milk until almost boiling (190-195°F).
- Meanwhile, cut the lemon in half. Juice half of it into a liquid measuring cup and reserve the other half. Top the lemon juice with vinegar to reach the ¼ cup line on the liquid measuring cup. (This isn’t an exact process but we’re making cheese like rustic farmers here!)
- Once the milk has reached 190-195°F remove it from heat. Stir in a large pinch of salt. Then, pour in the lemon juice and vinegar mixture and stir to combine. Allow milk to curdle. This will take up to 10 minutes, don’t rush it!
- Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the strainer inside a large pot or bowl. This recipe makes about 6 cups of whey so make sure your bowl or pot is large enough to catch that.
- Once the milk is well curdled (you’ll see clear separations between the cheese curds and the whey will look like cloudy water) pour it over the cheesecloth. Reserve the whey.
- Allow the curds to cool slightly if they are too hot to handle. Then pull in the corners of the cheese cloth so the curds for a ball in the middle, squeeze out excess whey and tie with kitchen twine or a twist tie. Place in a bowl and allow to cool in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes or until the curds are easy to handle.
- Meanwhile, roughly chop your herbs and zest both halves of the lemon. About 2 tablespoons of herbs and 2 teaspoons of zest is enough.
- Once curds are cooled mix in herbs, zest, or your desired additions and another pinch of salt. If you find the curds too crumbly mix in a few tablespoons of the reserved whey.
*Save the Whey
Don’t let your whey go to waste even after you’ve stirred a little back into the cheese. You can add whey to smoothies for protein, use it as a base for cooking soups or stew, or my favorite way (hehe) making whey caramel!
Customize the Farm Cheese for Your Farmhouse Beer
The flavors this young fresh cheese can take on are endless, here are my favorite beer and mixin ingredient combinations:
Belgian Style Saisons: Chopped Basil or Parsley with Lemon Zest
The fresh grassiness of Belgian Style Saisons like Saison Du Pont is forgotten about because of the delightful citrus and spice yeast character. I find these herbs highlight those flavors in the beer, and a little lemon zest brightens the whole experience.
French Style Saisons: Ground White Pepper, Finely Grated Shallot
This one is a little odd but I’ve always found that French Saison has an uncanny ability to clean the palate of even the most harsh flavors. Between that cleansing effect of the beer, the rounding effects of the cheese and the inherent sweetness of shallot any too-sharp onion flavors are neutralized leaving a zesty interesting appetizer that plays on the dryness of French Saison and the spicy yeast character.
Bière de Garde: Cherry Preserves and White Raisins or Diced Dried Apricot
This sweeter side of the cheese highlights the rich fruit character created by the combination of dark malts and yeast esters. The pops of dried fruit are sweet but not too sweet, make sure you still add plenty of salt to the cheese for balance!
Wine Barrel Aged or Foeder Aged Farmhouse Ales: Honey and Grapefruit Zest
These beers tend to have at least some tartness to them and with so many other potential variables at play I think a little sweet/tart combination is a safe way to go. The sweetness will help level acidity and using grapefruit zest is a little twist on more common lemon zest, just like these beers tend to be a twist on our expectations.
Your Turn to Customize Farm Cheese
Tell me what you end up mixing into your cheese, or how you serve it!