Farmhouse isn’t a distinct type of cheese; the term “farmhouse” refers to the process of its being produced on farms, often with much manual work or intervention, rather than through a completely automated process in factories.
The farmer will have his/her own herd and will use milk from that herd. The farmers feel that in using their own milk, they have greater control over the finished cheese product starting right with what the cattle are fed. The milk is used raw (e.g. unpasteurized); cause for a great many visits by government inspectors.
Farmhouse Cheese is generally cheddar — though “farmhouse” is now being applied to other cheeses, such as Farmhouse Cheshire and Lancashire Farmhouse. To make Farmhouse Cheddar, starter is added to milk to increase the acidity. Then rennet is added to make the milk clot. When the milk has clotted, the curd is cut and heated, letting the whey drain off. The curd is stirred, then cut into large chunks, then pressed to squeeze the last of the whey out. This is called the “cheddaring” process. The curd is let stand overnight, then cut, salted, wrapped in cloth (such as muslin) and dipped in wax.
Farmhouse Cheddar is lightly salted with a crumbly texture and creamy taste. The cheese will be a dark yellow or amber. The cheese was traditionally eaten after two months. Now, ripening periods of at least 3 months and up to 10 months are common to develop a sharper flavour. The cheeses are able to “breathe” well while aging, because they are wrapped in cloth, unlike factory-produced cheese, which is wrapped in plastic which doesn’t allow the cheese to breathe.
Farmhouse Cheeses are made in the UK, Ireland and Australia. There is a small movement already starting in Canada and the US, but the term in North America is in danger of being meaningless right from the start, as marketers are already subverting the name “farmhouse” and attaching it to cheeses made with milk bought from someone else. In Canada, there is no way around this, as farmers have been arrested for using their own milk: doing this is illegal under Canada’s government milk monopolies. A few farms in Quebec have received special permission, but this has not yet been extended (as of 2004) to farmers in the rest of Canada.
True Farmhouse Cheese is expensive.
Farmhouse Cheese is not the same as “Farmer’s Cheese.”