This winter as I braved the elements across Europe, I settled for just under a month at a dairy farm a little ways out of Salzburg in Austria. I woke up every morning at 5am to help milk to 30 or so cows, spent the day doing tasks around the house, playing with my hosts’ son, taking small walks in attempts to glimpse the Alps through the fog, and desperately attempting to pick up this crazy dialect of Austrian German. Michaela, one of my hosts, taught me a lot of things about cooking and life on a dairy farm. We spent many afternoons making yogurt and different types of cheeses from the fresh milk. Here is one of my favorite recipes for a pretty simple and traditional Austrian soft cheese spread, called Topfen. Try it if you ever happen to have large quantities of cows’ milk at your disposal, or want to impress some friends.



photo Ronald Zak


6 L of milk

2-3% , in this case about .12 or .18 L of sour milk, buttermilk, or acidopholis milk

cheese cloth

Because we got the milk warm from the cows in the morning, we skipped this step, but otherwise heat the milk very slowly on low heat to 25 degrees C.

Put in a container covered with a damp cloth in a place where it can stay warm for about 2.5 weeks.  Try to avoid disturbing it or cooking pungent foods nearby.

After the time has passed, skim off some fat from the top (or keep it for a richer, fattier cheese).

Heat it up slowly again to 30 degrees Celsius. Heat it over a bowl of water if you can, to avoid burning.

Remove from heat. Use a spatula to slice into 3 cm sections.

Strain slowly through a dampened cheese cloth. Let it hang in the cloth over a bowl, shifting it around every 15 minutes or so.

photo by drowntown

Refrigerate. Add salts, jams, or whatever to prefer to flavor it. Should keep for 2 weeks, though you can freeze it to make it last longer.

The liquid that runs off the cheese is whey. This is high in nutrient can be used in a variety of ways. Check out the book Wild Fermentation for some ideas on how to use it.

post by Jackie Clark