Homemade Cultured Soft Cheese (aka “Dream” Cheese)

by | Jun 2, 2021 | Cook, Dairy, Fermented, Recipes

Learn how to add to the variety of cultured products in your home by making your own nutritious homemade “dream” cheese (or cultured fresh cheese) that will last all year long.

A woman holding up a finished jar of herbed soft cheese submerged in olive oil.

Why I Love This Recipe

Dream Cheese (or homemade soft cheese) is a delicious way not only to preserve cultured dairy products but also to boost your immune system with good bacteria from fermented foods. Dream cheese makes for a delicious appetizer served with crackers and vegetables like pizza beans, or an easy lunch served with a couple of slices of fresh artisan bread.

What is “Dream” Cheese?

Dream Cheese is an herbed soft cheese marinated in olive oil. It is a simple savory fresh cheese that can be made from several different products. The entire process spans over a few days, but the active work on each of those days is just a few minutes.

A woman showing how to tie a slipknot.

Ingredients and Supplies Needed

  • Yogurt, Kefir or Clabbered Milk – We make our own yogurt, but if you don’t have homemade yogurt, you can buy a quality yogurt from the store. Look for plain yogurt (not flavored or sweetened) without thickeners like pectin, milk powders, or gelatin. The ingredients should simply be milk and live active cultures. We make kefir by the half-gallon every day during the dairy season. It can be used for smoothies, or to culture cheese instead of buying a store-bought culture. If you don’t know what clabbered milk is, go ahead and check out our video on clabbered milk.
  • Unbleached Muslin – I used a true cheesecloth. When I say “true cheesecloth” I’m not talking about the cloth that looks a lot like gauze. That product cannot be used for cheesemaking. You will need a cloth that is made from unbleached muslin. A food-grade muslin bag that is for making Greek yogurt, leftover muslin from a sewing project, or butter muslin all work well, as does cheesecloth with a thread count of 50 or more. If you don’t have any of these, you can use an old plain white t-shirt. It will just need to be properly prepared by washing thoroughly and then boiled to make sure all residual detergent has been rinsed out.
  • Salt – You will need 1 teaspoon of salt for every quart of yogurt, clabbered milk, or kefir you begin with. Salt not only acts as a flavor enhancer but also will act as a preservative to inhibit the growth of any bad bacteria so that the cultures already present can continue to develop.
  • Dried Italian Seasoning – The moisture from fresh herbs will cause spoilage, so make sure to use fully dried herbs in this recipe. Feel free to play around with this recipe, and use any savory seasonings of your choice.
  • Olive Oil – Use the best quality organic extra virgin olive oil your budget can afford.
  • Large Bowl & Colander – Make sure your bowl is large enough for the colander to fit inside.
  • Kitchen String – This is just twine or cotton string.
  • Small Bowl – You can use the larger bowl to catch the whey, but a smaller bowl can be used while hanging the cheese to save on counter space.
  • Mason Jar – The size of your jar depends on the amount of cheese you intend to make. I use a half-gallon jar because I make several batches over the course of a few days, and keep adding to my jar. If you plan to make just one batch, a quart jar should be sufficient.
  • Clean Hands – It is important whenever working with a cultured product to use freshly clean hands so that you do not introduce any foreign bacterias that will interfere with the cultures that are already present in your food product.
A woman pouring a half-gallon of milk kefir into a colander lined with butter muslin.
A woman holding up a bag of kefir draining the whey off.
A woman showing the whey that's dripped off a bag of cultured cheese.
A woman showing the consistency of cultured soft cheese.

Step by Step Instructions:

  1. Line colander with cloth, and pour in the yogurt, clabbered milk, or kefir. I had all three on hand but chose to use the kefir and save the yogurt for breakfast, and the clabbered milk as a treat for our backyard egg-laying chickens
  2. Cut about three feet of string, bring the ends together, tie in a knot, and then loop the string through itself to make a slip knot (demonstration at 5:00 in the video). 
  3. Gather muslin on all sides to make a pouch for the kefir to sit at the bottom, slip the string over the ends of the muslin, and pull tight. 
  4. Lift the pouch out of the colander, and hang to allow the whey to drain out through the muslin. I use the cup hooks in my pantry to hang the pouch with a small bowl sitting below it to catch the whey as it drains. 
  5. Allow the pouch to hang for 12-24 hours. 
  6. Remove from the hook, drain any whey that has collected in the bowl, open the pouch, and at this point, you have what is called “yogurt cheese” or “kefir cheese”. This cheese is a soft cheese that can be eaten just as it is, seasoned with salt and herbs and served on crackers, or topped with jam, fruit preserves, or even seasonal fruit. We are going to move onto the next stage, though, to make our kefir cheese into dream cheese. 
  7. Add salt, and mix thoroughly with a spoon removing all cheese that has adhered to the muslin as you go. 
  8. Gather ends of the muslin, make a pouch again, and secure with the string. Resist the temptation to use a clean cheesecloth at this point. It may seem messy, but the original cheesecloth has now been inoculated with good bacteria. By switching to a clean cheesecloth, you will be reducing the strength of the good bacteria making it easier for the bad bacteria to cause spoilage. 
  9. Hang for another 24 hours to allow the salt to pull out as much residual moisture as possible. This is an important safety step before marinating in olive oil because moisture under oil will spoil. 
  10. Remove from the hook, drain any whey that has collected in the bowl, open the pouch, and remove the cheese from the cloth into the bowl. 
  11. With clean hands, form cheese into 2” balls, roll in seasoning of choice and place in a clean jar. 
  12. Pour in enough olive oil to completely submerge the cheese, and cover with a lid. 
  13. If you have a consistently cool dark place like a cool pantry, root cellar, wine cellar, or cold storage, this would be the ideal place to store your cheese for up to a year. It will be cold enough for preservation, but not so cold that it will solidify the oil. If you don’t have a cold storage option, the cheese will keep just fine in the refrigerator. You will just need to allow the oil to come back to a liquid state before removing the cheese from the jar to ensure that the remaining cheese is still completely covered with oil before placing the jar back in storage. 
  14. For best results, allow the cheese to marinate for a week before consuming. The cheese is safe to eat right away, but waiting will allow the flavor to fully develop. 
A woman forming cultured cheese into a ball.
A woman placing soft cheese balls into a mason jar.

How to Use Dream Cheese

You can use dream cheese the same way you would use any other soft cheese such as ricotta, cream cheese, etc.. 

It’s delicious on homemade crackers, crusty bread, spread onto bagels, or even sliced on top of a green salad.

A woman pouring olive oil into a mason jar filled with soft cheese balls.

Storing Herbed Dream Cheese

If you have cold storage that stays at a consistently cool temperature (anywhere from 50-65 degrees), you can store the jar of cheese on the shelf as long as the olive oil stays above the cheese.

You can also store the cheese in the refrigerator, however, the olive oil will solidify and you’ll want to allow the container to come back to room temperature before trying to scoop out the cheese. If you try scooping them out when everything is solid, you’ll end up getting some cheese and some oil and make a big mess.

Trust me when I say let this come up to room temperature for about an hour before getting the cheese out.

A woman holding up an herb coated soft cheese ball.

FAQs

Is cultured cheese safe to store at room temperature?

Yes, as long as the temperature is consistent and not getting too high, you can safely store your cheese at room temperature for up to 12 months.

What if I don’t have cold-storage? Where should I store my cheese?

If you don’t have anywhere in your home where the temperature is consistently cool, then you can store this cheese in the refrigerator.

Just know the olive oil will solidify and you’ll want to bring it up to room temperature before scooping out the cheese.

How long can I store homemade cultured cheese?

Your cultured cheese will be safe to eat for up to a year, if stored properly. It will continue to deepen in flavor and taste even better the longer it is stored.

What about bacteria in my cheese?

Because this is a cultured soft cheese, there is already a presence of beneficial bacteria in your cheese. The good bacteria will essentially destroy any bad bacteria. 

The salt in the recipe also helps remove excess moisture, further helping to preserve your cheese. 

So though there is bacteria, it is beneficial bacteria and good for your body, not harmful.

As long as you’re storing your cheese properly, and not contaminating the container when scooping out the cheese, you will be just fine.

If at any time your cheese looks or smells off, then toss the entire jar and start over with a fresh batch.

Can I re-use the olive oil my cheese was in?

One question we get asked most often about Dream cheese is whether you can use the olive oil once you eat all the cheese.

Yes! You can absolutely use that olive oil, in fact, we encourage it as it’s perfectly good (and frugal) to use it up! We tend to use ours for salad dressings as, occasionally, there will be bits of herbs still in the oil.

Afterall, the process of making fresh cultured cheese is very simple, and the results are so delicious, I can’t imagine this herbed cheese will last very long!

Did you make this recipe? If you did, please leave a star rating on the recipe card below, and we’d love to see your finished “Dream” cheese! Tag us on social media @homesteadingfamily.

Be sure to check out our other fermented recipes below the recipe card!

A woman holding up a finished jar of herbed soft cheese submerged in olive oil.

Homemade Herbed Soft Cheese

This herbed soft cheese has been cultured and submerged in olive oil and can last, at room temperature, for up to a year! Enjoy it spread on crackers, crusty bread, or sliced on top of a green salad.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin
Course: Cheese, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Draining Time: 2 days
Total Time: 2 days 10 minutes
Servings: 6 large cheese balls
Calories: 205kcal
Author: Carolyn Thomas

Equipment

  • Unbleached Muslin (or cheesecloth with threadcount of 50 or more)
  • Large Bowl & Colander
  • Kitchen String
  • Mason Jar

Ingredients

  • 8 cups milk kefir or yogurt or clabbered milk
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoning
  • 4 cups olive oil

Instructions

  • Line colander with cloth, and pour in the yogurt, clabbered milk, or kefir.
  • Cut about three feet of string, bring the ends together, tie in a knot, and then loop the string through itself to make a slip knot (demonstration at 5:00 in the video). Gather muslin on all sides to make a pouch for the kefir to sit at the bottom, slip the string over the ends of the muslin, and pull tight. 
  • Lift the pouch out of the colander, and hang to allow the whey to drain out through the muslin. I use the cup hooks in my pantry to hang the pouch with a small bowl sitting below it to catch the whey as it drains. Allow the pouch to hang for 12-24 hours. 
  • Remove from the hook, drain any whey that has collected in the bowl, open the pouch, and at this point, you have what is called “yogurt cheese” or “kefir cheese”.
  • Add salt, and mix thoroughly with a spoon removing all cheese that has adhered to the muslin as you go. 
  • Gather ends of the muslin, make a pouch again, and secure with the string. Resist the temptation to use a clean cheesecloth at this point. It may seem messy, but the original cheesecloth has now been inoculated with good bacteria. By switching to a clean cheesecloth, you will be reducing the strength of the good bacteria making it easier for the bad bacteria to cause spoilage. Hang for another 24 hours to allow the salt to pull out as much residual moisture as possible.
  • Remove from the hook, drain any whey that has collected in the bowl, open the pouch, and remove the cheese from the cloth into the bowl. 
  • With clean hands, form cheese into 2” balls, roll in seasoning of choice and place in a clean jar. Continue until all cheese has been formed into balls.
  • Pour in enough olive oil to completely submerge the cheese, and cover with a lid. 
  • If you have a consistently cool dark place like a cool pantry, root cellar, wine cellar, or cold storage, this would be the ideal place to store your cheese for up to a year.

Video

Notes

  • Don’t be tempted to use a clean cheesecloth or butter muslin on the second day, the cloth has been inoculated with beneficial bacteria and will help keep your cheese strong and full of good bacteria. Switching to a clean cloth will reduce the volume of beneficial bacteria, potentially resulting in cheese that goes bad.
  • If you don’t have a cold storage option, the cheese will keep just fine in the refrigerator. You will just need to allow the oil to come back to a liquid state before removing the cheese from the jar to ensure that the remaining cheese is still completely covered with oil before placing the jar back in storage.
  • For best results, allow the cheese to marinate for a week before consuming. The cheese is safe to eat right away, but waiting will allow the flavor to fully develop. 

Nutrition

Calories: 205kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 40mg | Sodium: 942mg | Potassium: 25mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 690IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 432mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?We want to see! Tag @homesteadingfamily on Instagram.
A woman holding up a jar of fermented green beans.

More Fermented Recipes & Resources

How Long Is Canned Food Good For?

How Long Is Canned Food Good For?

You've taken the time to prepare and can your own food, then you've stored them away on the pantry shelf… but how long is canned food good for? If you have cans of food on the shelf that have been there for more than a year, are they still good to eat? It's important...

read more
How to Get Ready for Canning Season

How to Get Ready for Canning Season

We always like to be prepared, and being ready and prepared for the canning season is no different. With the shortage of canning supplies last year, it's a good idea to stock up on the supplies you'll need to preserve your food now, rather than waiting until your...

read more

Great to meet you!

It is our goal to encourage you in the path to a more healthy, more secure and free lifestyle by sharing and teaching the skills that lead to greater sustainability and self-sufficiency for you, your loved ones and your community.

– Carolyn and Josh 

READ MORE >

Eggs Eggs
Water Glassing Eggs
Medicinal
Herbs
Eggs Eggs
Easy Canning Stew
Garden
Weeding

FLASH SALE!!! Fearless Fermenting

Video Workshop

Confidently Create an Endless Store of Health-Enhancing Fermented Vegetables for Your Family!

This class will teach you how easy it is to make delicious, healthy, probiotic and enzyme-rich, fermented vegetables…

– Carolyn

Healthy Healing at Home

Free 4 video workshop on how to confidently use homemade herbal remedies!

FEARLESS FEMENTING

FLASH SALE!!

Make delicious, healthy, probiotic and enzyme-rich, fermented vegetables...