Grocery stores carry it in their dairy sections in small, nondescript containers. Diners usually have it listed as a side dish or perhaps under a special header such as “Diet Plate”. But allow me to shed light on an often passed over dairy product. Folks, it is time to fall in love with cottage cheese… specifically… homemade cottage cheese.
Now before you close this article or skip to the side bar, cottage cheese is much maligned. It has been sprinkled with paprika, decorated with chunks of canned pineapple, set atop a half of canned peach, or worse of all…. on a bed of wilted lettuce. But frankly, many people have only tasted what is offered by their local grocery stores… a massed produced product that ranges in flavor from bland to chalky and a sometimes gummy texture. These store-bought creations also contain ingredients such as guar gum, xanthan gum, carrageenan, locust bean gum, corn starch, and even carbon dioxide. Trust me, real cottage cheese should not contain these items.
Fresh, homemade cottage cheese is sublime in its simplicity. It should taste of milk (and or cream if added) and have a luscious texture. Salt enhances the flavor and is a welcomed addition to this fresh cheese.
While the simplest recipe for cottage cheese is how our great grandparents would have made it, few of us have access to ‘raw’ milk (unpasteurized milk) these days. Though that recipe would center around pouring the milk into a bowl, skimming off the cream and wait for the milk to thicken while setting out at room temperature for a day or two. Once the milk thickens, pour it into a pot and place it over low heat until the milk separates into curds and whey. Drain off the whey (and save for another use, such as a soup base) and crumble the curds into a bowl, drizzle with a little fresh cream and sprinkle with salt to taste.
But these days, most milk is available through a grocery store and is most often pasteurized.
Homemade Cottage Cheese
- 1 gallon of milk (cow)
- 1/4 tsp Flora Dianca culture
- 4 drops liquid rennet (double strength) diluted in 1/4 C. water
- 1/3 C. cream
- salt to taste
Place milk in a large pot. Set on a stove over low heat and slowly heat the milk up to 86F. When it reaches this temperature, remove from heat and sprinkle the Flora Dianca culture over the top. Allow to set for 5 minutes undisturbed. Next, stir in the culture using an up and down motion to thoroughly incorporate into the milk for a full minute.
Add diluted rennet and stir for a minute using an up and down motion. Cover the pot and maintain the temperature at 86F for about 3 hours. To help maintain this temperature, you can set the pot in a warm water bath (the water should be 10 degrees warmer than the target temperature of the milk and should come up halfway up the side of the pot) or you can place the milk in a warm crock pot that is covered. Periodically check the temperature to maintain the desired temperature. If the temperature drops, add more warm water if using the water bath method. However, if the milk is in a crock pot and the temperature drops, briefly turn on the crock pot (use low setting) for just a few minutes.
Once the curd has set, cut the curds into 1/2″ cubes while still in the pot. Allow the curds to set for 15 minutes after cutting at 86F.
Place the pot with curds on the stove and on a low setting, slowly heat the curds to 115F. This should take at least an hour, but no more than 1 1/2 hours. Gently stir the curds periodically to prevent them from matting together. The final curd should be smaller compared to when they were first placed over heat. They should also feel a little springy (not hard).
Tip pot over large bowl and pour off most of the whey. (Save whey for another use.) Add cool water to the curds. Gently stir and drain off. Do this a few more times using cold water.
Line a colander with butter muslin. Gently scoop curds and place in the colander. Drain. Sprinkle curds with salt to taste and gently stir to combine the salt throughout the cheese.
Place the cottage cheese in a container and add the cream. Stir gently to combine. It is now ready to serve or if not eaten right away, cover and place in the refrigerator. Keeps for up to a week. (In our house, it never lasts that long.)
Go ahead and taste your homemade cottage cheese. This is the stuff dreams are made of. Save the paprika for stews, the canned peaches and pineapple for fruit salad, and the wilted lettuce for your chickens or compost container. With this recipe and a few ingredients, you will never need to buy cottage cheese again nor worry that you must ‘doctor’ the cheese with the aforementioned extras to add flavor. Homemade cottage cheese only needs a spoon to be enjoyed!