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Cottage Cheese
This was a cheese made for generations by our grandmothers at the back of the wood stove on the farm but most recently it is found as a commodity in the grocers dairy aisle.
Now you can make it just as easily at home in your kitchen and most folks are quite surprised at how good it can be.


Cottage Cheese was typically made as a low fat or skimmed milk cheese but with the more modern addition of cream following the final curd production it may have a butterfat of 4% or higher.
A low fat version of .5-2% butterfat as well as a dry curd Cottage Cheese with less than .5% butterfat can still be found.

Cottage Cheese can be commonly mixed or served with fruit and herbs as a base for salads and snacks.


A Bit of History

Cottage Cheese has a long history and because of this it has evolved into a variety of styles. It was originally made on the farm from the family cow(s). It was often made from older milk in which the natural bacteria had already started to work. The milk would be brought in and placed in a warm place (near the fire, behind the wood stove, or in the warming oven). Then after a day or so the natural bacteria would produce enough acid to cause the milk to form a curd. This was then cut, cooked to a dry curd, then washed with cold water. The finish was a cold dry curd with a tangy flavor. At some point someone realized that the taste improved with the addition of some cream to make the much richer tasting creamed cottage cheese.

In the days when farmers brought their milk to the cheese dairies by horse and wagon, the process was sometimes slow and the milk was not very fresh, especially in warmer weather. By the time this milk arrived at the dairy, the milk had already developed too much acidity to make a good cheese such as Cheddar and the only use for this already acidified milk was to make Cottage Cheese.

Process Essentials

The primary process in making Cottage Cheese involves good dairy bacteria converting lactose to lactic acid. This lactose (or milk sugar) is an important component in our milk but unless it is converted by a good quality dairy bacteria, some off flavors or worse may result.

Several hours after the bacteria culture activity begins, the milk acidity increases to the extent that the milk coagulates into a solid gel which can be cut into small curds. This resulting curd is then cooked until the moisture is released and a dry curd is formed. Then this curd is chilled to the final cottage cheese as we know it. A final optional cream dressing may also be added to increase the richness and texture and this then becomes the Creamed Cottage Cheese.

Different Styles of Cottage Cheese

  • Long Process: 14-16 hrs. to develop acid at room temp with no rennet.
  • Short Process: 5-8 hrs. at higher temps 86F (30C) and using rennet for a firm curd.
  • Dry curd Cottage Cheese (< .5% Fat)
  • Low Fat Cottage Cheese (.5-2% Fat)
  • Creamed Cottage Cheese (>4% Fat)
  • In Pennsylvania this is a base for Pot Cheese and Farmers Cheese

A Recipe for making Cottage Cheese at Home

There are many options for making Cottage Cheese. For this recipe I have decided to use the shorter set time to make it a little more practical for the home cheese maker. Enjoy!

 

Before you Begin:

You will need:
1 gallon of milk Skim or 1% (Not UltraPasturized)
(Optional) A small amount of heavy cream (this is OK if UP)
1 packet of our C101 culture
Liquid Rennet (8-10 drops)
A good thermometer
A knife to cut the curds, and a spoon or ladle to stir the curds with.
A colander and butter muslin to drain the curds
Everything needs to be clean and sanitized.


Acidifying and heating the milk:

Begin by heating the milk to 86F (30C). I do this by placing the gallon of milk in a pot or sink of very warm water. If you do this in a pot on the stove make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats

Once the milk is at 86F the culture can be added. I do this by sprinkling the powder over the surface of the milk and then allow about 2 minutes for the powder to re-hydrate before stirring it in.


Coagulation with rennet:

Then add about 8-10 drops of single strength liquid rennet.

The milk now needs to sit quiet for 5-8 hours while the culture works and the curd forms. The thermal mass of this milk should keep it warm but during colder months wrapping this in a thick blanket or towel will keep the temperature up. It is OK if the temp drops a few degrees during this time.


Cutting curds and releasing the whey:

When the curd is ready you will notice that it shrinks away from the sides of the pan a bit and that you may see a thin layer of whey on the top. You may even notice some cracks forming on the surface.

........

Now it is time to cut the curds.
Begin by making parallel cuts about 1/2 -3/4 inches apart. Then turn the pot 90 degrees and repeat ending with a checkerboard of cuts on the surface. Then with your spoon or ladle cut these crosswise until you have a pot full of curd cubes. Be gentle at this point because the curd will be very soft.

Once the curds are cut, stir them gently for 10 minutes. You should note more whey being released.


Cooking the curds :

Now it is time to begin drying out the curds. This will be done by increasing the heat slowly to 113-115F (45-46C). The heat needs to be increased slowly at about 2-3F (1C) every 5 minutes. The total cooking time will be 60-90 minutes and may be extended to 2 hrs if the curds are still soft.

The final curds should be cooked well through and should be examined to make sure that enough moisture has been removed. A broken curd should be firm throughout and the curds should have a moderate resistance when pressed between the fingers.

When this point is reached the curds can be allowed to settle under the whey

 


Removing the whey:

The dry curds can now be transferred to a colander lined with butter muslin. They should be allowed to drain for 30 minutes and a gentle stirring will make sure that the whey drains off.

Chilling and finishing:

The curds now need to be chilled and separated. I do this by filling the pot with cold water and submerging the curds in its cloth bundle in the cold water (this makes it easier to drain them again). Separate the curds well while in the cold water. This will drop the temperature of the curds to about 60F (15.5C). Then drain the curds again

Repeat this again but with ice water and allow the curds to remain in the water for 30 minutes while separating the curds. The final curds should now be at 35-40F (1-4C)

Allow the curds to drain well in the colander. The finished curds may have consolidated somewhat but are easy to separate.
You can now add a bit of salt to suit your preference (about 1/4-1/2 tsp should do). Sprinkle this over the surface evenly then mix into the curds well.

Salt is not really needed here for the process because the final acidity is enough to stop the bacteria from working. So if you are looking for salt free, this is a good cheese for you. Adding herbs or spice is a great alternative to augment the flavor in a salt-free cheese.

Your Cottage Cheese is now ready for storage but you may make any additions you like by adding fresh herbs, spices, etc.

If you would like a richer cottage cheese, then adding a small amount of Heavy Cream will make it into a much richer cheese.

Let your taste be your guide on this.

You can now sit back and enjoy your very own dish of Cottage Cheese or just pack it into a sanitized container for the fridge.

That's it, time for lunch !
My fresh batch of Cottage Cheese with chives and cream added. Yum!



More Recipes

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