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Friday, May 23, 2014

Home Made Cottage Cheese

As you well know, this Practical Pioneer loves to make things from scratch.  Not only is the end product typically much healthier, but it's also usually significantly less expensive.  (Examples:  Making Your Own Buttermilk and Making Your Own Bacon)

Sometimes, however, cost isn't the driving factor. . .nor even health.  Sometimes, making something from scratch just tastes so. . .much. . .better!

Take cottage cheese, for example. The stuff you get in the store is usually bland and unremarkable.  Depending on sales and coupons and brands, it can cost anywhere from $3-$4 dollars for a pound container of the stuff.

But I can make about twice that at home for basically the cost of a gallon of milk.  It takes more time and more effort, but hokey smokes, is the end result worth it.

It's actually not a difficult process, either. . .though it does take a few steps over almost a day to get to the end result.  Here's how:

  • 1 Gallon Milk (the fresher the better and any non-lactose-free will do.  Lactose free milk won't set with the rennet.  I use whole or 2%, but some people use skim milk)
  • 1/2 Rennet Tablet (Junket is the main US brand)
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 Tablespoons Cultured Buttermilk
  • Salt 1/2 Teaspoon plus to taste 
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Cream (optional)

  • Large, Clean Cheesecloth
  • Colander
  • Small Cup or Dish
  • 1/4 Measuring Cup
  • Teaspoon (regular, not measuring)
  • Long Handled Spoon
  • Good Cooking Thermometer
  • Long Bladed Knife (I use a bread knife) 
  • Large Double Boiler (large enough to easily hold a gallon of milk)
  • OR
  • One Large, Non-Reactive Pot (large enough to easily hold gallon of milk)
  • One Other Non-Reactive Pot (that the first one can rest on as a double boiler)
  • Water

  • Add milk to very clean, large pot or top of double boiler
  • place over smaller pot of water
  • Heat slowly over medium low, stirring occasionally to insure even heating
  • As the milk is heating, put 1/2 rennet tablet in small cup or bowl and add 1/4 cup warm water
  • Crush tablet with back of teaspoon and stir until dissolved.  Set aside.
  • When milk temperature reaches 80 degrees, take off heat and add diluted rennet mixture and the buttermilk

  • Stir well to incorporate and then cover pot with a clean towel and leave at room temperature in a place it won't be disturbed for 14-16 hours (I do this after dinner and finish it off the next morning)
  • Check that it's ready by inserting a knife in the middle.  If it comes out clean, you're ready for the next step.  If it's still a little milky, wait an hour or two more.
  • Cut the curds in half inch cubes using long knife.  Cut straight down to the bottom with each cut.
  • Then cut the curd in a diagonal motion, trying to end up with 1/2 inch cubes

Start with straight cuts, then go diagonally
This is what they'll look like when cut

  • Place pot back on double boiler (don't forget to add water to the bottom pot!)
  • Slowly (like over a half hour!) raise the temp to 110 degrees.  

  • Once there, keep the temp steady for another 15  minutes, stirring about every five minutes
  • Your curds should be gently firm
  • Line your colander with a few layers of damp cheesecloth. Set whole thing over large pot (I usually just use the bottom pot of the double boiler that I've dumped the water out of and rinsed clean)
  • Carefully pour your curds and whey into the cheesecloth


  • Cover with edges of cheesecloth and put in fridge to chill and drain (still over pot)
  • Gently stir two-three times over about two hours
  • When your curds are drained, they'll look something like this:

Solidish. . .no more slushy liquid!

  • Fluffed up a bit, they'll look like this:

Fluffed up and nearly ready!

  • Now, place the whole colander in the sink and gently rinse the curds.  It'll probably look like this:

  • You can either just toss the whey (sacrilege!) or use it in baking or smoothies or soups.  It's really nutritious and some people even drink it straight.  I prefer to use it in recipes, but I've been known to swig a little straight, too.  It's very thin and watery, with a faint yogurty/buttermilk kind of taste.  It's usually a yellowish green or a greenish yellow.

The photo looks slightly more yellow than in real life, where it has a greenish tinge

  • And that's pretty much it
  • You can add salt to taste and, if you want a really decadent, creamy treat, a few tablespoons of heavy cream

Sprinkled with Sea Salt

And just a touch of cream!

Hard cheeses yield about a pound per gallon of milk, but this cheese made over 2 1/2 pounds for the gallon.

Guess that means it's a bargain after all!

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