Homemade Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is versatile, so you can use it in many recipes as well as eat it alone or with fruit. Lettuce, cottage cheese and pineapple make a delicious salad. You can add a tablespoon of mayonnaise if you want an extra tang, but you will also get additional calories if you do that.

If you do not have your own cow and want to make cottage cheese from raw milk, you will have to purchase it at an organic food store or from a dairy farm. The United States requires pasteurization for all commercial dairy products, so you will not be able to find it in an ordinary grocery store in the U.S. The cultures in raw milk have their own flavor that most people prefer over the pasteurized product, and many people believe that raw milk is healthier, so it may be worth the extra effort to obtain it in its natural state.

Cottage cheese should be made with skim milk, so if you use whole raw milk, wait until the cream rises to the top of the milk, skim it off, and add it to the cottage cheese when it is done.

You will need a starter for your cottage cheese, which can be a rennet tablet, cultured buttermilk or a commercial culture. It may be difficult to find rennet, but many grocery stores stock it on their shelves, and organic food stores should carry it.

To make cottage cheese, pour 1 gallon of skim milk into a large stainless steel, enamel or glass pan. Never make it in an aluminum pot. Use a double boiler if possible, but if you do not have one and cannot improvise one, heat the milk on a stove very slowly, and watch and stir it carefully so it will not scorch. Heat the milk to 80 degrees using a candy thermometer to test the temperature. When it reaches the correct temperature, add ¼ of a rennet tablet dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water if you want large curd cottage cheese, or use 1 cup less skim milk, and add 1 cup of buttermilk with 1/8 of a rennet tablet dissolved in water for small curd cottage cheese. Stir well, and keep it in a warm room until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cut the curd with a long clean knife making slits ½ inch apart completely through the curd. Cut from left to right, top to bottom and diagonally both ways. After cutting, let it set for 10 minutes, then gently stir with clean hands.

Heat the mixture very slowly while stirring for about a minute at a time every 5 minutes until it reaches 100 degrees. This should take around ½ hour. Then heat it faster, and stir oftener, for around 15 minutes or until it reaches 115 degrees. If the temperature is too low, the curds will be soft, but if you heat the curds too high or leave them in the whey too long, they will be tough and dry. If the curds are firm, pour into a cheesecloth lined colander and let the whey drain off for a few minutes. If they start sticking together, do not let any more whey drain off. Dip the curds in the cheesecloth into ice water a few times, and then put back into the colander and rinse with very cold water until the rinse water is clear. If you do not wash and drain the curd enough, your cottage cheese will have a sour or acid taste. Hang the curds in the cheesecloth over something to drain until it stops dripping, and then transfer to a clean bowl.

With clean hands, mix in ½ teaspoon of non-iodized salt for each cup of curd. You can add 3 tablespoons of cream, sour cream or skim milk if you want creamier cottage cheese. Add sugar or other sweetener to taste if desired.

Since you will not be adding preservatives to your cottage cheese, it will only keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator, so do not make more than you will use in that time.