Some time back, I made homemade ricotta cheese. I was so impressed with how easy it was to make and how good it was, that I thought I’d try my hand at making homemade cottage cheese!
Rather than make the cottage cheese by adding vinegar to milk as a number of recipes suggest, I decided to go whole hog and follow the process suggested at cheesemaking.com. This involves not only 1% milk (not ultra pasteurized), but also Mesophilic direct-set culture and liquid rennet. Ultra pasteurized milk will not set. Mesophilic culture contains lactose, lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris. Imaging adding bacteria to something that you’re going to eat!
Now, the curds needed to dry out. This was done by increasing the heat slowly to 115° F. I again used the lowest setting on my stove to ensure that the increase in temperature was about 2° to 3° every 5 minutes. The total cooking time was about 1 hour and 15 minutes, at which time the curds were firm throughout and had a moderate resistance when pressed between my fingers. Before straining the curds, I let them settle under the whey, off the heat for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, I removed the curds from the whey to a colander lined with butter muslin.
Now, it was time to chill and separate the curds. This was done by submerging the curds in its cloth bundle in cold water, and letting them drain again. This was repeated in ice water where the curds remained for 30 minutes.
1 gallon 1% milk (not Ultra Pasteurized)
1 packet Mesophilic (DS) culture
8 to 10 drops liquid Rennet
A good thermometer
A knife to cut the curds, and a spoon to stir the curds
A colander lined with butter muslin
¼ to ½ teaspoon salt (optional)
¼ cup heavy cream (optional)
Heat milk to 86° F in a large non-reactive pan on the lowest setting on an electric stove. Remove from heat. Sprinkle the Mesophilic culture over the surface of the milk; allow the powder to re-hydrate for 2 minutes before stirring it in. Add 8 to 10 drips of single strength liquid rennet. Stir. Cover pan and allow to sit for 5 to 8 hours while the culture works and the curd forms.
When the curd is ready, it will shrink away from the sides of the pan a bit; some cracks may form on the surface.
Make parallel cuts through the curd ½ to ¾-inches apart. Turn the pan 90% and repeat, ending with a checkerboard of cuts on the surface. With a spoon, gently cut the curds crosswise until the pot is full of curd cubes. Once the curds are cut, stir them gently for 10 minutes to release more whey.
To dry the curds, return the pan to the lowest setting on the electric stove; increase the heat slowly (2° F to 3° F every 5 minutes) to 113° F to 115° F. The total cooking time is 60 to 90 minutes. The final curds should be cooked well through with enough moisture removed. A broken curd should be firm throughout and the curds should have a moderate resistance when pressed between the fingers. Allow the curds to settle under the whey for 30 minutes.
Transfer the dry curds to a colander lined with butter muslin. Allow to drain for 30 minutes, stirring gently to ensure that the whey drains off.
Submerge the curds in their cloth bundle in cold water; drain. Repeat with ice water; allow the curds to remain in the water for 30 minutes while separating the curds. Drain well in colander, squeezing remaining liquid from the curds.
If desired add between ¼ and ½ teaspoon salt. For a richer cottage cheese, add a small amount of heavy cream. Refrigerate. Yield: 3 cups.