Cottage cheese originated in eastern and central Europe. Cottage Cheese, Pot Cheese, Dutch cheese, and Schmierkase are all the same cheese by different names. Cottage cheese like many of the other soft cheeses are normally eaten fresh and often with the addition of herbs or fruit.
Cottage cheese has the reputation of being a diet food. This may be due to the fact that cottage cheese is traditionally made with skim milk. In colonial America raw milk was used and the pot of milk was set by the wood burning stove. In a few days, thanks to the bacteria present in raw milk, the lactic acid level would cause the milk protein to precipitate out into a soft curd. These curds were then used to make a variety of cheeses including cottage cheese.
I first began eating cottage cheese years ago while trying to lose baby weight after one of the children and actually found that I liked it! Served with pineapple chunks, it tasted like anything but a diet food. That is still my favorite way to eat cottage cheese – with pineapple – crushed or chunks, it doesn’t matter. But, it is also delicious with strawberries, blueberries and almost any fruit.
It is funny how different people eat different foods. John grew up with cottage cheese being served with cinnamon and sugar! I have to admit, this is not appealing to me but I guess it is all what you grow up with!
I make our cottage cheese from whole raw milk that our family milk cow, Emme, gives – well, she doesn’t exactly “give” it, we “take” it at milking times twice a day. But, for all practical purposes, I guess we will just leave it at, she “gives” it!
Before getting started, be sure to check out Cheese Making Basics for helpful tips and supplies. If you are interested in cheese making, I would highly recommend the book available from my affiliate partner, Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll – it is an excellent resource.
- 1 gallon whole or skim milk - preferably raw
- ⅛ tsp calcium chloride diluted in ¼ c. water - if using store-bought milk (available from my affiliate calcium chloride)
- 1 packet mesophilic direct-set culture (available from my affiliate Mesophilic starter)
- heavy cream - a few tablespoons to moisten the cottage cheese (optional)
- Cheese salt (optional)
- Heat the milk to 72 F. Add calcium chloride now if using it.
- Add the starter and stir thoroughly. Cover and allow the milk to ripen for 16 - 24 hours at room temperature.
- After the curds have set, cut them into ¼ inch cubes and let rest for 15 minutes. I use a wire whisk to cut the curd and it gives smaller curd cottage cheese.
- Put the pot on the stove and heat the curds to 100 F very slowly - this should take about 20 minutes. Stir gently once in awhile to prevent the curds from matting.
- Once the curds reach 100 F, keep them at 100 F for 10 minutes and stir occasionally.
- Slowly increase the temperature of the curds to 112 F - this should take about 15 minutes. Hold the curds at this temperature for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes at 112 F, check the consistency of the curds. To do this, take a few curds between your fingers and squeeze them. They should feel firm - if not and they are still custard-like, the curds need to cook a little longer. Continue checking until they are firm.
- Once the curds are firm, allow them to rest for 5 minutes - they will settle to the bottom of the pot.
- Pour the curds into a cheesecloth lined colander. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth and tie the cloth into a ball. Allow the curds to drain for a few minutes and then dip the bag several times in cold water. This is to rinse any residual whey out of the cottage cheese that could cause it to sour.
- Let the cheesecloth bag drain for several minutes and then dip again in ice water - place the bag in the colander and allow it to drain for 5 minutes.
- Open the cheesecloth bag and break up any large curds. For a creamier texture, add a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream.
- Salt to taste.
- Place the cottage cheese in an airtight container and refrigerate.