Make Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese the easiest of the cheeses to make. Once you learn how to make cottage cheese, you'll wonder why you didn't learn sooner.

Cottage cheese is really easy to make at home. It is probably the easiest of all the cheeses to make. Cottage cheese is very healthy and nutritious, not to mention easily digested. Commercial cotage cheeses may have some very bad additives, but homemade cottage cheese is so pure and natural. And since it is, it is highly perishable and should be used in three to four days. It may seem difficult and confusing at first, but that's only with your first batch, after that it's a breeze.

Cottage chese should be made using skim milk, because the cream solids don't stay in the curds, it stays with the whey. A gallon of skim milk will make about a pound of cottage cheese. If you are planning to use raw milk, let it set for a while and then skim off the cream to use later in your finished cottage cheese.

You will need a starter to make cottage cheese. You can use a commercial culture, cultured buttermilk, or rennet tablets. I have found that by replacing one cup of the skim milk with one cup of cultured buttermilk and 1/8 of a rennet tablet gives a small curd cottage cheese, leave out the cultured buttermilk and use 1/4 tablet rennet if you prefer large curd cottage cheese. Salt helps to improve the life of the cheese, no to mention the flavor. After the cottage cheese is done, it will have a very acid like taste to it, so you will want to season it with either sour cream or sweet cream. Herbs, fruit or sweeteners can also be added.

Now you will need some equipment to make cottage cheese. First you will need a six to eight quart pot made of stainless steel, enamel or glass. Don't use aluminum! You will need another container, which can be aluminum, a little bigger, to use like a double boiler. Your kitchen sink with a good stopper will work if you don't have a bigger pot. A floating dairy thermometer is the best, but a candy thermometer that will measure 75 to 175 degrees will work. Measuring cups and spoons, a long handled knife and spoon for cutting and stirring. They need to be long enough to reach the bottom of you large non aluminum container. You will also need a storage container to store your cottage cheese in when it is finished. A colander and some cheese cloth to drain you cottage cheese.

Assemble all of your equipment and make sure it is perfectly clean. Decide if you want large curd or small curd cottage cheese. For large curd cottage cheese use 1/4 of a rennet tablet dissolved in two tablespoons of water, and one gallon of skim milk, don't mix these yet. For small curd cottage cheese, replace one cup of the skim milk with one cup of cultured buttermilk, and dissolve 1/8 of a rennet tablet in two tablespoon of water, don't mix these yet.

Next, put the milk in the six to eight quart pot and set it in the sink or larger pot with water. Heat the milk to 80 degrees using this double boiler method. If you try to heat the milk on direct heat you might scald it, which will make it taste awful. Be sure to use your thermometer in the milk. In the sink, add enough hot water to reach 80 degrees. Change the water as often as needed until you reach the desired temperature. Once you have reached the desired temperature add your rennet and stir well. Let this set in a warm room until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. When this happens you are ready to cut the curd.

To cut the curd, take your long knife and make 1/2 inch cuts,straight up and down, from left to right, then front to rear. Then cut diagonally in both directions. Don't disturb the cut curds for ten minutes, then stir very gently with your hands.

Now you will need to raise the temperature very slowly to one hundred degrees in about thirty to forty minutes. If you are using the sink you will need to add boiling water to cook the curds. Be sure to stir often, about one minute every five minutes. Once you reach one hundred degrees, you can transfer the pot to the stove top to heat it faster, you will need to stir it more often until you reach one hundred and fifteen degrees, this should take about fifteen minutes.

By now the curds should be firm and you should stop the heating process. Pour the curds into the colander lined with the cheese cloth to drain off the whey. You can save the whey to feed to your pets or chickens. Let the curds drain for a few minutes. If you let the curds drain for too long they will stick together.

Gather the corners of the cheese cloth and dip it into some ice water several times. Return the cheese cloth to the colander and rinse with icy cold water until the water runs clear. Gather the corners of the cheese cloth again and let the water drain out. When the water no longer drips, its done.

Measure the curds into a mixing bowl. For every cup of curd add 1/2 teaspoon of non-iodized salt and stir well with your hands. If you like the store bought cottage cheese, add six tablespoons of sweet cream for every two cups of curds. For dieters, replace the cream with skim milk. You can use sour cream mixed with your favorite herbs or add fruits.

If your cottage cheese isn't just right and tastes sour or very acid, it means that the curd was not washed and drained enough. If the curds are tough and dry, it means that you might have heated the curds too high or that the curds remained in the whey too long. Soft curds means too low of a temperature. Funny tasting can mean that your utensils weren't clean or that the milk you used wasn't pasteurized.

Just remember that the first batch is the hardest, and that the next hatch will be a breeze, along with every other batch.

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