Easy Cottage Cheese Recipe

Cottage cheese

Making homemade cottage cheese is easy with Bacillus Bulgaricus starters!

Unlike feta cheese, homemade cottage cheese takes just minutes, and you can eat it right away without aging it first.

Home made cottage cheese generally costs about the same as the store bought one but after once reading the ingredients on one from the grocery store (especially where it mentioned things like xanathan gum, guar gum, monoglycerides, diglycerides, etc) I never went back to using store bought cottage cheese again.

Most recipes for homemade cottage cheese call for just three ingredients, which you probably already have at home — milk, vinegar, and salt, however I will give you another simple, hands off recipe that needs just milk. It doesn’t get any easier than that!

You can use any milk, pasteurized or raw, just keep in mind that using raw will probably add another 6-8 hrs to the incubation time. UHT milk is also fine for this recipe although using just a regular pasteurized one is usually better. In fact, this recipe is great if you have milk that’s about to go bad — it makes a perfect cottage cheese!

I got this recipe from a friend of mine who discovered it by accident. It works perfectly with any of our mesophilic starters (i.e. Viili, Filmjolk, Caspian Sea Yogurt) and can also work with our cheese starters too (Sirene and Kashkaval). I personally recommend using the Viili or the Caspian Sea Yogurt starter for this one.

With the hands free method you basically do nothing most of the time and the whole process takes a day or so. If you are in a hurry, scroll further down for the accelerated cottage cheese recipe (that one calls for using a coagulating agent, like acid or rennet).

The amount of cottage cheese is going to be about a 4th of the volume of milk that you will be using, e.g. if you start with 1 liter/quart of milk, you will get about 250g/9oz of cottage cheese. This is because cottage cheese forms only from the milk solids in the milk. The other thing you get as a part of this process is a lot of whey (semi clear liquid). Do not throw it out! It’s full of proteins and with active lactic acid bacteria too, so find a way to use it (drink it, make a ricotta cheese from it, etc.)

Hands Free Method (The slow one)

This method for making homemade cottage cheese requires nothing else besides patience. This recipe is not volume specific, which means you can adjust it for any amount of milk — just make sure you use the required amount of starter for that volume (how much starter to use).

Before you start, make sure you have the following:

  • a jar or another container large enough to hold all your milk,
  • a cheesecloth or anything else that you could use to strain the milk,
  • a strainer.

Here are the steps:

  1. If using pasteurized milk from the fridge, let it warm up to room temperature (around 76°F / 24°C) on its own. If using raw milk, start by removing any cream that is left on it. Skim the top of the milk with a spoon, that’s where the cream is. Try to get out as much as you can. Cream might be good for any other cheese but will make this process a lot more difficult.
  2. Add the starter from the pack to the milk and stir until it dissolves.
  3. Cover your container with a cheesecloth or a towel to keep the milk clean from dust and air-borne particles.
  4. Let the milk sit for about 24 hours and then check if it has started to set. Simply dip a knife straight down into the milk and take it out. If it’s slimy then things are already happening, if it’s clean, then you need to wait a bit longer (another 3-4 hours) then test again.
  5. If it hasn’t set in 24 hours, then keep it going and check every 4-6 hours until it starts to set. It may take upwards of two days depending on the ambient temperature and other conditions in your environment. You should only proceed when the milk has started getting slimier or resembling a watery jello. It should take on average anywhere between 24 hrs and 48 hrs (as a guideline).
  6. If you are using raw milk and if there is more cream formed on top, skim that out again. Do not discard it — that’s cream, use it!
  7. Transfer the milk (well it’s actually a kind of yogurt now) to a pot and start warming it up. Set heat on low to medium and slowly heat it up in the next 10 minutes.
  8. As you heat the milk you will see that it starts to separate. Once this starts happening, try to keep the heat constant. Either turn off the stove or set it on the lowest setting.
  9. Stir slowly in the pot so the curds starts separating more and more. Once they clearly starts breaking from the whey (the clear or not so clear liquid) move on to the next step.
  10. Line your strainer with the cheesecloth and then pour the milk from the pot (well, the curds and whey) into the strainer. Pour into another pot because you want to catch and keep that whey and use it! Let it strain until only cheese curds remain in the cheesecloth. Keep as long as it takes, usually a couple of hours is enough. You really want it to drain as much liquid as possible, on its own.
  11. When you have finished draining the curds, remove them from the cheesecloth and into a cup.
  12. Congratulations, you have just made some excellent fresh delicious cottage cheese! Place it in the fridge for an hour as it will improve its consistency and taste but of course you can also eat it right away too! You can also add salt or anything else you take your cottage cheese with.

Heat Method (The quick one)

This method for making homemade cottage cheese yields results much faster than the one above, but requires a bit more ingredients. Namely, you will need a coagulating agent (either rennet or citric acid or vinegar) to get to results faster. You will also need to heat up the milk from the start so it’s more hands on compared to the previous method but you will get your cottage cheese in a matter of hours, if not minutes. Again, this recipe is not volume specific, which means you can adjust it for any amount of milk, just make sure you use the required amount of starter for that volume (how much starter to use).

Before you start, make sure you have the following:

  • a jar or another container large enough to hold all your milk,
  • a coagulating agent — rennet (best option as it affects the taste the least), apple cider vinegar (second best), lemon juice (works well too),
  • a cheesecloth or anything else that you could use to strain the milk,
  • a strainer.

Here are the steps:

  1. Heat up the milk to about 167°F / 75°C. Then let the milk cool down on its own to about 90°F / 32°C. If you are feeling lazy, just heat it to 90°F / 32°C, however heating up then cooling down results in a better product.
  2. Add the starter from the pack to the milk and stir until it dissolves.
  3. Leave the heat at low so the temperature stays about the same for 30 mins. This allows the culture to works its magic on the the milk. This step could be as long as 2 hours if you’d like. The more you keep the culture before adding the coagulant, the better your cottage cheese will taste.
  4. Turn off the heat and add the coagulant while stirring:
    • If you are using rennet, you need about 4 drops of rennet for every liter/quart but read the instructions that came with it to make sure you are using the right amount. when in doubt, just use slightly more.
    • if you are using vinegar, add half a teaspoon of vinegar for every liter/quart of milk.
    • If you are using lemon juice, add about half a teaspoon of lemon juice for every liter/quart of milk.
  5. The milk will begin to thicken in about 10-15 minutes but allow it to set for 40 minutes even more, up to 2 hours from the time of adding the coagulant. Basically, you are waiting for the milk to start getting a gelatinous structure.
  6. Cut the solidified milk (the curd) into small cubes with a knife. You are basically just making lines horizontally then across, cutting through the curds.
  7. Now that the curds are broken up turn up the heat to medium. When it hears up a bit, slowly stir it for 5-10 minutes until you break up all the curds and release the whey. Temperature should just be high enough for the milk to be somewhat hot, definitely not boiling.
  8. Now that the curds and whey are separated, line your strainer with the cheesecloth and then pour the milk from the pot (well, the curds and whey) into the strainer. Pour into another pot because you want to catch and keep that whey and use it! Let it strain until only cheese curds remain in the cheesecloth. Keep as long as it takes, usually a couple of hours is enough. You really want it to drain as much liquid as possible, on its own.
  9. When you have finished draining the curds:
    • if you used rennet then simply remove them from the cheesecloth and into a cup.
    • if you used vinegar your curds will have acquired its taste so rinse them with cold water while they are still in the strainer. Run them for about 30 seconds.
    • if you used lemon juice your curds will have acquired its taste so rinse them with cold water while they are still in the strainer. Run them for about 30 seconds.
  10. Congratulations, you have just made some excellent fresh delicious cottage cheese! Place it in the fridge for an hour as it will improve its consistency and taste but of course you can also eat it right away too! You can also add salt or anything else you take your cottage cheese with.

Enjoy!

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