Learn how to make cottage cheese from cultured buttermilk. Instead of using rennet, buttermilk culture provides the necessary acidity to set the curd. It also gives this cheese its unique flavor.
Some recipes for cottage cheese use white vinegar or lemon juice to clabber the milk. However, they are actually making paneer and/or ricotta. The resulting cheese is flavorless. This is why paneer and ricotta are usually accompanied by flavorful sauces.
A Recipe for Beginners
I’ll admit that cheesemaking is not the easiest activity. Like baking bread, brewing wine, or making a soufflé, it requires a bit of skill and precision.
If you’re an absolute beginner, I recommend starting with paneer or yogurt cheese. However, if you’re up for trying something new, homemade cottage cheese is pretty easy. In fact, it was the first type of cheese that I ever made!
- The only equipment needed is a cooking thermometer and butter muslin. Typical cheesecloth doesn’t have a fine enough weave. However, if you can’t find butter muslin, just use 3 layers of cheesecloth instead.
- Cultured buttermilk sets the curd, so you don’t need to worry about finding culture.
- The culture is set at room temperature. So there’s no need to heat the milk to set the curd.
Following the recipe will result in a delicious cheese with a creamy texture. However the curds will be smaller than you’re used to, and they’ll also be softer. Here are a few extra steps that you can do to improve the structure of the curd. Just doing one of them will help improve the curd, but use all three for a large curd cheese.
- Calcium Chloride: Mix 1/8 tsp of food grade calcium chloride in 1/4 cup of water, then mix it into the milk right before adding the buttermilk. This improves the yield when using homogenized milk.
- Rennet: Setting the curd with rennet will result in larger curds. Mix 1/4 tsp of liquid rennet (or 1/4 tablet) in 1/4 cup of water. Mix it into the milk right after adding the culture. So it’s the last thing you mix in before setting the milk. The curd will set more quickly with rennet so look at your cheese after 4 to 8 hours.
- Cooking The Curds: Cooking the curds results in firmer curds. Instead of keeping the curds at 100 F (38 C) slowly increase the temperature to 110 F (43 C). You want to increase the temperature every time you stir, about 1 degree every 5 minutes. Then maintain the curds at 110 F for 20 minutes.
Three ways to Finish Cottage Cheese
Once you’ve drained the whey, there are three options for finishing the cheese.
Dry Curd Cottage Cheese
After the whey is drained, the resulting cheese is quite dry and crumbly. This is called dry curd cottage cheese and it is very low fat and low lactose. So it is a good option for anyone who is lactose intolerant.
The best way to use dry curd cottage cheese is for cooking.
- Use it like ricotta for homemade lasagna.
- My favorite way to eat cottage cheese (and the main reason why I make it) is to make my favorite Eastern European comfort food… vareniki.
Creamy Snack-Style Cheese
Creamy snack-style cottage cheese is what is typically sold in the grocery store. Stir in some fresh fruit and you have a delicious breakfast or snack!
Here’s how to make creamy cottage cheese:
- Follow the recipe, including rinsing and draining the curds.
- Move the drained curds to a bowl. Stir 1/4 cup heavy cream and 1 tsp of salt (to taste). This is the amount for a whole batch, so use less cream and salt if you are only doing smaller amount of cheese.
- Store the curds in an air-tight container in the fridge and use within 2 weeks.
Pressing cottage cheese into a firm block is traditional. It won’t result in a cheddar-like slicing cheese. However, it will melt and is perfect for pizza or grilled cheese sandwiches.
Here is how to make pressed cottage cheese:
Cottage Cheese Recipe
Traditional cottage cheese is made with buttermilk. It’s a low-lactose, rennet-free, and probiotic cheese! Cottage cheese makes a delicious snack, or press it into a firm, slicing cheese!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 6 cups 1x
- Category: Cheese
- Method: Clabbered
- Cuisine: Traditional
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 1 gallon (4 liters) non-fat milk
- 1/2 cup cultured buttermilk (see notes)
- 8 cups of water
- Pour milk and the buttermilk into a large pot. You will need enough room to add 8 cups of water so use a large soup pot. Leave the milk on the kitchen counter for 12 to 14 hours, until it has clabbered.
- Cut the clabbered milk into 1-inch curds. Heat 8 cups of water to 100 F, then add it to curds.
- Keep the curds at around 100F (38C). (See notes for suggestions on how to do this). Gently stir the curds every 5 minutes for 30 to 60 minutes. The curds will be finished cooking when they are separated from the whey and sink to the bottom of the pot. (See the photo above).
- Pour the curds into a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Rinse the curds with cold water, then allow to drain for 1 hour, until most of the whey is gone.
- At this point, you will have dry curd cottage cheese. See the section above for details on how to finish your cheese for creamy cottage cheese or pressed cheese.
- Don’t bother using higher-fat milk. The fat is drained off with the whey.
- If this is your first time making cheese, I recommend reading up on how to make cheese, for more details about each of the steps.
- It can be hard to find well-cultured buttermilk in the grocery store. I recommend testing store-bought buttermilk before using it to make cottage cheese. The easiest way to test buttermilk culture is to use it to make more cultured buttermilk. (I have found a brand that works… but I have also had failures with several local brands of buttermilk. Just having culture on the label doesn’t mean it’s a live culture.)
- This recipe results in creamy and delicious small curd cottage cheese. If you want to make large curd cottage cheese, see the section above for 3 additional steps that are a bit more advanced.
- Here are three options that I have used to keep curds at 100 F:
- Very low heat on the stove. This isn’t recommended for other types of cheese. However, the likelihood of burning the whey is reduced because there is so much water added to the pot.
- Place the pot in a sink filled with hot water. (Like a water bath or double boiler).
- Now I use my folding fermentation box, which makes everything easy!
- Serving Size: 1/2 cup
- Calories: 102
- Sugar: 0.4g
- Sodium: Optional
- Fat: 2.2g
- Saturated Fat: 1.4g
- Carbohydrates: 4.1g
- Fiber: 0g
- Protein: 15.5g
Keywords: traditional, buttermilk, easy, simple, beginner, cheesemaking, DIY, homemade, rennet-free, winter, fall