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 vinegar or lemon juice to clabber the milk. However, they are actually making paneer and/or ricotta. The resulting cheese is rather 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 souffle, 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, cottage cheese is pretty easy to make. 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 rennet.
- The culture is set at room temperature. So there’s no need to heat the milk to set the curd.
Three ways to Finish Cottage Cheese:
Once you’ve drained the cottage cheese, there are three options for finishing.
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 the sort that 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).
- 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:
- Move the rinsed and drained curds to a bowl.
- Mix 1 tsp of non-iodized salt (or cheese salt) into the curds.
- Pack the curds in to a cheesecloth lined mold. Press for 12-24 hours, rotating halfway through.
- Here’s a post on how to make a cheese press out of a tin can.
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: 4–6 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 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 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 make creamy cottage cheese or pressed cheese.
- Don’t bother using higher fat milk. The fat is drained off with the whey. See the section above for details on how to make creamy cottage cheese.
- 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.
- 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 is reduced because there is so much water added to the curds.
- 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 is much easier.
Keywords: traditional, buttermilk, easy, simple, beginner, cheesemaking, DIY, homemade, rennet-free, winter, fall