Last Sunday was a busy and productive day at Krameria Estates. The 2011 holiday brew, Wacholder Roggenbock (Juniper Rye Bock), was bottled and we ventured into a new arena: making cottage cheese.
Okay, so the cottage cheese is only new to us. We recently learned that a couple of our grandmothers regularly made cottage cheese. Our parents remembered their mothers making it, as well as an uncle.
In fact, Mom seemed to think that her uncle made better cottage cheese than her mother – so much so that she wouldn’t eat her mom’s. Funny, but it seemed to be that her uncle started making regular stops at the house just to make cottage cheese. After school Mom was often greeted with a bowl of her “uncle’s cottage cheese.” It took a few years, but Mom finally realized that she had been eating her mom’s cottage cheese all that time.
As is often the case, neither Mom nor Dad remembered how their mothers made cottage cheese. All my mom could remember was milk and vinegar. That’s where the beauty of the Internet comes into play.
A quick search revealed a recipe from Alton Brown. It’s a very simple recipe with skim milk, white vinegar and salt. We stopped at a “natural grocery” for supplies.
We’re willing to pay top dollar for organic milk that’s not ultra-pasteurized, but $5.39 for a quart of white vinegar?!? We had plenty of cider vinegar at home that we were sure would do the trick. Plus, I’m pretty sure that both grandmothers only used cider vinegar for all of their pickling and other kitchen needs.
One thing to note about milk: make sure it’s not “ultra-pasteurized.” This is something our grandmothers did not need to worry about. Today, some milk producers pasteurize the milk at super-high temperatures. While that’s certain to kill all the bad stuff, it also kills the good — the stuff you need to make cheese. If it’s ultra-pasteurized, the carton should be marked as such (sometimes you’ll just see UP on the label).
Alton’s recipe for Quick Cottage Cheese: One gallon skim milk, 3/4 C white vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 C half-and-half (or heavy cream).
We switched it up based on what we had on hand: One gallon 2% milk, 3/4 C cider vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp course-grain kosher salt and 1/2 C half-and-half.
As far as the rest of the recipe, we followed Alton’s instructions. Here they are in a nutshell: Warm the milk over medium heat ’til it reaches 120 degrees F. Although Alton didn’t say it needed to be done, I gently stirred the milk on occasion. Remove the milk from the heat and gently pour in the vinegar. Continue to stir for 1-2 minutes. Almost immediately we saw the curd start to separate from the whey.
Cover the pot and allow it to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. This is an excellent opportunity to take a seat yourself and enjoy a beer.
Line a colander with a tea towel or some cheese cloth. Pour the mixture into that and allow it to drain for 5 minutes. Then, pull together the sides of the towel and place it under cold, running water for about 3-5 minutes. Make sure to squeeze it to break up the curds and move them around. Once cooled, drain out all the water you can and then transfer the curds to a large bowl. Mix in the salt.
Right before you’re ready to enjoy the cottage cheese, stir in the half-and-half or cream. We had only half of the final product that night. The rest (dry curds), we just covered and put in the refrigerator. Alton didn’t say how long it would keep, so we’ll let you decide what you’re comfortable with.
This was not like anything we’ve had from the grocery store. This is much cheesier and heavier. That might be because we used 2% milk, but we’re not sure. Next time we’ll try it with skim or 1% and see how that turns out.