It is quite unfortunate that cottage cheese has such a bad rap. Beaten to death in the '70s and '80s when it was inexplicably categorized as a “health food,” cottage cheese is perceived as a food meant for the weird kid at the lunch table and folks with dentures. Searching for cottage cheese recipes on the internet brings you headlines like “30 Ways to Eat Cottage Cheese That Are Actually Delicious,” or revolting lasagna atrocities from dubious recipe sites. Cottage cheese has gone from highly desirable dairy product to a refrigerator section reject, whose public appearances are almost completely limited to the Diet Delights section of every diner on Earth. You go to a diner for cheese fries, not cottage cheese and lettuce. No wonder no one loves. It.
So what is cottage cheese exactly? It’s medium-sized cheese curds mixed with heavy cream. Pretty much exactly what is inside of burrata, that sexy creamy cheese everyone's been going utterly bananas for over the past few years. Feel unbelievably stupid and classist right now? You should.
I want to help you make cottage cheese. Maybe then you’ll fully grasp how far the mighty have fallen, and how your cheese bias has been screwing you out of this rich delectability since 1989.
There are recipes lurking around on the internet, some calling for rennet, some for white vinegar, some lemon juice. You pick what’s comfortable for you, ingredients-wise. The process is all the same.
A large pot
An instant read or meat thermometer
Large wooden spoon
A big bowl
A large mesh strainer
First, heat up your milk to near-boiling, but not boiling. That’s why thermometers are good, because instructions like “bring to a near boil” are meaningless to people who aren’t making their own cheese all the time. You’re looking for around 185°F.
When it's good and hot, remove from the heat and add your acid or rennet with a nice pinch of salt and give it a stir. You’ll see the milk separate into curds and whey like magic. It has not spoiled. This is what you want it to do. Stick it in the refrigerator for a few hours and go do something else.
If you’ve used rennet, you’ll probably see the curds have separated into a large, coagulated mass, sort of like fat separating from a stock (because that’s essentially what has happened). You’ll need to use your knife to score the curds in a crosshatch pattern to help break it up after drainage.
Line your mesh strainer with cheesecloth and put over the big bowl. Ladle the curds into it, allowing the whey to separate. Set the whey aside and use it for another project, like for lacto-fermenting vegetables, or conditioning your hair.
Once the curds have drained completely, break them up gently using your wooden spoon, then drizzle in heavy cream until you’ve got your desired consistency. Season with salt. That’s it. That’s cottage cheese.
How the hell did this end up on the diet menu?