Process for Cottage Cheese Making

Certain items are needed for cottage cheese making. You could assemble cheese making supplies yourself, but you can save yourself a lot of heartache by investing in a cheese making kit.

No matter where you get your items, always use stainless steel utensils, as the acid created by making cheese will eat through aluminum utensils.

When making cottage cheese, you'll need to set aside plenty of time. The cottage cheese you will be making takes around 15 hours and produces country-style cottage cheese, or farmer's cheese. When making cottage cheese, keep in mind that one gallon of skim milk yields approximately 1.3 pounds of cottage cheese.

Equipment:
Stainless steel double boiler large enough to hold at least four gallons of milk
Top-reading metal thermometer
Stainless steel thin-bladed knife with a blade at least eight inches long
Cheesecloth
Stainless steel strainer or plastic colander that is large enough to hold a batch of cheese

The thermometer should go at least as high as 212 degrees Fahrenheit. If you can find one that goes higher, that is even better. Do not use glass thermometers, as they will break.

Pasteurize one gallon of skim milk in the double boiler by heating it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring constantly. Cool in an ice bath to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The curd must be kept between 72 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit until the curd is ready to cook.

Add four tablespoons of buttermilk to the milk, and stir it for at least one minute. Always use fresh buttermilk for the starter. Buttermilk that is older loses the lactic acid bacteria, and it will not produce enough acid to sour the milk or form a firm curd.

Cover with a clean cloth and let sit, undisturbed for at least 15 hours and up to 24 hours. Check for a clean break after 15 hours. A clean break occurs when you insert a knife into the curds and the curds do not stick to the knife. Whey will seep into the crack you made with the knife.

Another way to check is to stick the knife in vertically along the wall of the pot. Pull the blade away from the side. If the curd pulls away from the wall cleanly, you have a clean break. If the break is not clean, check again in two hours, and every two hours until you see a clean break.

Cut the curd by drawing the long bladed knife through the curds. Start in the middle, and work your way to one edge, then the other, making cuts every quarter inch. Turn the pot 90 degrees and repeat the step. Retrace the all of the lines you just made, but instead of holding the knife straight up and down, hold the knife at a 45-degree angle. Turn the pot again, and trace the rest of the lines with the knife at a 45-degree angle.

For the next step, you will need enough water to fill the bottom of the double boiler so that the water level is above the level of the curd. The water must be 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put about 2 inches of the same temperature water on top of the curds in the inner pot. Heat the water at a rate of one degree Fahrenheit per minute until the temperature of the curds is 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It should take 30 to 35 minutes. While cooking, every five minutes, stir the curd for one minute, so the curds do not stick together.

Once the whey hits 100 degrees Fahrenheit, turn up the heat enough so that the temperature goes up 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. Heat, stirring every two minutes, to 115 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn off the heat. The temperature needs to be maintained, for 15 to 20 minutes. If the temperature of the curds drops, turn the heat back on, so as to keep the curds at about 115 degrees Fahrenheit. During this process, stir the curds every four or five minutes.

To test the curds for doneness, drop a curd into a pan on the floor. The curd will bounce without shattering when it is done.

Spoon the whey off the top of the curds. Pour the curd mixture into cheesecloth-lined colander. Drain for at least three minutes. Using the cheesecloth, lift the curds from the colander, and submerge the bundle in cold water. Dip it in and out a few times to rinse off the whey and cool the curds. Change the water and dip again until the curds are cool. You can use ice water for this step.

Put the curds (still in the cheesecloth) back in the colander, and let them drain until the curds are dry. You can complete the draining process in the refrigerator. The curds should not mat together if they are firm enough.

If you want creamy cottage cheese, once the curds have chilled in the refrigerator, add about six tablespoons heavy cream or half and half to the curds, and mix well. 

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