This article is for those of you with access to the real deal…raw, unpasteurized, un-homogenized straight from the cow – milk.
In a nut shell, pasteurized milk has been heated to kill live enzymes plus good, possibly bad, bacteria to increase its shelf life. Homogenized milk has been essentially, blasted through a screen to break up the milk molecules to keep them from separating into cream-on-top milk, and to mix all the dead enzymes and bacteria up so they don’t sink to the bottom and make the milk unattractive to drink.
I could talk about the benefits of raw milk verses processed milk literally until the cows come home but this is an article about how to make cottage cheese. If you continue reading with the intentions of not making cottage cheese, I guarantee you will still learn something you didn’t know.
At Kumu Aina, we have a one milking cow on the farm and two heifers. A heifer is a bovine who hasn’t had a calf, once they have calved you can officially call them a cow. Since our cows are either pregnant or in the process of getting pregnant, I will call them cows.
Our “cows” eat nothing but elephant grass, tree leaves and tropical fruit. They never get grain so they are entirely grass-fed. In addition, we don’t give them antibiotics, growth hormones or rBGH (a hormone to increase milk production). They are family cows.
My cheese making experience is limited to raw milk and I have never tried to make dairy products with anything else.
Having said that, there is not a lot of recipes out there for using strictly raw milk. So, I naturally follow pasteurized milk recipes and make adjustments using raw milk.
Cottage cheese is one of the easiest cheeses to make. One adjustment I make is to not add rennet. Rennet is a natural additive and you can use animal rennet or vegetarian rennet. They both work fine. I don’t recommend using rennet for cottage cheese because it tends to make the cottage cheese squeak when you eat it and you don’t need it.
Typically, you don’t use fresh milk to make cottage cheese. Use milk that is on the verge of culturing. By the way, raw milk doesn’t go bad or putrefy like store-bought milk, it cultures and still tastes good and is edible.
To make cottage cheese all you need to do is skim the cream off a gallon of milk using a stainless-steel spoon. Some cream will remain, and you can skim the rest off later. Cream cultures faster then milk so I take it off. You can use the cream to make other things like butter or you can add it back later into the cottage cheese. Pour the skimmed milk into a stainless steel stock pot.
You can proceed in either one or two ways. I’ll call it the quick method and the farmer’s method. In the quick method, you can heat the milk up to 86 degrees, stirring often. In the farmer’s method just set aside, no heating. Eighty-six degrees is the perfect temperature for milk to grow culture without killing anything. Where does culture come from in raw milk? Well, the milk for one and the air for another. Set the pot in an out of the way corner and cover with a clean kitchen towel and wait for a day or two. Either method works and comes up with the same result – one a little faster. Both turn into a yogurt-like consistency product.
To know when to proceed, the “milk” will pull off the side of the pot when you tilt the pot. It will look like jello or yogurt. At this point, you can skim off the remaining cream with a spoon. I either add this to my cream for butter making or give it to the dogs as a treat. You can eat it yourself too. All highly recommended.
Next, take a long knife, I usually use a bread knife, and cut the curd into one inch squares going both front to back and side to side so it looks like a checkerboard. Then cut diagonally tilting the knife as to cut the curds longways. When you are done you will have squares of “yogurt” like cubes. You can’t really mess this up but take your time and be gentle.
With the cubes, still in the stock pot, place it over a medium-low heat and stir gently every so often. You will now see the beautiful cubes of white cultured milk. Heat to 104-115 degrees. Stir more often as the heat increases to the desired temperature. I like to heat mine to 104 degrees and then shut it off. Then I let it rest for 10 minutes and stir it again. Stirring releases the whey. I stir mine until I am happy with the look and texture.
In addition, mesophilic culture is still present at 104 degrees. I’m not sure if this matters, but I like the fact that I still have this additional culture present in my cheese. You can save a quart of the whey, containing the mesophilic culture, in the refrigerator and pour a pint into your milk for your next batch prior to setting it out to increase the cultures. This also helps speed up the process.
At this point, those cubes will have the look of cottage cheese curds. The hotter the water the more solid or harder the curds become and the more whey is released. So it’s a matter of preference. Your final result is still considered a raw food (if you keep the temperature under 115 degrees).
Now your curds will be floating in whey. Line a colander with cheese cloth for draining. I always catch the whey. So many uses! Mostly we use it in place of water in bread making and it makes the bread taste like sour-dough bread. I also feed it to my chickens and pigs. Don’t give it to your dog in large quantities though because it will give them diarrhea in the middle of the night. A few tablespoons in their dry kibble will be fine. You can also pour it on plants or trees to introduce probiotics to the soil among other good things. Use it to lacto-ferment vegetables. Full of protein and minerals.
Let your curds drain for at least 20 minutes. Then put them in a mixing bowl to break up into smaller curds. You can add salt if you like. I never do, it seems salty enough. One gallon should make about a quart of cheese. It’s basically ready to eat. I put it in a quart jar and refrigerate.
You can put it in a lot of dishes, even pastas like lasagne. I especially like to add a tablespoon of cream to some with cut up papaya for an amazing cool snack or breakfast. I also use it to make cheesecake. Any way you use it, it is absolutely delicious.