I made cottage cheese, the (really) old-fashioned way!

Lucky for me, I have access to fresh raw milk through a cow share. My next-door neighbor bought a cheese-making book, and we’ve been experimenting together. On Sunday, she made mozzarella, and I was going to make cottage cheese using a culture. But the milk was about a week old, and just barely starting to sour, and I was getting fresh milk on Monday, so I decided to experiment instead and follow an old-fashioned procedure described in a sidebar: I left the milk out on the counter.

By today, the milk had curdled into a mushy, gelatinous mass inside the jar. I poured it into a pan and heated it until the curd began to separate from the whey. It didn’t take long. At that point, I suppose I could have sat on a tuffet and had my fill, but I don’t much like spiders, so I poured it carefully through a square of muslin and hung it to drain for a couple of hours.

Then I put it in a jar and tasted it. That’s right, the solid crud I’d basically skimmed out of a jar of unpasteurized milk I’d left out for two days. I actually put some in my mouth and swallowed it.

It was delicious! Possibly the best cottage cheese I’ve ever had. And I made it. By leaving the milk out! When I think back on all the gallons of milk I poured down the drain, just because I’d left them on a sunny counter top all day and they smelled bad when I got home . . . it makes me weep. I may never refrigerate milk again. (I know, this will probably kill me. But I have a pretty healthy immune system, so hopefully I’ll last until breakfast tomorrow, so that I can enjoy some more cottage cheese on some toast. Mmmm…bacteria-y goodness.)

In a real cottage?


I live in SE Iowa, near (but not near enough to be convenient) the Kalona Cheese Factory, where they are famous for their homemade cheese curds. I don’t get down there often, so I’ve been cheese curd deprived, mostly.

I recently found a recipe in a cookbook for cheese curds, and tried it once: Bring the milk to a boil, take it off heat, and stir in a few tablespoons of vinegar. Then strain through cheesecloth and eat.

It curdled, but I was not impressed. The curds were very small (like cottage cheese), but it had almost no flavor at all. Maybe I should try your method. Does it require raw milk (which I don’t have ready access to), or can I get some regular whole milk from the store?

Evidently, if you want snack-sized curds like I do, you need to do the whole rennet thing, which I haven’t done yet.

Hi Dijon Warlock. What you have just made is actually paneer, the ‘cheese’ used in a number of Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. I agree that paneer doesn’t have a lot of taste of its own. After hanging the small curds, Indians press it into blocks, which they later cut into cubes and cook with spices in curries etc. The spices are where the flavor comes from, and the paneer acts as a mild, fatty complement to the spices. It’s really nice. I have also seen a Pakistani recipe where my friend mixes in some salt, pepper, garlic, chili etc into the hung paneer and made something which was nice to eat on its own.

I am not a biochemist or a food scientist, but as far as I understand it, in making ‘real’ cheese you need two things: something that will make the milk split into curds and whey in a chemical reaction (e.g. vinegar), and something that will then transform the curds biologically (bacteria or mold). And the longer you age it at this stage, the more it is transformed. The latter part is what you are missing and what makes the difference between cheese and paneer.

I would guess in the case of the OP that the two agents were the same, i.e. the biological organisms in the air cause the milk to go sour (starting the biological transformation) but also cause the milk to split when heated.

That’s my two cents. I submit to the corrections of any real experts.

What did you do with the whey? I’ve made Finnish squeaky cheese a couple times, but feel bad about wasting the whey.

(Thank Og I’m not a tequila drinkier, or else someone could sing “Wasting a whey” again in Margaritaville.)

Similar, but Paneer is usually curdled with lemon juice or some other acidic foodstuff.

Bravo to the OP for trying this. But there are probably some risks in doing this without a ‘starter culture’ - you’re at the mercy of whatever strains of bacteria happen to be present in the milk before you start (and I can’t decide whether this would be worse with raw or pasteurised milk - pasteurised contains less active bacteria, but that might just make it prime real estate for things you have floating about in the room, or on your utensils or body.

You can use whey as the liquid to make bread with, or use it as the liquid in soup, or make ‘whey cheese’ where you gently simmer the water off the whey until you get a little brown goop called gjetost for goat milk and mjetost for cows milk [i think those were the names, I havent made cheese in about 8 years]

Not to hijack, but can someone explain “cow share” to me?

I agree with Endemic and and Mangetout. I always tell my SO that I’ll be useful when the Big One drops. I can make cheese, with flour and water I can make my own bread (rotis), I can make yogurt. I know how to milk a cow, though it’'s been a long time. I’m a fairly good gardener. So I can feed us!

You’re right. Fresh unpasteurized milk tends (tends, that is) to have naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria that are benign and safe to eat. Given the chance to multiply, they will produce lactic acid which creates a hostile environment for other bacterial strains, but contamination while the milk is fresh can lead to potentially fatal food poisoning. My understanding is that you should NOT use pasteurized milk that has spoiled for precisely the reason you gave: since the naturally occurring lactobacilli have mostly been killed, spoilage is much more likely to have been caused by coliform bacteria or yeasts.

I wonder if this isn’t actually safer than drinking the raw milk straight, though (which I do as well). After all, contamination might go unnoticed in fresh milk, but presumably you could tell if the curdled milk was “wrong,” at least if you knew what to expect.

Yep! At least I guess you could say so. More of a carriage house, really–it was built onto a detached garage as an artist’s studio for the owner of the main house. Close enough?

It is illegal to sell raw milk in most states because of the potential health risk. (What can I say, I order hamburgers medium-rare, too. I live on the edge!) But if you own the cow, you can drink all the raw milk you want! So several people “own” a share of Naomi, a brown milk cow, and we pay a farm couple to care for her and deliver the milk.

Hi, yourself. :slight_smile: It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you that the recipe came from an Indian family, and I believe (if my memory serves; I can’t currently find the thing at the moment) that it called for the curds (or “paneer”, which word didn’t crop up in the recipe) to be cut into cubes and cooked in a curry sauce with some other stuff. If people want, I can try to dig the recipe up and post it. I haven’t tried it all the way through, though: I just tried the curd part.

I wonder if you could reculture it with the lactobacilli in plain active-culture yogurt.

Absolutely! Most yogurt (and cheese, too) is made from pasteurized milk–I just meant that you shouldn’t let it ferment naturally like you can with raw milk. Yogurt is made from a slightly different mix of bacteria that grow at warmer temperatures. Cottage cheese uses “mesophilic” bacteria that thrive at slightly above room temperature. Cultured buttermilk uses the same mesophilic bacteria, so you could use it to inoculate milk for cottage cheese, or let raw milk sour but drink it before it curdles if you want homemade buttermilk.

ETA: Making yogurt in exactly the way you describe is very easy and much better than store-bought. You can’t beat fresh yogurt.

I wanted to say that there is an Ethiopian restaruant here in memphis that makes fresh cheese every day. I assumed it was cottage cheese because it looks like cottage cheese to me however it tastes way (whey?) better than store bought. They have a buffet at lunch and if you ask nice they will put out some of the cheese. I am bringing all of this up because when I was last in there at lunch and asked, the host glanced into the kitchen and said they were making some now and he called to someone to bring me some of the cheese when it was finished. The cook came out and got the vinegar dispenser (full) and took it into the back and a few minutes later came back and handed me a plate of cold cheese. Now I thought the vinegar would have been added while the milk was warm to cause the curds to form. I dont’ really know but I love thast stuff whatever it is and I don’t really like store bought cottage cheese. I keep meaning to make some.


If I saw a thread with this title in MPSIMS I wouldn’t even THINK of opening it.