AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE
MAKING COTTAGE CHEESE
IN THE HOME
By HOWARD B. YOUNG
Assistant Extension Dairyman, Agricultural Extension Service
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
The milk produced by family cows contributes a great deal
to the health and wellbeing of many families living in rural
areas. The use of generous quantities of milk and milk products
provides much of the needed fat, carbohydrates, proteins, min-
erals and vitamins, which are essential in a well-balanced diet.
During certain seasons of the year family cows may produce
more milk than the household can use as fresh fluid milk. One
of the ways to utilize this surplus milk is to separate the milk
and use the cream for making butter and the skimmilk for mak-
ing cottage cheese.
Cottage cheese is the soft, unripened cheese that is usually
made from fresh skimmilk. It may be made either by the action
of lactic acid or the combined actions of the lactic acid and a
substance called rennet. The freshly made curd looks like pop-
ped kernels of corn. It has a mild acid flavor, and the curd
has a meaty consistency. The firmness of the curd varies with
the moisture content. Generally, curd that has been heated
and drained properly contains 70 to 80 percent moisture.
Small quantities of cottage cheese can be made inexpensively
in the home, since it can be made from surplus skimmilk by a
process which requires little time, labor and expense. When
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Agricultural Extension Service, University of Florida,
Florida State University and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
M. O. Watkins, Director
properly made, it is very palatable and highly digestible. It
is a nutritious food because it contains relatively large portions
of proteins, minerals and many of the vitamins. It can be served
plain, creamed, in salads, or in combinations with other foods.
EQUIPMENT FOR MAKING COTTAGE CHEESE
Usually most of the equipment necessary for making cottage
cheese is available in the home. Stainless steel containers are
ideal for making cheese. However, enamelware or heavily tinned
containers that are resistant to acids may be used. A large
strainer or a food colander covered with cheescloth may be used
as a draining rack. A glass jar with lid is excellent for storing
the cheese in the refrigerator.
An accurate thermometer is essential for making cottage
cheese of good quality. A dairy thermometer of the floating
type, which may be purchased in hardware stores or dairy supply
firms, is most desirable. However, the common household ther-
mometer with a temperature range of 35 to 170 F. is suitable.
PREPARATION OF MILK FOR COTTAGE CHEESE
The use of clean utensils, fresh buttermilk, good techniques
and fresh skimmilk of good quality are important in making
good cottage cheese.
Whole milk may be separated into cream and skimmilk by
use of a commercial home separator, if available. Another
method is to store whole milk in a refrigerator until the cream
rises, after which, the cream may be skimmed off the top. Good
quality cottage cheese cannot be made from skimmilk obtained
from whole milk of poor quality or from skimmilk that has not
been properly cared for. Skimmilk should be kept in clean,
covered containers and stored in a refrigerator until used for
making the cottage cheese. Covering the containers is im-
portant because milk will quickly absorb other food odors from
Raw or non-pasteurized skimmilk may be used for making
cottage cheese. Pasteurization helps control the souring process
and helps produce a cheese that is more uniform in taste and
keeping quality. Skimmilk for making cottage cheese may be
pasteurized in the home by the use of a commercial home pas-
teurizer or by placing it in a double boiler or another suitable
container and heating it to 143' F. This temperature should be
maintained for 30 minutes. Occasional stirring of the skimmilk
during the heating and holding period will insure a uniform
temperature. After pasteurization, if cheese is to be made im-
mediately, it will be necessary to cool the milk only to about
70 to 750 F.; otherwise, it should be cooled and held in the re-
frigerator until used.
The heating of the skimmilk is important. Excessive heat-
ing causes a soft curd formation. Such curd is easily broken
in cutting and handling and is difficult or even impossible to firm
properly in the heating process.
USE OF BUTTERMILK AS A CULTURE
Fresh cultured buttermilk (obtained from a local dairy firm)
or fresh homemade buttermilk that has a clean, sour smell may
be used as a culture. The use of a culture to sour the skimmilk
is desirable when raw skimmilk is used. However, the use of
a culture is necessary if the skimmilk has been pasteurized.
The addition of an active, clean-flavored culture hastens the sour-
ing and coagulation of the milk, improves the cheese flavor and
aids in the prevention of objectionable flavors and the formation
of gas, caused by other bacteria present.
Skimmilk of good quality that has not been heated or pas-
teurized usually contains the desirable bacteria that cause milk
to sour. Such milk will form a good thick, firm mass without
using a culture, if it is warmed to 70 to 750 F. and held at that
temperature for 24 to 36 hours. This coagulated skimmilk may
be heated and made into cottage cheese. (Steps 2 through 8.)
MAKING COTTAGE CHEESE
The making of cottage cheese begins with the souring and
coagulation of the skimmilk. The coagulating and souring pro-
cesses are accomplished in pasteurized milk by the use of culture
and in raw milk by the use of a culture or by allowing it to sour
and coagulate naturally. Any coagulated milk that has formed
a firm mass and has a clean, sour smell that may be on hand can
be used for making cottage cheese.
The procedure for making common cottage cheese from pas-
teurized skimmilk is as follows:
1. Adjust the temperature of the pasteurized skimmilk to
70 to 750 F. and stir in thoroughly 1/4 to 1/ cup (2 to 4 ounces)
of culture to each gallon of skimmilk used. Cover the container
with a clean, loose-fitting lid and keep the temperature of the
milk at a temperature of 70 to 750 F. until a fairly thick, firm
mass has formed and a slight amount of whey appears on the
surface. This process usually takes from 16 to 24 hours.
2. Then cut the curd in 1/2 to 1 inch irregular cubes. This
may be done by passing a long kitchen knife or spatula vertically
through the coagulated milk crosswise and lengthwise of the
container. After cutting crosswise and lenghwise, pass the
knife or spatula through the coagulated milk at angles toward
the sides or ends of the container, starting at the top of the
milk and gradually working toward the bottom. After com-
pleting the cutting process, allow the curd to stand for approxi-
mately 10 to 15 minutes undisturbed. Next, heat the cut curd
to separate the whey and to produce shrinkage and firming.
The early stages of heating are important. Excessively hot water
may cause the curd to mat. Heat the curd slowly and as uni-
formly as possible. This may be done by placing the container
of cheese in a larger vessel of water at a temperature of 115 to
1200 F. with the water level slightly higher than the surface
of the curd and whey.
3. Stirring during the heating process should be kept at a
minimum. Stir the curd gently with a spoon or wooden ladle
to aid in heating and to keep the curd from matting excessively.
Take care to avoid breaking the curd. A good practice to follow
is to stir gently for a minute at a time, at 5-minute intervals,
during the heating process.
4. When the temperature of the curd and whey reaches 100
to 105 F., increase the temperature of the water in the outer
container to the point where the temperature of the curd and
whey will be 115 to 1200 F. Maintain this temperature for 20
to 30 minutes or until the pieces of curd are firm enough that
they do not break easily. After the curd has reached a tem-
perature of 115 to 120 F., it may be stirred more frequently.
Examine the curd occasionally to determine when it is firm
enough to stop the heating process. One of the best ways to
determine the firmness of the curd is to select a piece of curd
and break it open with the fingers. If the curd is not firm enough,
the center will contain much moisture and have a glossy ap-
5. After the curd has been firmed sufficiently, drain off the
whey. This may be accomplished by pouring the curd-whey
mixture on cheescloth, which has been spread over a large
strainer or colander.
6. Wash the curd after 3 to 5 minutes draining. The wash-
ing makes the curd firm and hard to the touch, but it does not
increase the moisture content. Washing removes acid whey and
aids in producing the desired mildness of flavor.
Washing with water is applied, as a rule, in at least two
treatments. The first at a temperature of about 70 to 800 F.,
cools the curd and removes most of the sour whey adhering to
the curd particles. Washing can be conveniently done by lift-
ing the curd in the drain cloth and immersing it in a pan of water
(70 to 80" F.) for 2 or 3 minutes, gently working it about with
a spoon. The volume of the water used for each washing should
be at least twice the volume of the curd in the drain cloth.
In the same manner, the curd is immersed in the second wash
water. Water of 50 F. or lower is used in the last treatment.
Ice water may be used. Low temperatures are desired to check
the souring process and to chill the curd quickly before it is
placed under refrigeration.
7. After the washing is finished, pour the curd into a bowl
and salt it at the rate of about 1 teaspoonful of salt per pound
of curd. The salted curd may then be stored in a refrigerator
until used. The best storage temperature is approximately 350 F.
8. If creamed cottage cheese is desired, sour or sweet cream
of good quality may be added at the rate of 2 to 4 ounces (1/4
to 1/2 cup) per pound of curd. Creaming of the cottage cheese
improves its flavor and palatability. Cottage cheese after cream-
ing is a highly perishable product and should be consumed as
soon as possible.
COMMON DEFECTS IN COTTAGE CHEESE THAT
MAY BE ENCOUNTERED
Several defects in cottage cheese and their possible causes are:
1. Sour flavor-caused by inferior milk, excessive acid de-
velopment, retention of too much whey in the curd, lack of
firming, lack of washing or lack of draining.
2. Yeasty or fermentated flavors-somewhat alike, they are
caused by yeasts, bacteria or molds in or on the curd. These
defects can usually be traced to inferior milk, cream or culture
and to the use of unclean utensils. The lack of chilling before
placing the cheese in the refrigerator, holding at temperatures
above 400 F., and holding the cheese too long before using are
3. Unclean flavor-caused by inferior milk, cream, culture
or unsanitary storage conditions.
4. Feed flavors-caused by the odors of feed in the original
5. Dry and hard curd-caused by lack of moisture in the
cheese. Insufficient moisture may be caused by small sizes of
curd particles, overheating during firming, draining too long
before washing with cool water and lack of cream in creamed
6. Soft, sticky or pasty curd-caused by too much moisture
in the curd. Excessive moisture can be attributed to development
of too much acid, curd particles of large size, rapid heating, soft
centers in the curd and insufficient firming of the curd.
7. Failure of milk to sour and coagulate-may be caused by
one or more of the following:
By using old buttermilk to sour or coagulate the skimmilk.
Using too low temperature and too short holding time for
the culture-skimmilk mixture.
By not adding enough fresh buttermilk (culture) to the skim-
Using skimmilk obtained from milk from cows that have
been recently treated (the last 5 to 7 days) with antibiotics
(example: penicillin) for udder infections.