No Rennet and No Fret Cottage Cheese
I watch and read pretty much everything Alton Brown does. I think he is the ultimate Macheesmo guy. He’s adventurous, funny (mostly), and a damn good cook. That said, when I saw his “Good Eats” episode on milk I didn’t really think I would see much that I was interested in. I don’t love milk except in its non-milk forms: cheese, butter, etc. You will never find me eating a bowl of cereal with milk. Just not my thing.
My ears definitely perked up though when he started making his own cottage cheese. Typically, cottage cheese is made with Rennet (most cheese-making uses it actually). I’m much too lazy to go out and find Rennet. It’s one of those hurdles that I have not yet jumped in my cooking “career.” But Alton’s recipe (bless him) doesn’t use Rennet. It uses plain white vinegar. I HAVE THAT.
So I promised my test audience (girlfriend) that I was making my own cottage cheese for breakfast today, to which she replied, “Weird.” It was every bit as easy as Alton promised and I ended up with this.
The recipe I ultimately used was a bit different than Alton’s based on some other sources I checked out and also some comments that were left on his original recipe.
Homemade Cottage Cheese
Yield: 2-3 cups cottage cheese
1/2 gallon 2% milk
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup Half and Half
1) Pour the milk into a medium-large saucepan. Bring to 120 degrees. And look. I don't have a thermometer. I guessed. You want it to feel slightly warm since your body is at 98 degrees. Just go slow and stir continuously.
2) When it gets to that temp, take it off the heat and stir in the vinegar. It should start to separate.
3) Once everything is stirred together, put on the lid and let it sit for 30 minutes. You want to give the curds plenty of time to cool a bit and also firm up.
4) Pour the curds and whey through a colander lined with cheesecloth or a fine clean towel. Gather up the corners of the towel and press the whey out (lightly). Don't show off your muscles here brother, just a light press will work.
5) Now the key part. Turn on the cold water and start rinsing off the curds. Keep the towel wrapped tightly around the curd but slowly roll it around. You have three goals here: 1) wash off the vinegar, 2) break up the curds, and 3) cool it off. Spend a few minutes on this. You can't over wash it.
6) Now put your curds in a bowl and add your Half and Half. Stir it together well making sure your curds are broken apart. I would taste it now before you salt it. It is pretty salty as is. I added just a few small pinches of kosher salt.
This would be perfect with any sort of fruit or just by itself. It is surprisingly light. Not quite as heavy or thick as the store bought version. It actually has a ricotta like consistency which is to say – tasty.