Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Recipe: Easy Peasey Cottage Cheesy!

Warning: Long and Rambly (and Cheesy!) Post ahead...

First: Whenever I think of the word "Cheese" - I hear *this* voice in my head!

Anyway, I follow all these Foodie-Bloggers, and Garden-Bloggers, and Pottery/Artsy Bloggers, and  General/Miscellaneous-Stuff-Bloggers...

And their posts frequently inspire me to try new things - which is (generally) pretty cool.  But (as evidenced by my brief forays into hooch-making) can also cause me to go off half-cocked and create little more than a BIG mess.  Yet I remain undeterred, undaunted, unfazed, whatevers.  Sometimes I conveniently "forget" what a PITA something is, and I go and do it all again (I'm thinking about jam-making here), and I end up succeeding - in spite of myself!

So what does all of this have to do with Cottage Cheese?  Yeah, yeah, keep your shirt on - I'm getting to it!

Over time, I'd read several blog-posts (and I really wish I could remember who, specifically, I can blame for this!) about cheese-making and I thought "Wow. That's pretty cool!"  So I Googled further and came to the conclusion that it shouldn't be all that difficult to do.  I also found some basic cheese-making kits that ended up on my Amazon Wish-List.  This one: Mozzarella and Ricotta, and this one: Basic Cheesemaking kit. For Valentines Day, Hubbie got both of them for me (Yay Hubbie!!!)

Coincidentally, the week before Valentines, my BFF and I got together for one of our (Legendary) IKEA Raids, and one of the topics of discussion was her interest in learning more about cheese-making.  So when I opened my Valentines Gift I thought "How fortuitous!" and immediately texted her to see if she wanted to come over and experience cheese-making, firsthand (well, not ON Valentines Day, but the Saturday after!).

So I picked up a couple of gallons of organic (but not "raw") milk in anticipation of Cheese-Fest-Weekend:  One gallon of whole milk for Mozzarella, and one gallon of 1% for Cottage Cheese (since that was another, related conversation).

I'm going to skip the whole play-by-play on our first attempt at cheese making because - while we had fun making it - well, let's just say it's not *quite* as easy as the interwebs led me to believe.  And the end result, while edible, bore very little resemblance to Mozzarella.  It was more like Queso Fresco (similar flavor, but not a stringy/stretchy texture).  It was tasty - don't get me wrong - but not what I was hoping for.  Whenever I get around to making a SUCCESSFUL batch of Mozzarella, I promise I'll share, k?!

Okay then!

After my BFF left (with 1/3 of a block of Queso Fresco!), I still had a gallon of 1% milk (that nobody here will drink!), so I decided I'd tackle a batch of Cottage Cheese.  This is (one of many) nice things about working from home - I can multi-task while earning a living!  What follows is a copy/paste of the emails I'd sent my BFF that day...

* * * * * 
I'm trying the Vinegar Method (fastest/easiest) today with Organic 1% milk + Heavy Whipping Cream at the end.  Will report back..

So far, WAAAAAAY easier than Mozzarella/Queso Fresco! (I got cottage-cheesy lumps almost immediately after adding the vinegar)

Next: I'll try the Rennet Method (with whole milk).  That one has to rest 4 hours, but I bet it won't have that "sour" taste you were talking about.  Gonna have to wait a bit (I'll need to eat the stuff I'm making today - first!  That'll take me a few days).

* * * * *
Okay...  We have results!

Yield was...  Disappointing!  One large-ish bowl (I'd say about enough to fit into one of the smaller 16oz tubs).

The leftover liquid was not whey (clear, almost greenish) - but sour milk (white).  Just for grins, I poured most of it back into the pot and dribbled 12 drops of rennet - just to see what will happen (probably nothing usable).  I'm leaving it sit, undisturbed, for an hour or so.

Texture: "Different" - almost like a cross between cottage cheese and ricotta.  The curds (after mixing with cream) seem a lot smaller.  And they seem to want to squish together and (almost) solidify when you squish 'em with a spoon (can't do that with regular cottage cheese.  The curds stay curdy).  It's actually a pretty nice texture - but not what I was expecting.

Flavor: Quite good.  I ended up adding more cream than what the recipe called for (appx 3/4 cup).  I can't tell if it tastes sour because my kitchen smells like vinegar (still got the pot of vinegar+milk+rennet on the stove).  I added salt and a teensy sprinkle of Splenda (just a pinch).  It is quite tasty.

I've put it in a plastic container in the fridge and I'll sample it again later...

Bottom Line: It was quick and easy and not too messy.  I do prefer the taste to store-bought.  It's definitely more expensive than store-bought (would be less-so, had I bought plain ol' milk - rather than Organic).
I want to try the Rennet method next. Maybe later this week...

Shoot.  Now I want my own cow!!! lol

Straining the curds

Curds, up close 'n personal
(or is it?!)

* * * * *
Kitchen Science - Part III (Alternate Title: Cheese Is Weird)

Okay, I'd plopped 12 drops of rennet into the remaining milky vinegar gooze (actually, it wasn't ALL of the leftover gooze, the first big bowlful went down the drain before I got all "Mad Scientist" with this...).  I left it alone for about 5-10 minutes then stuck a spoon in it ('cuz I just can't leave sh*t alone!).  Discovered it was starting to coagulate and separate (YAY) so I semi-sliced it with the spoon, plopped the lid back on the pot and let it set for another hour(ish).

Opened the lid and saw this:

Tasty, huh?  In a Doctor Frankenstein/Biology Class/Medical Examiner's Office sorta way...

Ehh...  WTF...

I attempted to rinse my cheesecloth (HAHAHAHAHA) to line the colander...  Poured it in and QUICKLY discovered that this shit ain't gonna drain through cheesecloth.  If I squoze it hard, well...  Flashbacks to puberty, k?  Goozy white lumps would shoot-out (with surprising velocity) in various directions.

Science is Messy!

So yeah, I quickly abandoned the whole cheesecloth idea and figured I didn't really care if I lost some of it through my mesh strainer...

This proved not to be an issue since it didn't really want to drain through THAT either!  But I did notice something:  THIS looks like cottage cheese!

Gave it a taste (yes, I AM very brave - thankyewverymuch!)...  Not bad, actually.  Yes, a bit sour - but not like "Ew Vinegar" - it was more subtle than that.  I did like the creamy texture and found myself wondering what would happen if I stirred some of it back into the first batch.

Removed the first batch from the fridge and confirmed that it seems awfully dry and - actually - almost reminded me more of cream cheese.  It really wasn't "curdy" at all.  Anyway, scooped a couple of TBS of batch #1 into a bowl, and added a couple tsp of the Rennet Gooze into that.  Stirred it up and gave it a taste...  Not bad!  Salted and Splenda'd it.  Better still.

So I mixed ALL of the Rennet Gooze back into Batch #1.  More salt and Splenda. 

Okay, NOW it's done!

Now it looks more like store-bought (but tastes better, I think).  Yes, there is a "hint" of sourness - but overall, pretty good.

I still haven't read the book, but the Acid seems to be what causes the "clotting" and the Rennet provides more of a "gelatinous" texture.  So I guess the "Art" part of this is knowing which-proportion-of-what to put together - to end up with something you like.

All told: I ended up with a FULL 16 oz. plastic container (before, it was Not-Quite-Full).
And I think, maybe, this email is gonna get re-jiggered and posted on my blog.  But I figured you'd like to know how this came out!

Not bad...  Not bad at all and I will be trying this again!

* * * * *
Final footnote:  I made "fauxtatoes" to serve with dinner tonight.  Steamed a head of cauliflower with a couple of very small red potatoes.  Mashed 'em up.  Normally, I add cream and sour cream - but tonight I added some of my cottage cheese as I squished everything up.  It really amped-up the 'taters!  Eggzellent (and relatively low-carb).

P.S. Thank you for using my Amazon Links (if you so choose!) QT's Amazon Affiliate Link. It won't alter your shopping experience, but it might net me a few pennies! ;-)

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