Monday, January 21, 2008

Make Your Own Cottage Cheese

I think that one of the most fantastic foods in the world is milk, and you will see quite a lot about it in this blog. As a "whole" food, its purpose is to nourish an animal from infancy until it is able to eat more readily available food.

Since it is meant to be the only food in an animal's life for a significant period of time, by necessity it contains all the nutrients that it will need, and this is what makes it such a healthy food.

But its wholeness also leads to complexity, and that complexity leads to some very interesting things that we can do with milk. One such thing is to separate the protein component of the milk from the liquid. The proteins become solid, and are known as "curds", and the remaining liquid is the "whey". The curds can then become further processed into a cheese in various methods.

The curds are usually produced by acidifying the milk, usually with a bacteria culture. This bacteria eats the sugars in the milk, and produces lactic acid. This acid starts the curdling process, which is usually finished by applying an enzyme called "rennet".

However, for our purposes, simple white vinegar will do the trick. What we need is 3/4 cup of vinegar for each gallon of skim milk (and yes, this needs to be skim milk, because we do not want the fat).

Pour the milk into a sauce pan and gently raise the heat to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This is well below boiling temperature, so be careful not to let the milk start bubbling.

Remove the pan from the heat, and slowly pour the vinegar into the milk. Make sure to keep stirring for about two minutes, after which you can let the milk sit covered for about 30 minutes. If you did it correctly, you should already have seen the curds begin to separate from the liquid. After 30 minutes the process should be complete.

Now all you have to do is rinse and drain the newly-made cottage cheese in a colander or strainer lined with a tea towel. Season with salt and pepper, and enjoy!

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