It happens. You buy a gallon of milk with good intentions but then an unscheduled trip out of town means it's been in the fridge a little too close to (or even just past) the date on the carton. I love milk and I drink it often. In our home there's always milk in the refrigerator. But an unplanned delay in us consuming it left it lightly soured.
But I won't throw it away, oh no! There's actually another delicious use for it: I'll use the soured milk to make homemade cottage cheese! Thankfully making cottage cheese is very quick and beyond easy to do.
I had about half a gallon of milk remaining and it was just past the date on the carton. Of course, I'd never try this with spoiled milk, but lightly soured milk is perfect to use for making cottage cheese.
I poured that milk into a pan and heated it to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. I was careful not to let the milk get hotter than that since too much heat could change the texture of the curds and make them rubbery. Low andslow heat is best.
When my milk reached 185 degrees, I added a tablespoon of plain white vinegar. Using a slotted wooden spoon, I stirred until the milk curds began to separate from the whey. When I'd stirred for about 3 to 4 minutes, I figured the curds were as separated as it would get.
I turned off the heat and poured the hot curds and whey into a colander that had been lined with cheesecloth. There was quite a bit of whey, but even that byproduct's not wasted. If I have whey available, I love to use it when making homemade bread. It not only adds a little extra nutrition but also more flavor.
I allowed the whey to cool and placed it in a glass jar and stored it in my refrigerator. I'll be sure to use it the next time I make my homemade KitchenAid sandwich bread.
Meanwhile, I turned my attention back to those curds. They had now cooled enough to handle so with freshly washed hands I began crumbling those curds to the size I wanted them to be. I like a smaller curd, but you may want larger ones. The beauty of making it yourself is that you can enjoy it however you like!
When the curds were the size I wanted I added about 1/4 teaspoon of salt (totally optional) and splashed in just enough fresh milk to give it a creamy texture. You could use cream or half and half instead for an even creamier texture. I typically just use fresh milk but skim, 2-percent or whole milk — it doesn't matter to me.
Then a quick stir and voila! Homemade cottage cheese in a flash. I used a repurposed canning jar to store it in our refrigerator. (I typically use only glass in my refrigerator so I don't need those dreaded plastic food storage bowls.) I will enjoy my homemade cottage cheese with fruit, such as peaches or even a delicious cantaloupe picked fresh from the garden.
Here's the recipe I used, and it's based on about 1/2 gallon of soured milk. Depending upon whether I've got whole milk or one of the lower-fat varieties, I typically get about a pint of cottage cheese and more than a quart of whey. You may need to adjust some of the ingredients based on the amount of soured milk you actually have.
• 1/2 gallon lightly soured milk
• 1 Tbsp white vinegar
• 1/4 tbsp salt (optional)
• Splash of fresh milk
1. Pour 1/2 gallon of lightly-soured milk into a pan. Heat milk to 185 degrees. (Don't heat higher than that or the curds may change texture.)
2. Add 1 tablespoon plain white vinegar and stir continuously until milk curds separate from the whey. It could take three to four minutes for all the curds to separate.
3. Strain separated milk into cheesecloth-lined colander and allow the milk curds to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, break up curds to the size you like them using clean hands. If desired add 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste (optional). Stir in a splash of fresh milk, cream or half-and-half.
Tammy Taylor lives and works on a Northeast Texas ranch and writes about home cooking, gardening, food preservation, MIY, DIY and living as gently as possible on this big blue planet we call home. You can visit her Homestead Blog – or follow her on Facebook or Pinterest. Find all of Tammy's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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