How to Make Cottage Cheese

Once you discover how easy it is to make your own cottage cheese, you'll never buy it at the store again!

| September/October 1972

Making Cottage Cheese

Use fresh cultured buttermilk to coagulate pasteurized skim milk (the buttermilk will also do wonders for raw skim milk). Use one-half cup of the culture per gallon of milk, stir in well and place the mixture in a warm place for 24 hours.


You can turn that surplus homestead milk—after the calf has been weaned and ole Bossie seems more productive than ever—into nutritious cottage cheese that's rich in proteins, minerals and vitamins and free from harmful additives or preservatives. If your milk comes from the supermarket in cardboard containers, you can perform the same trick in smaller quantities any time of the year. Either way, you'll produce cottage cheese right in your own kitchen with a minimum investment of time, effort and expense . . . and after you've whipped together two or three batches, you'll find it no more trouble than preparing a favorite dessert.

Cottage cheese, in reality, is nothing more than unripened cheese formed by the natural action of lactic acid (with or without the help of a milk curdling agent called rennet). Correctly made, this dairy product is highly digestible and—as might be expected—the home-produced variety has a tantalizingly mild-acid flavor that is far superior to the taste of commercial brands.

Be sure to click on the Image Gallery link about for photos and descriptions that will help as you make your first batch of cottage cheese.

The Four Keys to Cheesemaking

Four things are extremely important to the production of noteworthy cottage cheese: (1) clean utensils, (2) fresh skim milk of good quality, (3) fresh buttermilk and (4) proper techniques.


You most likely have everything you need for making cottage cheese right in your own kitchen . . . and what you don't have you can improvise. Just bear in mind that the lactic acid (formed when milk sours) may be relatively mild, but is an acid nevertheless. It's best to make sure your cheese-making containers are stainless steel, enamelware, tinned or otherwise acid resistant.

You'll need a large double boiler (or one pot you can put on a rack inside a larger kettle), a good-sized strainer or food colander (cover the latter with two thicknesses of cheesecloth), an accurate thermometer (one of the special floating dairy models—available from a hardware store—is best, but any reliable household thermometer that reads from 35 to 170°F will do), a perforated stirring spoon or wooden ladle, a timer and a large kitchen knife.

6/19/2013 9:41:31 PM

Remember folks, this only works if the buttermilk has ACTIVE cultures... read your labels...

6/19/2013 9:39:18 PM

Recognizing the questions are old, they still deserve answers:

Andy_12: The buttermilk coagulates the protein in the whey. Fat-free skim milk will not turn to buttermilk as that requires the milkfat that is not present in the skim milk.

Robert: Room temperature is usually 70-75F and just sitting the pan out at room temperature will do the trick. If your room is cooler, you can sit the pan near a sunny window or incandescent lamp where it would be a few degrees warmer that the rest of the room.

1/31/2013 5:50:26 PM

While I am excited to try this recipe I am very disappointed that you don't give any method on how to keep the coagulating mixture at 75 degrees! My stove won't keep it that low and it even has a "warmer" burner. I am wondering why there has been no reply to the comment by Andy_12 too.

3/19/2009 6:44:05 AM

I don't understand how the milk forms a curd in the set of instructions in this article. If you add buttermilk to milk and let it sit, it will make more buttermilk. It won't coagulate. Like milk left on the counter will make sour milk, not curds and whey. It seems to me that the author is missing a step: either adding rennet and letting the curd form or heating the acidic buttermilk mixture to near boiling to make a sort of ricotta.

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