Using a mesophilic starter for making cottage cheese is great, but there are times when you may not have any starter available. In a pinch, you can use cultured buttermilk as a starter. It produces a delicious small-curd cottage cheese. Use leftover whey from this recipe to make Ricotta Cheese.
- Heat the milk to 75°F; remove from heat. Stir in cultured buttermilk.
- Cover and keep at 75°F for about 24 hours.
- After 24 hours the milk in the pan should have set to a custard-like consistency and may have a layer of whey on top. At this point cut the curd into ½-inch cubes.
- Let the curd set for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat water in a large pot to 120°F.
- Place the pan of curds in the large pot so that the water level surrounding the pan reaches the level of the curds inside.
- Gently stir the curds for 30 seconds, every 5 minutes or so, as the temperature of the curds slowly rises. Gentle stirring keeps the curds from matting.
- When the curds reach 100°F, increase the heat under the large pot until the curds reach 120°F.Hold the curds at this temperature for 25-30 minutes, stirring more vigorously every 5 minutes. Most of the curds will be firm now. Squeeze a few curds. A little soft in the center is OK; runny is not. If curds are not firm enough, continue to hold at 120°F for an additional 5 minutes.
- Line a colander with a double thickness of cheesecloth and set it over a container to catch the whey. Carefully pour curds into the colander and drain for 5 minutes. Gather up the corners of the cheesecloth and rinse the curds under a stream of very cold water or dip the curds in a bowl of cold water. Rinse until the water from the curds runs clear.
- Hang to finish draining for 15 minutes.
- Place the curds in a bowl. Stir in salt and cream, if using.
- Refrigerate and use within a week.
Note: Dry curds can be frozen for later use. When you need them, simply defrost them and stir in cream for cream-style cottage cheese, or use the curds dry in recipes calling for dry-curd cottage cheese.