Dry-curd cottage cheese, also known as farmer cheese or baker’s cheese, is the solid portion, or curds, that remain after milk has been cultured and slowly heated. It used to be sold in most supermarkets, but is getting harder to find. The following easy steps will yield slightly more than 1 1/2 pounds of dry curds. The curds freeze well, so keeping a supply of them on hand is not difficult.
- 1 gallon of whole milk, or raw milk with the cream removed
- 1/2 cup cultured buttermilk
- In a 6- to 8-quart non-aluminum pan, 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 will have set to a custard-like consistency and may have a layer of whey on top. At this point cut the curd into 1/2-inch cubes, slicing one direction, then rotating the pan to slice in the opposite direction. Don’t be concerned if your cut lines seem to disappear. Let the curd set for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat water in a pot large enough to set the 6- to 8-quart pan inside, to about 120°F. Alternatively, fill the sink with hot water and place the pot in the sink.
- Place the pan of curds in the larger pot or sink 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 sticking together (matting).
- When the curds reach 100°F, increase the heat under the pot until the curds reach 120°F. If using the sink method, place the pot of milk on a low-heat burner once they have reached reach 100°F and gently bring the curds up to 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 to see if they are still soft in the center. (A little soft is OK; runny is not.) If curds are not firm enough, continue to hold at 120°F, checking firmness every 5 minutes.
- Line a colander with a double thickness of cheesecloth and set it over a container to catch the whey. (Save the whey for other uses, if desired.) Carefully pour the curds into the colander and let drain for 5 minutes.
- Gather up the corners of the cheesecloth and rinse the curds under a stream of very cold water. (Alternatively you could dip the curds in a bowl of cold water.) Rinse until water from curds runs clear. Let the curds hang to finish draining for 15 minutes up to an hour.
- Place the curds in a bowl. Add 1 tsp. of salt, if desired. They are now ready to use in a recipe calling for dry curd cottage cheese. Refrigerate and use within a week or wrap tightly and freeze.