Homemade Cottage Cheese Recipe

Where did I find the inspiration for this little bowl of white, creamy cheese? At the pharmacy in Paris, which are at the top of my list of favorite places to visit in the city. There’s everything you can imagine at la pharmacie, like thyme oil. And Rescue Remedy. And baking soda. And Bio-Gauze (the world’s best burn treatment). And pills that will make you thin and give you the most amazing abs like the male model shown in the window no matter how much cheese you eat or wine you drink.

Aside from their ability to spend an unusual amount of time with the person in front of you (especially when you’re in a hurry), French pharmacists are also trained to identify any mushrooms to determine which are poisonous, and which are okay for la bonne cuisine. If you go to a homeopathic pharmacy, you step up to the counter and stick out your tongue. Then they give you a few bags of pills and cures. And not all of them are administered orally. (Although thankfully, they don’t “dose” you there.)

What also impressive, though, is that I found out that you can order présure, or rennet, at the pharmacy, which is used for making cheese. And I missed the taste of cottage cheese, and I wanted to see if I could replicate it at home. Although Americans eat lots of cottage cheese, most of it’s bland and watery. It’s nothing like real cottage cheese.

So I made cottage cheese at home. It’s remarkably simple and tastes great. And you can make it too! You’ll need to get rennet, and I’ve listed a few sources below. Do give it a try. It’s so much better than the store-bought stuff, and pretty easy to make as well.

cottagecheese1.jpg

Homemade Cottage Cheese

All utensils should be cleaned very well before beginning.

  • 1 quart (1l) whole milk
  • 4 drops liquid rennet
  • ½ teaspoon of salt, plus more to taste
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream (or half-and-half), or a mixture of heavy cream and buttermilk
pouringmilk.jpg

Heat the milk very slowly in a medium-sized, non-reactive saucepan. Use the lowest heat possible and if you have a flame-tamer for underneath the saucepan, now’s a good excuse to use it.

Insert a thermometer into the milk (I use a chocolate thermometer, which is easy to read) and heat until the milk reaches 85º F.

addingrennet.jpg

Turn off heat and stir in rennet. Stir gently for 2 minutes.

Cover the saucepan with a clean tea towel draped over the top and put the lid on. Let stand at room temperature for 4 hours.

After 4 hours, the mixture will be very softly set and marvelously jiggly. Take a sharp knife and cut the mixture diagonally 5 or 6 times, then do the same in the opposite direction.

curds.jpg

Sprinkle in the salt then set the pan over extremely low heat and cook, stirring gently, until the curds separate from the whey. It will take just a few minutes.

finalcurds.jpg

Do not overcook it at this point or your cottage cheese curds will be tough.

Line a strainer with cheesecloth or étamine, and set it inside a large bowl. Pour the mixture into the cloth and stir it gently to drain off the copious amount of whey. (You can use it in bread making or in soups in place of water.)

curdsincloth.jpg

Fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the cheese and chill the strainer (keeping the bowl underneath) in the refrigerator. Let drain for about 1 hour, stirring once or twice.

Spoon the cottage cheese from the cloth into a bowl and stir in the cream, or cream and buttermilk. Taste, and add more salt if necessary.

Here are a few sources for liquid animal rennet in the United States, available here, here, and here.

For more information about liquid rennet, check out Rennet FAQ.

48 comments

  • It is very cool about the rennet and all, but the mushroom I.D. thing is the best. I would like to find a way to maneover this skill in the American pharmacy degree curriculum immediately. I’d be down at Eckert’s with a little basket of fungi regularly. Do they charge for this service?

  • Thanks, David! This looks so fun that I will have to get some rennet and play.

  • Ah ah, great post David! I think you are becoming more French than the French for your love of la pharmacie! (I must say you will agree that in contrast to CVS, I miss my beloved French version!)…but if you really want to be French, sorry to say, you have to do the supositoire test! Passage obligé!

    Now maybe you could find a name for le cottage cheese (French pronunciatio though more likely to be le euh cotaageuh cheeeezeuh)

    You are impressive to have made it at home. Looks great!

  • In the USA one can usually find powdered rennet in the grocery. Usually in the aisle with the ice cream toppings or pudding mixs. I use it to make a rennet custard. Will have to try cottage cheese the next time I can get raw milk.

  • Not that I’m trying to rob Susan or her brood, but you can cook with the whey, for instance it makes a very healthy soup.

  • Very well depicted David and a great way to show the different stages of cottage cheese! I’ve never considered making it myself, although I do like to have it on slice of good bread with jam every now and then (more in the summer time though).

    On another note, your post, well, the first paragraph, reminded me of something else: A recent experience I had with a local pharmacy (one you typically only go to when you’re in need of medicine). I had asked them for calcium chloride and alginate, which I couldn’t find in any other food/drug store (it was meant for a new recipe I’m hoping to try soon). His first facial expression (of concern & doubt) quickly was replaced by a big ear-to-ear grin: 100 grams of each would have cost me round about 70 Euros -according to his supplier- and he apparently couldn’t order less than that. I silently left the pharmacy.

  • The Dutch pharmacies just LOVE dispensing suppositories too.

    I used to think it was a torture solely reserved for foreigners, but then discovered it was normal practice. Now I see that its the same in France! My illusions are shattered ;)

    In Dutch they are called ‘zetpille’ which is rather a descriptive term, don’t you think?

  • Great post! In the French countryside, you get présure from the “laitier”, the van collecting milk from the farms. I didn’t know that pharmacies sell it. We make some “caillé” just like you explain in the first step, except that we don’t add any cream because we get the milk more or less straight out of the cow so it’s very fat already, and tasty too. We either eat this caillé as it is, with some sugar or honey or jam, or we put big scoops of it in some “faisselles” to make some “fromage blanc”.
    I had no idea that cottage cheese is just a step away from caillé, and I will give it a try at the next occasion. Thank you very much for the idea!

  • Marie Quatrehomme chats here about Brit cheese on the BEEB-fun!http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/foodprogramme_20050828.shtml

  • Marie Quatrehomme chats here about Brit cheese on the BEEB-fun!http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/foodprogramme_20050828.shtml

  • You are my hero.

  • Oh. Man. I’m going to have to try that. I LOVE cottage cheese. They sometimes have it at our Monoprix (you are really tired of hearing about that Monoprix, aren’t you?) but it’s not nearly as tasty. Just mass-produced, kind of dry cottage cheese.

  • Can you believe cottage cheese here doesn’t even exist?? It’ll be difficult to find rennet but I’ll try it!!

  • David,

    I don’t think you’re strange, [Yes you do!] No I don’t! [Yes you do!] Ouch! [Ouch!]

    Making cheese is on my to-do list this year. [I thought you were going to make bacon.] That too. [Ambitious aren't we.] Well, at least I’m not entering eating contests. [What's wrong with eating contests?] Edible-panty eating contests? Don’t you have any self-respect? Ouch!

  • You’re hysterical. I can’t wait to try this.

  • oh my god, you are the best!

  • I loved your use of gingerly and ginger in this commentary!

    You bring smile to my face everytime I read your blog!

    Thanks.

  • Oh my god, and the man makes his own cottage cheese on top of everything else?

    I give up. I really do have to marry you.

  • Funny, those French pharmacists:)
    I made my own cottage cheese a fortnight ago, after attending a cookery demonstration by Sam&Sam Clark (of the Moro restaurant) here in Edinburgh, where they showed how to make it. It looked easy enough to try at home, and so I did, using goat’s milk and animal rennet bought from a local deli. It was delicious, but I didn’t manage to take any blog-worthy pictures sadly. Yours look great thou!

  • OK, now you’ve done it. I just finished watching the “Cheese Nun” on PBS. Do they have that in France? Hmm… Well, I am hooked now, and must begin my study and research on cheesemaking. Thank you for the links, and I look forward to making my first curds and whey, probably start with the beginner kit & the fresh mozzarella. Gotta get back to moving my books around to make room for “Room for Dessert” soon to arrive. Love this blog!
    Ciao,
    Christine

  • very cool! I just made my first batch of ricotta and am eagerly looking for more do-able projects.

    I vote for Melissa’s comment at the top (.:I will have to get some rennet and play:.)to be the quote of the week!

  • Won’t hold it against you — at the moment your Google ads are coming up Rachael Ray–We know you don’t mean it…the “other end” ads might have been better, or at least more entertaining.

    If you don’t shudder at the suggestion of nuking the milk in a big pyrex bowl for 5-10 min, you can get a decent fine-grained hoop/farmer’s cheese with a quart of buttermilk with or without some plain (skim or otherwise) milk and/or yogurt. Squeeze a spoonful of lemon juice (or fresh orange, or lime, depending on how you want to eat it afterwards) into the bowl of milk(s) and nuke until the curd comes together in a mass and floats above the whey.–It’s about the same process for paneer or ricotta but the tang depends on how cultured your milk is to start with and then you decide how much to drain/squeeze. I have to say, though, the yield is not high enough to outcompete simply buying a tub of cottage cheese or a log of chevre or slab of feta or paneer if they’re available and reasonably good. I typically get only about 5-6 oz cheese for 4-5 cups milk or buttermilk, and I’m pretty careful (trained in an organic lab, don’t ask…). I don’t know how that compares with the yield if you use rennet.

  • D – I am completely addicted to Roger & Gallet too! I love the Cinnamon-Orange flavor shower gel – it smells like Christmas to me. I got my aunt hooked on the Bambou flavor, and before I left, I bought a big tube of the tomato flavor – it really smells like a fresh summer tomato. How can you resist that? I completely understand your attraction to the lettuce.

    Perhaps I need to rephrase that.

  • Absolutely fantastic. I’m the same way about fancy bath things and, of course, any kind of food store. By the way, I’m going to send your post to my mom, whose favorite breakfast (other than a freshly made waffle) is toasted rye bread with cottage cheese spread on top.

    Thanks for the great post! Makes me want to travel to Paris even more than I already do.

  • A few years ago, some French supermarkets sold cottage cheese…for about a week. It didn’t go over well. At all.

    I’ve lived here for years and years and I’ve never ever heard anyone French ever talk about cottage cheese much less understand what I’m talking about when I describe it.

    That said, I love cottage cheese, but all that work for a few spoonfuls of pleasure? Maybe not.

    ;)

  • do u use raw milk ?, if you did can you buy it at an shop ( very anti eeg ). the wey is wonderful for dogs too gives then an very gloissy coat. wey is also included in lots of soap and rivella

  • It is said that Napolean loved Roger & Gallet so much, that he carried some in a special flask in his boot. Chef, do they make anything that smells like vanilla frosting?

  • After reading you perfectly flowing post who could imagine anything curdling? You have an amazing way of telling stories! Wonderfully put! On another note, my brother’s other name for, “Cellulite,” is cottage cheese. My daughter being half French and Half American couldn’t recall that word the other day so she called cellulite, “Feta Cheese!”

  • I was just thinking about cottage cheese last week when I saw it at Champion, but didn’t buy it because I assumed it would be crap. Ever since, I’ve been craving it and was SO happy to read your post. I will definitely try making it, but until then, I was happy to go find it at my neighborhood fromagerie. Yum! I love it with lots of black pepper! Le cottage cheese…who knew?

  • This is such a well timed post for me. I’m in Croatia right now and at the markets here little old ladies sell tightly packed bowls of this type of home made cheese. I’ve been wondering how to make it and haven’t been able to ask since I don’t speak the language. Here the way to serve it is to mix it with liberal amounts of thick slightly soured cream, fresh garlic, and a bit of sweet paprika. Then all you need is a hunk of fresh bread and a spoon and you’ve got a terrific lunch. The literal translation of this dish is “cheese and cream” but it seems a long way from this delight to the Philadelphia favorite Americans know and love. But you never know…

  • WHAT A FUN POSTING!!!!

    Informative, funny and just brilliant!

  • great read!

  • Is the cottage cheese in the photo the the full batch? I’m just trying to calibrate. Is the recipe okay to scale up?

  • Hi

    I was delighted to find this recipe as I also live in France (SW – Carcassonne) and I have been searching for cottage cheese for nearly five years now; it’s just about the only thing I really miss from the UK.

    So I bought my thermometer, cheesecloth and exactly the same présure as yours, followed the instructions to the letter, twice and each time nothing happened! The milk just stayed fluid each time.

    What could I have been doing wrong? The second time I was even more careful than the first – I heated the milk VERY slowly and stirred in the rennet for a full two minutes (gingerly! lol) . there’s not a lot more to go wrong is there?

    I’d be very grateful for your comments – and help you could offer would be great. I can’t wait to be eating my own home made cottage cheese…

    many thanks

    Jane

  • Jane: I’m not an expert on cheesemaking but the photos show how mine came out. The only thing I can think of is if you used sterilized milk, which I avoid. Try checking out sites specializing in cheesemaking, or better yet, ask at your local affineur, as they might be able to provide an answer.

    btw: There is a brand of cottage cheese sold in France that’s excellent, made in the UK. The name escapes me, but most supermarkets in Paris carry it.

  • David – many thanks for such a quick reply

    I did use sterilized milk! (pretty expensive organic stuff…) So that must be it – what a dope

    Can’t wait to try it using fresh untreated milk. Thanks again, Jane

  • Made a batch with fresh milk today and all was well. It is delicious – you’re right, it’s better than shop bought. I’m so pleased to finally eat cottage cheese again, thanks.

  • Hi, David!

    I found the below quoted info on an American website that is devoted to cottage cheese and cheesemaking. From it I learned that if you’re making small-curd cottage cheese, the rennet is virtually unneeded. (Something to do with acid). I also learned that “creaming the cheese” is actually an optional step and actually cuts down on the protein content of the finished product as well as adds calories. Unfortunately, it also “cuts down” on the taste a little, too!
    I quote the site here; “Rennet – Use rennet if you plan to make a large-curd cheese. Rennet is available either in tablet form (junket tablets), or as an extract. You can sometimes buy tablets in drug or grocery stores; the liquid extract is available only from Rennet companies”
    I used the Junket Tablets (easily obtained in the jello section of my local market) with YOUR recipe, and VIOLA! The BEST cottage cheese I or my family have ever tasted! You hit the nail on the head (again!) with this one!

  • Absolutely LOVED your book!!!!!!!!!!!

    I have also lived in Paris and identified with many of your experiences……………………………….Especially “Les Bousculeurs”

    Can now make my own fromage blanc.. I’m sooooo proud.

    Thank you.

  • Hi David,
    I came across your website while looking for info on cottage cheese made at home, because I have recently been making yogurt and thought I would add to my things to try before I die! I became engrossed with your descriptions, especially concerning your favorite places to visit.”Pharmacies are at the top of my list of favorite places to visit in Paris”. Do you suppose those little pills that keep every Frenchman thin are related to amphetamines? It amazes me that everywhere in the world people have access to many more drugs without a presciption than they do here in the U.S.
    Really I did enjoy the internet trip to Paris and if I ever get to visit, I’m going to look for some of those pills, because I sure do enjoy my wine, which has recently decided to show up on my expanding frame.

  • There is a much simpler method of making your own amazing cottage cheese. You don’t need any liquid rennet, or salt or heavy cream. Natural Fermentation of 2 ingredients take care of all that for you.
    All you need is 1gal of milk, and 1lt of butter milk (or your own kefir), stir well, cover the pot with a lid, and let sit on your counter for 12hrs. After 12hr period, check it, the liquid should be pretty thick, do not mix or disturb it at this point. Preheat your oven to 250F, take lid off the pot, and place the pot in the oven for 2.5hrs. When done remove from oven, cover with lid, and let sit until it cools down completely, the cottage cheese should be separated from the whey, collect the cheese in to a cheese cloth, and drain all liquid. Refrigerate. Done. This type of cottage cheese, can even be processed in food processor, and it turns in to cream cheese which you can use for cheesecake or other desserts. Enjoy.

  • Although David recipe sounded great, trying to find the rennet in my area was too difficult. So I instead went with Inna’s and it turned out fantastic. However, I have to admit that at first, I was a little skeptical because of the almost complete lack of any real work call for in the recipe. Nonetheless, I went along with it anyway because although the recipes were different the picture had me hooked. The idea of rich, moist and creamy cottage cheese was completely unfathomable to me as every other cottage cheese I’d ever tried was flavorless dry and crumbly. So I combined the milk and waited, and waited, and waited. I could barely contain myself, 12 HOURS, GOOD GRIEF. Finally, just when I thought that this was going to be a total failure and that I had just wasted 1 quart of milk and 1 cup of buttermilk, magic happened. I lifted the lid off the pot and gently dipped my wooden spoon in, I looked down and saw that it had worked. The liquids had magically come together and thickened. I jumped around the room, like a complete lunatic. After having reached my first milestone I decided to proceed on to the next step. I place the pot into my preheated oven and once again the waiting game began, this time however, I wasn’t quite as stressed out. I removed the pot from the oven and place it into my sink that I’d partially filled with ice water. Then I poured the mixture into a cheesecloth lined strainer and place it into the refrigerator. More waiting, for however much work was not required for this recipe, it was still nonetheless very frustrating being as that, I am not known for being patience. I removed the bowl with the strainer and dumped the cheesecloth into a glass dish and there it was. Beautiful, rich and creamy moistness, it was delicious. I don’t know how I was able to control myself from consuming the entire bowl, except maybe for the fact that by then it was 6 am in the morning, I had started at 3 pm the previous day and stayed up all night long. So I reluctantly covered the dish and placed it into the frig and then dumped myself into bed, were dreams of beautiful and creamy cottage cheese danced in my head. I did not sleep very well, but as the French would say c’est la vie. I did finally try it the next night with some honey any fresh strawberries and nectarines that I had bought from the market and it turned out to be everything I had dreamed of and more. So thank you Inna for that fantastically easy and delicious recipe and Thank you David for creating this blog site.

  • I followed the recipe like it was, except I was worried with using the the pasturized milk. I found some organic cottage cheese all natural at the grocery and spooned 2 tablespoons into my milk as a culture. it all worked very well. that’s the best cottage cheese I’ve eaten since growing up on a dairy farm in Tillamook, Oregon USA in the 50′s, when we made our own CC. the cheese we ate came from the cheese factory, that we delivered milk to. also, we could get cheese curd, which you don’t see anymore. Jim King

  • Nice job on your story. I’m a semi great goat cheesemaker in Texas and folks need to see just how easy cheesemaking can be.Just an extension of cooking, I tell ‘em. Am using your recipe on part of my last batch of milk of the year from my girls along with a final batch of chevre. Wish I was in France–they know how to make cheese.

  • How very interesting. I hit it lucky as I just decided to check out how to make “home made cottage cheese” and I found you! I grew up on dairy farm and was raised on our own cottage cheese, butter and cream. Milk was not a part of my diet. Home made cottage cheese is absolutely delightful and I am certinally going to make myself some. I can taste it now. THANK YOU!!!! I did forget to mention we made our own cheese also. What sweet sweet memories. I am 70 years young now and these kind of memories are becoming even more precious. Live, laugh, love…………..June (I will be using Juanita’s recipe as it is more like the way we made our cottage, we always had a stash of rennet for out cheesemaking)

  • I used to make cottage cheese a different way. I’d skim the milk from our Jersey cow and make butter from the cream. Then I’d set the pan of skimmed milk in my wood range oven with the door at least half way open so the oven was NOT hot, just warm as the heat radiated out through the door. I’d leave the pan of milk there until it was firmly curdled. Then I’d break the curds up enough so I could drain the whey off and then further break the curds up into the size I wanted. I made sure the whey was drained well and then mixed into the curds some cream and bit of salt. I never used rennet and I didn’t add anything to the milk until after the skimmed milk had curdled and the whey fully drained off. The taste was somewhat different from store bought cottage cheese and at first it took just a little getting used to, but once I did, I loved it!!!!!!

  • David, Just finished making ricotta at home! Would love to try some rennet. I will be Paris this week. Do I just ask for Presure at ANY pharmacy? Thanks!
    BTW, I have preordered your new book, can’t wait to receive it!

  • You can ask any pharmacy and they generally have to order it, but it’ll come in the next day. You can also buy it in the states, if that’s where you live, via mail order using the tips in How to Find Foods and Other Items Mentioned on the Site.