The back porch of my home in the tiny town in which I was born served as the setting for one of the glories of the past—cottage cheese freshly made from the milk of a herd of family cows. The milk would be put into a churn, stoneware utensil, or urn with a loose-fitting stoneware lid, covered, and let stand overnight. The milk would curdle because of natural bacteria and have a coating of thick yellow cream on top. We would skim off the cream and add the snow-white curds to cheesecloth that would be tied into a bag, then left to hang above a bowl. The whey would drip into the bowl, and when the cheesecloth bag was opened, it would be filled with pure, homemade cottage cheese. My father adored this for lunch or an afternoon snack. He would spoon it into a bowl and add heavy cream and sugar to taste.
You cannot make that cottage cheese with pasteurized milk alone; the natural bacteria will not work properly. You can, however, make a somewhat poorer version using buttermilk as a culture.
My method yields a somewhat firmer, larger-curd cheese than an all-buttermilk recipe.
© 1987 Craig Claiborne estate. All rights reserved.