Amish Cottage Cheese

(c) 2014 - I Can Do It Myself!  (

All information on the science of cheese was taken from the amazing Cook's Illustrated's The Science of Good Cooking  p. 206-207.

Time to Completion: 2.5 hours (about 30 minutes active)

Yield: One gallon of milk yields a bit more than a pound of cottage cheese.

Cost: The cost of a gallon of milk +  up to 1/2 rennet tablet (25¢ - 50¢) + 1/4 cup of cultured buttermilk or yogurt (if using pasteurized milk) (25¢).


One gallon of milk, 1/4 - 1/2 tablet of rennet (see note below), 1/8 cup of water, 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk or yogurt (if using pasteurized milk), Pot with lid large enough to hold one gallon of milk, Fine mesh sieve, Dairy or meat thermometer (needs to go below 100 degrees), Spoon, Plain yogurt (optional - make your own!), Salt (to taste)


1. Pour milk and culture of choice into appropriate size pot on the stove. Sadie made her cheese with the fresh milk from her family cow, which was unpasteurized. But unless you live somewhere where you can access raw milk, you will likely be adding a bacteria culture (generally cultured buttermilk is recommended, but I have also used plain yogurt, which gave it a great flavor) to replace the indigenous culture killed during pasteurization. Depending on the type of rennet you use, you may be able to get away with using more rennet and avoiding the culture altogether. See note below.

2. Dissolve 1/4 to 1/2 tablet of rennet in 1/8 c of water. 

3. Heat the milk to 103 - 104 degrees (no higher than 106). This usually takes only about 8 - 10 minutes. This provides the appropriate temperature for the bacteria to "wake up" and begin to convert the lactose into lactic acid, which allows the milk proteins to start to form a weak gel.

4. Add the rennet to the milk and stir to make sure the rennet is well distributed. The rennet is an enzyme that breaks down only one milk protein (casein) at one specific place, which allows the proteins to bond into curds and separate from the whey. If you were to age the cheese, these enzymes (along with enzymes from the bacteria culture) are what influence the different flavors of aged cheese.

5.  Cover pot and let sit, undisturbed for an hour. 

6. After an hour, if the milk has not set, try adding a/more culture or more rennet. After adding, check back in 20 minute give it a little jiggle and you should see a noticeable difference. If not, then something went wrong with the rennet or culture (too hot? too old?). If you notice it starting to gel, leave it for the remaining 40 minutes.

7. Once your milk has set, give it a few good, gentle stirs to break apart the gelled milk (curds) into smaller pieces, then cover and let sit for 15 minutes.

8. Every 15 minutes for an hour, stir up the curds. You should notice the curds settling at the bottom.

9. At the end of the hour, check the texture of the curds. Although Sadie doesn't do this, I found that if you like the curds a little more firm, you can heat the milk back up slightly (to about 110-115) and maintain it there for 10 minutes. If it gets too hot, you'll have squeaky cheese curds, which are delicious in their own way. :-) Also, note that the curds will get firmer if you leave them at room temperature for 20 - 30 minutes (and will continue to firm up in the fridge).

10. Carefully drain off the whey and, if necessary, pour the curds into a fine mesh sieve to drain more completely. 

11. Pour curds into a bowl and add salt to taste (start with 1 - 2 tsp and work up from there). Mix in with fingers. During this part, the curds will get smaller, more like the size of store cheese. You can determine how big the curds are by how much you squash the curds. 

12. Enjoy! To get the tangier taste of store-bought cottage cheese, Sadie adds plain yogurt to the curds. Sadie recommends eating the cheese within 3 days. Ours is always gone in a day.

NOTE: Rennet is a microbial enzyme traditionally harvested from the stomach lining of a very young calf. However, there are vegetable rennets widely available. I have used two different kinds of rennet. Junket, which I believe (but don't know) uses animal rennet, is the brand that is cheapest and most widely available at grocery stores. Fromase is a purely vegetable rennet that is stronger, about twice as expensive and I have only found it on Amazon. You can, in theory, add 1/2 tablet (vs 1/4) of Fromase to pasteurized milk and forgo the culture, but for the first time, I would recommend using a culture. I was unable to get the Junket to coagulate without a culture.

(c) 2014 - I Can Do It Myself!