Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas ~ Cottage Cheese

~ Plaques: We try to make a keepsake craft each Christmas season.  This year I wanted to make Triptychs or Diptychs (scroll down here to see what I mean) but couldn't get the supplies together [read:  I came up with an alternative before I spent too much time driving around looking for tiny hinges].  We decided to make wall plaques instead for this year and maybe make those next year.  Each dc chose a picture keeping with the art style to decoupage onto a small square wooden plaque from the craft store.  They each chose a nativity scene.  Instead of the fancy decoupage we just thinned white school glue with water.  Below are some pictures I took of them while they were still drying.

~ St. Nicholas Figurines:  Inspired by several blog posts out there we made St. Nicholas figurines from wooden pegs.  They also made some more whimsical Christmas figurines (snowmen, angels, Santa).  Some inspirations are:

Click through all 4 pages:

"O" Antiphons (continued):  We have the symbols chart posted on the refrigerator and each day a different dc colors in the symbol for that day (yes, those are gear magnets holding it up - we're very high tech sometimes :) ).  I've been trying to follow the food/activity suggestions as best as I can.  Below is our coffee table:  the oranges are for O Dawn and the bowl of nuts/nutcracker are for O Key of David (an aside: the baskets on the shelf underneath are FULL of library books; 1 basket for me; 1 for youngest dc; and 1 for the olders).  For O King we'll make our annual mini-wreaths using leaves/berries from our holly bushes.  For O Emmanuel we'll drink eggnog in fancy stem glasses (for the chalice symbol).

What's Cookin'?

Cottage Cheese:   I am beside myself with excitement.  Myself is just plain tired, but *I* am excited :).  I have been wanting to make homemade cottage cheese but didn't have a recipe.  I found a recipe to make cottage cheese in a children's book of all places!  It is called Food and the Kitchen (Hands-On Science) (it says Smithsonian Institution on the cover).  The ingredients are simply fresh milk and buttermilk.  I got yucky buttermilk but that's all I could find.  After I started it last night I searched more online.  Some recipes heat the milk to just below boiling and add lemon juice or vinegar.  Other recipes use rennet plus buttermilk and it goes much faster with a larger curd.  I'm still in the experimental stage.  Unfortunately the rennet I looked at online that the blogger said was available at Wal-Mart has corn starch in it, so I'll have to skip it.  I'll list some sites with cottage cheese recipes below.  For now I'm using the book recipe:

1/2 gallon very fresh whole milk (I used 1 quart and adjusted the recipe)
1/4 C cultured buttermilk (I put in 1/8 C)

1.Let milk get to room temperature.  Pour into a clean pyrex bowl and set in a warm place.  Add the buttermilk and stir well.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Don't jiggle or bump after this!

2.The milk is clabbered when it is custard-like (or like yogurt)(in fact one recipe has you make yogurt first using a yogurt inoculation) and separated into curds and whey with the watery whey on top of the curd and on the sides of the bowl.

Use a knife to make cuts about 1/2 inch apart down and across to make squares across the top.  It should split and separate into the squares with clean edges.  If not, it's not ready - let it sit longer.

3.  This is the tricky part:  After the curd has been cut let it sit 20 minutes.  While you wait fill a pot 1/2 full of water.  Carefully put the bowl into the pot of water. [Here it isn't clear whether or not it will be submerged - I think not]   Heat the curds VERY SLOWLY so it coagulates and releases more whey.  Use the low setting and bring the temp of the curds/whey up to 100F.  This slow heating should take at least 30 minutes.  I think this part will be my biggest challenge - I'm not particularly patient with inanimate objects or food.

4. Remove the bowl, pour out the water of the pot.  Set a colander lined with cheese cloth (2 layers) in the big pot (I'll use my muslin).  After about 5 minutes, when the curds/whey have cooled slightly, pour them *gently* into the colander.  Occasionally gently shake the corners of the cloth so more whey will drain.

At this point it says that if making Cottage Cheese "you can twist the top of the cheesecloth 'bag' and squeeze."

5. Remove the cheese into a small bowl, salt to taste (1/2 to 1 tsp).  Refrigerate.

[As of this typing it has congealed somewhat but still has a way to go.  I tasted a bit and it tastes/looks just like sour cream - only better.  It's almost been 24 hours.  The book says that if it hasn't clabbered in 24 hours it probably won't; but then it says it can take up to 44 hours if the room temperature is about 60F in a chart it has.  Our house is about 70 and it listed 23 hours for that.  We'll see...]

Other Cottage Cheese Links:

This just uses raw milk - no starter:
Another with just raw milk:

[I plan on trying a combo of the 2 above recipe links for my second attempt]

Here are some more cottage cheese recipes (in no particular order):

I don't know anything about rennet but one rennet I saw had corn starch in it and another I saw had rennet plus sodium chloride brine, acetate, propylene glycol, caramel color, sodium benzoate!! I'm wondering if this one is okay?:


  1. That sounds like a cool project. We've always wanted to make butter, but I'm not looking forward to all the beating it entails. Looks like cottage cheese just needs patience and a warm room. We should try it.

  2. Aimee,

    It actually worked! The patience was the hardest ingredient :). I'm going to try it again another way.

    We've made butter as learning extensions but not for our regular family consumption. Cream in a baby food jar with a clean marble in it works well. The dc take turns shaking it.

    Thanks so much for your comment!

  3. Thank you for linking to my St. Nicholas figure.

  4. You are so welcome. I appreciated your photo (I'm so visual!). Oldest dd gave me one for Christmas and glued a red paper miter on it. I should upload some pictures at some point. The little softie you made is beautiful.