Is home-made riccota cheese basically the same as home-made cottage cheese?
January 16, 2015
January 17, 2015
To answer your question, is homemade ricotta and cottage cheese the same thing? Yes and no.
We are currently in one of those amazing times when the meanings and uses of words are shifting dramatically. Ricotta and cottage cheese being excellent examples.
A few years ago Ricotta would have referred to only the cheese made from whey of certain rennet based cheeses.
Now we have a vast range of cheeses called ricotta, ranging from the traditional whey based version, to simple farmhouse curds that mimic ricotta texture.
Whereas with the term Cottage Cheese, the meaning seems to be drifting the other way. It use to refer to basic farmhouse cheeses with a unpressed curds. Nowadays it's much more narrowly used to refer to cheese (homemade or otherwise) that resembles the commercially available product.
My personal thoughts on the matter are that with commercially available and specific traditional cheeses, the name is important. However, when it comes to home made cheeses, there is infinite variation. What your cow, goat, sheep, buffalo ate the morning they donated their lactations will directly effect the finished cheese. How long the milk was stored, at what temperature... are you using whole milk, milk with the cream skinned off it, pasteurized, scalded, homogenized... milk leftover from making butter... whey... additions like rennet, heat loving cultures, slow setting cultures, acids... or not adding rennet, culture, acid...temperature heated to... and so on and so forth. A good artizan will take all these into consideration and label the cheese accordingly. In the home setting, though, how many of you have access to all this information?
If we are going to have strict meanings of cheese names, then it can easily have a negative effect on the home cheesemaker. If I want some curdy cheese to have on my toast, but don't have ingredients xyz required for making proper ricotta or cottage cheese, then I might get discouraged and forgo the whole cheese making endeavour. But if I know I can make curds with something acidic, some milk and some heat(optional), then away I go with no bother about what to call it. I call it cheese. If I want melty curds, then I make something with rennet. If I want firm cheese, then I drain out more whey and/or press it.
I call these imprecise cheese 'farmhouse cheeses', because I made them in the house where I live, which is on a farm. Though I'm certain someone will appropriate the label and apply it to a specific cheese, if they haven't already.
Don't get me wrong, I love specific names for cheese I buy. Sometimes I'll even go in for the all the fancy ingredients and try to imitate a beloved cheese. But for curds on toast, well... milk, acid, heat. That's all I need.
January 18, 2015
I am going to have to disagree with part of your post.
First: I don't think encouraging proper terminology discourages people from trying things at home. I know that not to be so.
I disagree that we should shun the proper names of things. I know that I have appreciated knowing methods and terms that has stood the test of time or have just proven in modern times that it's a better way to go.
January 18, 2015
Please don't think I'm shunning proper names. I obviously failed to express myself here. I'll try one more time:
Proper names are awesome for:
a) traditional and regional specialties
c) those times when we want to reproduce a specific food at home
The problem is there are only a finite number of words in our language, and an infinite variation as to how we can make cheese (and other foods) at home.
Not here so much, but in other cooking groups, I've been brow beaten because I didn't have the proper tool or couldn't afford the specific ingredient, but still wanted to make a food that resembled the recipe. My approach to the kitchen is very pre-Victorian (pre-commercialism) which is to learn the 'proper' way, then use what's available to create something yummy. It's how humans have been cooking for literally forever.
It's only in the last 165 years (when the trend to standardize recipes really took off) that we have become overly concerned with the nomenclature of food. Before mass literacy (at least in Western Europe), people learned the techniques from their family and community. Each village and even each family frequently had their own name for a specific method of making a specific food - like making barely strained curds from milk (what we now standardize as cottage cheese or cottage cheese style depending on who we are and what method was used) or slightly more strained curds (ricotta/ricotta style). You might have the same food be called two different things in different households, or the same name refer to two vastly different foods. People understood that language and food were fluid in their meanings, not rigid categories to be applied to every and all situations.
Here's an example of how getting too hung up on proper names can cause damage in a home-cooking setting:
About a year ago, I was very hungry. Not being able to leave the farm that day and go shopping, I decided on stuffed pasta. Only NO CHEESE! NONE AT ALL IN THE HOUSE! It was horrible. Pasta without cheese?!? Unheard of. There was however some milk, but no rennet. I just wanted a nice cheese to go well with swiss chard and get stuffed in pasta tubes. I go online, searching in different forums for a solution as to how to transform my milk into a suitable cheese... and you know what? I got no end of abuse. It's not possible to make cheese without rennet. The only proper cheese for this dish is xyz. You can make Paneer, but that requires lemon juice, and you can't use lime. What a stupid question, just go hungry until you can buy some cheese (no, really, I did get that one)...&c. &c. (NB: not all the advise I received was accurate, I found out later)
Now, I know these people meant well. They were trying to educate me as to the proper way to do things. They are like people who correct a dyslexic's spelling with the belief that it helps them learn to spell - not knowing that it actually hinders the learning process to correct spelling in a public setting, without being asked.
What these well meaning people didn't realize is that I didn't want a specific cheese, I wanted to transform my milk into something-that-goes-yummy-in-pasta cheese. Knowing the proper names for all the cheeses I didn't have the ingredients to make, only served to make me feel bad about myself. My lack of means, my stupid desire to make pasta, my inarticulate words.
Thankfully, or not, I'm use to that sort of response, as I am out of step with the world. I turned off the computer and used a few drops of kombucha vinegar, added to the milk, heated 'till clabbered, then strained. Not a cheese I know the 'proper' word for, but a delicious one with shredded chard and bacon.
I'm not the only one that feels browbeaten by too much of the 'proper' and 'only' ways being dictated to us. No end of people tell me things like, 'oh I wanted to make cottage cheese, but I didn't have any proper cheesecloth, all I had was grocery store cheesecloth and I was told it wouldn't work so I gave up'. I think that kind of situation is a terrible shame. Grocery store cheesecloth works just fine, though it may need doubling up. But this person was put off all cheese making, for quite possibly the rest of her life, because she was told by some well meaning individual that she couldn't use the coarser cheesecloth.
The people on this forum are farm more open minded. I love you all dearly for that. I feel that the people here know and love the proper way to do things. But you don't beat people over the head with them. I feel that the people here share my love of cooking and love of teaching. If people want to learn the proper way, then awesomeness, let's gather round and support them in their learning. But we also recognize that there is usually more than one way of achieving a cooking goal, and that's just fine too.
At least that's how I feel. Hopefully it will come across well.
In summation: Proper names are great, but sometimes you just want some curds to stuff in your pasta and use what's on hand to make them.
January 17, 2015
From what I understand, Lem is right. Cottage cheese is made from curds and rennet is often used in the process. I have made David Lebovitz cottage cheese. It's really awesome. Very rich. I think maybe rennet replaces the acid so it has a richer and less tart flavor.
January 17, 2015
I’m no expert on cheesemaking, but based on all the ricotta and cottage cheese I’ve eaten as well as those recipes I wouldn’t think so: The ingredients are similar but there are some differences in the technique, which probably lead to the different texture and taste of those two fresh cheeses.
Also, proper ricotta is made of just whey instead of milk (or buttermilk or even cream), which once again leads to a slightly different texture and taste. But don’t get me wrong: I’ve made many batches using recipes like the one you linked and they produce a most wonderful, delicious fresh cheese – I just wouldn’t call it ricotta :)
January 23, 2015
I was aware that proper ricotta was made from whey, not milk. That's why I prefixed both with "home-made".
I suspect the recipes are all cottage cheeses. Call it ricotta is simply a mistake. So I think you are right on that.
@Susan: good to know rennet makes a difference. Was thinking to use just vinegar. Probably more tart using vinegar.
January 23, 2015
George, I compared David Lebovitz cottage cheese and his ricotta. He actually uses rennet in his cottage cheese and vinegar and full fat yogurt in his ricotta. I thought I'd try his ricotta since I love his cottage cheese so much. He encourages stirring in heavy cream in both.
I actually purchased some fresh ricotta that is made here locally at a very cool cheese shop. It was very expensive and amazing. They use whey to make it. I think I'll try David's and compare.
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