Fresh cheeses, often viewed with a certain disdain by lovers of the intensity of the most cured ones, have regained prominence by associating themselves with healthy trends. Low in fat and high in protein, they also deserve to claim their gastronomic qualities in the kitchen, beyond the calories. Cottage cheese has found its way in our country competing with cottage cheese and ricotta, with which it shares many qualities, but from which it differs with its own characteristics.
All three, along with others such as mozzarella, burrata, the more compact generic fresh cheese or the Burgos type, stand out precisely for their nutritional profile and mild flavor, with a subtle and pleasant dairy aroma. They are cheeses that do not undergo the storage necessary for healing. Therefore, they present a much more perishable product, of shorter conservation and that must be packaged correctly, always in refrigeration.
But it is obvious that ricotta is clearly different from mozzarella and its peers. Along with the cottage cheese, what distinguishes these varieties is that grainy texture that accompanies the neutral flavor. Spanish and Italian are actually “fake” cheeses, since are obtained from whey and in a similar way to yogurt, thanks to the fermentation of lactic acid bacteria. The homemade version can even be made simply by cutting the milk with an acid, such as lemon juice.
Cottage cheese and ricotta are almost interchangeable -although they are not identical, and in fact there are different varieties of ricotta, such as smoked or salted-, but cottage cheese deserves a separate attention.
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Characteristics and preparation of cottage cheese
Traditional cottage cheese is made by enzymatic coagulation, adding rennet to milk at a certain temperature. The rennet enzymes break down the milk proteins causing coagulation, creating the curd and thus appearing solid clots. With an elastic and flexible texture, those clots can be cut and handled depending on the cheese being produced, partially or completely separated from the whey.
In this dairy, clots are kept separate, the mixture is not pressed in molds. Depending on the origin and the specific manufacture, the texture can be drier or more humid, with thicker or smaller clots. It is a preparation so simple and of humble origin that it admits many variants, also depending on the use that is going to be given or the type of milk with which it is made.
There are also versions of the cottage produced by lactic coagulation, adding an acid to the milk, thus obtaining a variant very similar to cottage cheese or ricotta, but from milk and no serum.
Other ingredients are often added to curdled cheese to produce specific versions, especially today in its industrial or commercial version. exist salty and sweet cottage variants, in brine, enriched with cream or buttermilk (buttermilk). Given the growing popularity of this product in recent years, many brands also market lactose-free and skimmed versions.
Properties and benefits of cottage cheese
The nutritional properties of cottage cheese vary minimally from one brand or producer to another, as long as we take the most natural version as a reference. Like most fresh cheeses, it is very low in fat, low in cholesterol, low in carbohydrates (with less sugar than yogurt) and rich in protein high quality.
It usually contributes between 95-110 kcal per 100 g of edible portion, with up to 13 g of protein, mostly lean. These values highlight why it has become a fashionable food in many countries, after decades of something forgotten as an old-fashioned product or associated with local traditions. Protein and low-calorie foods continue to set the trend in weight loss diets and among athletes.
Cottage is a low-calorie cheese rich in protein and minerals
Beyond these virtues, it also stands out for its contribution of essential minerals, such as calcium or potassium, and vitamins. In addition, it contains more liquid than soft or aged cheeses, also less sodium than highly aged cheeses. It’s a very satiating but easily digestible food, usually well tolerated by people with intolerance or mild sensitivity to lactose, especially when accompanied by other foods.
How to use it in the kitchen
Cottage cheese has become a alternative to yogurt, the so-called skimmed whipped cheese or the skyr. Thus, today the simplest and most common way to consume it is directly to tablespoons, combined with fruits, nuts, seeds, cereals, compotes, syrups or honey, sometimes adding a little milk if it is a too dry version.
But this product, with its neutral taste and thick grainy texture, is also perfect for spread on slices of bread, with sweeter or savory garnishes. In Europe it is very common to consume it for breakfast or cold lunch, with pepper and chopped chives, often accompanied by pickles, radishes or hard-boiled egg.
It can also be combined with dressings and vinaigrettes to give a creamy point to salads and fillings of sandwiches and sandwiches, or to create sauces that accompany meats, fish or pasta. It is, of course, a good substitute for cottage cheese and ricotta in Italian recipes such as lasagna or cannelloni, or as a filling for vegetables and savory quiche-like cakes, or puff pastry and empanadas.
Perhaps its grainy texture is not the most suitable alternative to yogurt in a smoothie, but it does give great results in smoothie bowls or mixed with fruit purees and cold oatmeal. If that substitutes very well for mayonnaise in preparations such as stuffed eggs or to lighten a Russian salad or German-style potato salad.
Its texture makes it ideal for versioning or enriching creams and spreads such as dips, such as hummus of any flavor or a thick tzatziki-type sauce. Another classic pairing is with eggs in any of its forms: tortillas and frittatas, scrambled eggs, soufflés, etc.
When hot, it can be used to season sauces pasta and provide greater creaminess, or to top vegetable creams or also stews and stews; it is delicious in both a curry and an American chili. As it has a neutral flavor, it serves us both to fill savory and sweet crêpes.
Of course, it is a very versatile ingredient in desserts. There are many traditional recipes from different European countries that use cottage cheese -or its local variants- in sweet pastry and bakery dough, as a filling, accompaniment or integrated into the dough itself. Cottage cheese tarts or cakes are popular, with a less creamy texture than a cheesecake, almost more of a very fluffy cake.
Can it be added integrated to dough for pancakes, waffles, muffins, cookies, cakes, puddings, brownies, donuts … or use it as an ingredient in a filling, topping or an accompanying sauce.
It is easy correct the texture of the variety of cottage cheese that we have acquired, according to the desired use. If it is very dry, you just have to mix it well with milk or a little water; otherwise we can drain it with a cheesecloth. Very coarse granules can be easily crushed with a fork, mashed with any mixer.
Three recipes for cooking with cottage cheese
Cottage cheese with papaya and cranberry sauce
- Ingredients for 2 servings. 1/2 peeled papaya without seeds, 200 g of washed blueberries, 2 limes or 1 large lemon, 300 g of cottage cheese, black pepper, salt, chia seeds.
- Elaboration. Cut the papaya into small cubes or chop. Mix collecting their juices, with a pinch of salt, black pepper, the juice of a whole lime and a little zest. If desired, you can add ground vanilla, cinnamon, or chili. Leave for at least 20 minutes, or overnight in the fridge. Arrange the blueberries in a saucepan with the juice of 1/2 lime and heat over low heat. Crush a little but leaving whole fruits. Keep cooking very soft, for about 20 minutes. Remove and let cool. When serving, divide the cheese into two bowls and combine with a good portion of papaya and its juices, and another portion of the blueberry sauce, pouring some of the liquid over the cheese. Garnish with more lime zest and chia seeds or other to taste.
More details in the full recipe.
Pumpkin cream with cottage cheese, sesame and Port reduction
- Ingredients for 4 people. 400 ml of port wine, 1/2 cinnamon, 1/2 orange peel, 1/2 lemon peel, 1 1 kg pumpkin, peeled, ginned and chopped, 100 g chopped onion, 100 g butter, 50 g of olive oil, water, nutmeg, white pepper, salt, 160 g of cottage cheese, toasted sesame.
- Elaboration. We mix the wine with the cinnamon and the orange and lemon peels in a saucepan. We put it to simmer and let the liquid concentrate by evaporation. When it has a slightly more liquid consistency than that of caramel, remove, strain and let cool. Sauté the onion over low heat, with the butter and oil. Add the pumpkin pieces to the casserole when the onion is well candied. Season and season with the ground nutmeg. We remove from the heat and crush. If there are lumps, we pass the cream through a strainer. We rectify the salt, pepper and nutmeg. We distribute the cream in four plates, we form a cheese quenelle in each of them. Garnish with the Port reduction and sprinkle with the toasted sesame.
More details in the full recipe.
Cottage cheese pancakes with red berry sauce
- Ingredients for 10 small pancakes. 3 eggs, 170 g of cottage cheese, 60 ml of milk, 60 g of flour, 1/2 tablespoon of sugar, 1 pinch of salt, butter or oil for greasing, 250 g of fresh or frozen berries, 80 g of sugar .
- Elaboration. Chop the fruits and mix with the sugar in a bowl. Cover and let it rest. Turn the oven to the lowest temperature and turn off, so that when cooking the pancakes we can leave them inside and keep them warm. Separate the yolks from …