Don’t Waste Sour Milk – Make Cottage Cheese

home made cottage cheese being strained

Homemade cottage cheese in strainer… add salt and eat

When I need milk, I always buy a gallon, but rarely finish it before it starts to go sour.

Why not buy half gallon?

Because there is very little difference in price plus I know I’m going to make cottage cheese anyway.

I used to be amazed that sour milk makes the best tasting cottage cheese you ever had. By the way, you don’t have to use sour milk, you can use fresh milk.

Recently, friends asked for the recipe, so since I need to write it down anyway, I decided to put it in this post so everyone can see it and can refer back to it from time to time if needed.


1 half gallon milk – ¾ cup vinegar or ½ cup lemon juice

½ gallon milk – 3/8 cup vinegar or ¼ cup lemon juice

1 quart milk – 3 tablespoons vinegar or 2 tablespoons lemon juice


Heat milk in sauce pan to 120°F (or any temperature up to 180°F)

Remove from heat and stir in vinegar or lemon juice

Stir until curds form (a minute or two)

Cool and strain (cooling only to prevent getting burned, not important for cheese)

rinse with cold water if desired, but not necessary unless you want to cool faster

add salt to taste

Many ways to make your own Cottage Cheese

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There are several ways to make cottage cheese, with heat and acid, with the enzyme rennin or with bacterial cheese cultures. I do it with acid.

I usually use vinegar. You can use any kind you want, but for cottage cheese, I use the simple white vinegar.

You can also use lemon juice.

Of all the recipes I have seen over the years, you can use skim milk or whole mile and it doesn’t matter if the milk has been pasteurized or is raw. I have seen warnings about not using ultra pasteurized milk, because the milk proteins may not bond to make the curds.

I have made cottage cheese by heating the milk anywhere fro as low as 120°F al the way up to 180°F and can’t tell much difference. I suppose the higher temperature would kill or at least slow down any bacteria that was causing the milk to sour, but for most people, the bacteria (or yeast) are not harmful anyway.

I use a thermometer, but you could guess at the temperature, since anything between 120°F to 180°F seems to work. The milk will start to get frothy as it heats. At higher temps, it will start to stick to the pan if you don’t stir constantly. Another reason to go with the lower temperature.

home made cheese curds forming

Cheese curds form after adding vinegar or lemon juice

When the milk reaches your desired temperature, remove it from the heat and stir in the vinegar or lemon juice. Stir until the milk solids clump up. The clumps are the cottage cheese curds.

Most recipes call for ¾ cup vinegar or 8 tablespoons of lemon juice for 1 gallon of milk, so adjust accordingly (there are 16 tablespoons per cup, so that shows that lemon juice is a stronger acid).

Let curds and whey (the liquid is called whey) cool and pour through cheese cloth or on old thin dish towel. I use old dish towels, because I have plenty of them. I simply rinse the towel and wash and re-use again.

It works best if the towel or cheese cloth is supported in a strainer which is placed over a bowl or pot to catch the whey.

How much Cottage Cheese is made?

I never thought to weight the cottage cheese before, but last night, I made 286 grams from about 1/3rd gallon of milk.

That translates to just over 10 ounces, so about 30 ounces per gallon.

Don’t pour the whey down the drain. The whey can also be used as broth to add to soups or breads, but remember you added vinegar or lemon juice to it. If you don’t eat it, put it on your compost pile or in the garden or on the grass. Better used as fertilizer than adding to the sewer to be treated.

Comments, Opinions, Questions?