Cottage Cheese (Dry Curd) Info

Cheese for the Lactose Intolerant

I have been getting a lot of requests for this special cheese from many of our customers that have a definite need to remove lactose from their diets. Those of you already familiar with Dry Curd Cottage Cheese already know it by the shorter 'DCCC' designation.

This process had been quite available through retail stores until recently but today has become much more difficult to find. It has also been known as 'Bakers Cheese' in its bagged and compressed form as well as 'Farmers Cheese'.

Simply put, the process is one in which the culture is allowed to produce as much lactic acid from the milk lactose (sugars) as it can and then the remaining curd is dried out to remove the lactose through a higher heat cooking process.

Finally the curd is washed in cold water to remove the last of the residual lactose.

In the end, little to no lactose is found in the cheese.

Lactose intolerance is a fact for many cheese lovers. It is the inability of the body to break down the milk sugars (lactose) and prevents them from enjoying cheese. This is one of those genetic curses that may not show up earlier in life but when it does it produces varying amounts of digestive distress. It is due to the inability of the body to produce a specific enzyme to handle the milk lactose.

Lactose intolerance should not be confused with a true allergy to milk proteins (casein etc.), which is another problem altogether and not so easily remedied other than totally removing dairy from the diet in serious cases.

How the Process Works

In eastern Europe the dry curd cottage cheese has been a regular production item in dairies. In Russia it is called Tvorog and there they eat it at breakfast because it pairs well with jams, honey, and other fruit toppings. It is also used as a filling for desserts and savory pastries.

If you look at some of the technical backgrounds concerning the cottage cheese process you will find that it can be made at quite a range of production times varying from 5 hours to the 24 hours we are using for this one. The difference in time is a matter of production temperatures and amount of culture added to the milk. The longer process actually produces a slightly better flavor but in the commercial world, time is money.

For making the DCCC a culture of dairy bacteria begins working on milk, using the milk sugars (lactose) as their food source. In the process, the sugar begins to be converted from lactose to lactic acid. Normally this does not go to completion and some residual lactose is left in the cheese. The more moisture in the final cheese, the more of a problem the lactose can be. The high moisture is also one of the reasons why some cheese has such a short shelf life and must be consumed earlier.

All of that moisture includes lactose which can be a problem to the lactose intolerant and also can be a food source to unwanted and unhealthy bacteria.

The reasons that 'DCCC' works so well is due to this very specific 3 point program:

  1. the milk undergoes a long lactic fermentation by the culture using little to no rennet.
  2. the curds are cut and cooked at a higher temperature in order to expel the maximum amount of whey
  3. the final curd is washed in cold water to rinse off any remaining whey from the curds which may be containing residual lactose
  • The longer fermentation for this will give the bacteria plenty of time to convert as much lactose to lactic acid as possible. It will also develop more flavor in the finished cheese.
  • The higher temperature of the cooking phase will cause the curds to contract more and thus squeeze out more whey/lactose that can be drained away as the process continues. This is why the higher cooked Alpine cheeses and drier cheeses in particular are so much less of a problem for our lactose intolerant friends.
  • Finally, the cooked curds are immersed in cold water (which tends to rehydrate them slightly) and any residual whey remaining on the outside of the curds is washed away.
  • To dry it out even further, the finished curds can be placed in a mold and pressed to form a firm block of cheese. This is called farmers cheese and at one time was more readily available in grocery stores in America but much less so today. This decline in availability though should not be such a problem because this is the classical 'back of the stove' kitchen process that has been practiced on farms and in home kitchens for centuries. This is why the pressed version is called Farmers Cheese.