I had never heard of this type of cheese until there was an article about it in the L.A. Times. It is a soft, fresh cheese that requires no special cultures or equipment. Just my speed.
I'm nervous about letting cottage cheese sit out for four hours while waiting for the curd to set up, so leaving milk out for a day really made me anxious. I had to keep reminding myself that this is how commercial cheese is made. That's just how you do it. As long as it is covered to protect it from stray yeasts and bacteria, only the appropriate culturing bacteria should be able to take root. Always make sure the aging container is freshly washed in very hot water and air-dried upside down, not with a cloth. This goes for any cheese.
Since buttermilk is the starter culture, make sure you use "cultured buttermilk". It's like making yogurt with a starter of yogurt with live cultures (which I plan to do someday soon).
As for uses, think of reasons you would need mascarpone, creme fraiche, neufchatel, or Greek yogurt. It can be a base for dips, sauces, and spreads, or sweetened up for a dessert cream.
This recipe calls for regular cow's milk. I tried it with goat's milk, to make a simplistic form of chevre. Didn't work. My best guess of what went wrong is that the bacteria which work so wonderfully with cow's milk aren't compatible with other species' milk. After two days and very little curd, the best I could do to save it was to reheat the milk and stir in a lot of vinegar to make a very small-curd cottage cheese. The yield was nowhere near what I had expected, but it did taste like chevre.
To make complex flavors, you can probably experiment with fresh herbal infusions like rosemary or thyme during the heating and setting periods. I'll get more courageous the more successful batches I make.
2 C whole milk
1/2 C cultured buttermilk
1. In a stainless-steel (non-reactive) saucepan, bring milk to a simmer over medium heat (about 200º). Remove from heat and set aside, covered, until cooled to around 100º, but no higher than 110º. Whisk in buttermilk.
2. Transfer mixture to a glass, ceramic, or plastic container, and set aside at room temperature until the mixture is thickened, with a consistency similar to yogurt or creme fraiche, about 1 day.
3. Transfer the mixture to a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a bowl. Do not cut the curds, just pour it into the strainer. Refrigerate overnight to drain the whey from the cheese; the whey should be clear, not cloudy, as it is drained. (If it is cloudy, it didn't set up long enough for the curd to form.) After 8 hours, the cheese will be very soft, like mascarpone. To make it thicker, leave it in the strainer longer.
4. Use as desired. To store, place the cheese in a glass, ceramic, or plastic container. Cover and refrigerate up to four days.
Makes slightly more than a cup
Difficulty rating :)