01 September 2009

Kitchen fail


Alton Brown has never lied to me before. So when I watched the episode of Good Eats about milk, and he told me that homemade cottage cheese is way better than the store-bought stuff, I believed him.

It wasn't much of a stretch of the imagination to believe it for me, actually. See, I don't really like cottage cheese. I like the idea of it--low-fat, high-protein, slightly salty cheese product. I like cheese, I like salt, and protein helps me to live. It should all add up, right? But the actual placing of spoonfuls of cottage cheese in my mouth never really lives up to the ideal.

So when Alton Brown promised a better product that I could make in the comfort of my own kitchen, I decided to jump in. I bought a gallon of skim milk and a small bottle of white vinegar. I enhanced my kitchen tool box with a candy/fry thermometer.

I poured the entire gallon in a large saucepan, clipped the thermometer to the side of the pan, and slowly raised the temperature of the milk over medium heat until it reached 120 degrees Fahrenheit. I turned off the flame and poured in three-fourths of a cup of vinegar, gave the concoction a stir, and let it sit for 30 minutes. I lined a colander with a flour sack tea towel and strained the whey-vinegar-water solution off of the mass of casein protein. I gathered up the edges of the towel and rinsed the clump of protein under cool running water for three to five minutes, let it drain a bit in the colander, and put it in a bowl.

I sprinkled it with a little kosher salt and poured half a cup of whole milk over it.*

I put a spoonful in my mouth.

I chewed the salty paste.

Yes, paste. That's about what it tasted like. Maybe this is why the stuff from the store is so high in sodium--add enough salt to milk protein paste and it's palatable?

The thing that bugs me the most is that I don't know if I did something wrong, if something out of my control went wrong, or if I just really don't like cottage cheese.

In the end, I still trust Alton. Our joint successes far outshine the tasteless failure that sits leftover in a Gladware container in my refrigerator.


*Alton said to use half-and-half, but come on--I was trying to be healthy here.

12 comments:

The Shark said...

You just got punk'd by Alton Brown.

Carlos the Great said...

It might've been the skim milk substitute, and yes, I'm close to losing my lunch because of this post...

Cabeza said...

Skim wasn't a substitute. It's what Alton called for. You don't need any fat--you're just trying to get the casein protein out of the milk.

Carlos the Great said...

Ah, right. What's the big difference between whole milk and half and half?

Cabeza said...

The amount of fat.

Warren said...

I never got into cottage cheese, and that does not sound appetizing.

Darrell said...

I love cottage cheese, bit this did sound a bit gross.

Nick said...

I made fresh mozzarella once doing almost exactly what you did, but I think it called for a tablet of this stuff called rennet which I found at the BYU creamery of all places. Then you strain and compress as much liquid out as you can. It wasn't the best cheese I ever had, but it was decent.

DAD said...

Whenever I watch Alton Brown on the Food Network, I always feel like I am in a chemistry lab, instead of a kitchen. His approach to receipes, cooking, etc. always seems to be more like a science lesson, than instructions in how to make a really tasty creation.

Give me Paula Deen and her Southern fried passion for cooking anytime....lots more fun to watch.

Cabeza said...

UPDATE--I tried it again last night (two days later). The protein mass had solidified into one pasty clump (I swear I broke it up before I put it away...).

But still I was willing to give it a try. I broke it up as best as I could with a spoon, sprinkled more salt on it than I had before, and poured some more whole milk on top.

Tasted more like the store-bought stuff (I swear, the main flavor in cottage cheese must be salt), but I could not abide the texture.

The rest of the experiment is now in the trash.

The Shark said...

Dad, that's what I like about Alton Brown. It's really cool to see why, scientifically, foods cook the way they do and what's going on when a recipe calls for something specific. I saw him explain the importance of a clean oven once and it was mesmerizing.

Asian Keng said...

Have you tried the homemade yogurt? I am interested in that. And btw, for Christmas I FINALLY scored official Alton Brown kitchenaid flames. Yep, I'm that lame.