Let healthy, creative dips enhance your holiday entertaining; two of my favorites are made in just minutes, using protein-rich cottage cheese for a base. One, which only adds salsa, dates back to my profound, childhood experience at a restaurant in Tucson, Arizona (see “About”). The other was inspired by my recent need for additional potassium in my diet; thus, dried apricots, rich in this element, and green onions make another pleasing combination for this dairy product.
When I lived in Switzerland briefly in the 1970’s, I was captivated by their cottage cheese, which to my amazement was without the coagulated lumps that we are used to in the U.S. Their smooth, thick, creamy substance was more like our cream cheese, though not as stiff. These soft, uniform curds were excellent with muesli, fruits, raw vegetables, crackers, breads, and more. (Some European cottage cheese is dry and salty, not so with my rhapsodic Swiss cottage cheese.)
In trying to learn more about this blessing from Europe, I discovered a good source for making one’s own; this site provides a recipe that produces either the creamy smooth or dry salty versions, simply by adjusting the heating time. Access this incredible treat, which can’t be found in any U.S. grocery store, at: https://cheese.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-your-own-cottage-cheese-european-way-352742/
Different textured and flavored cheeses are produced by variations in the temperature the milk is heated to, the diverse procedures of draining and pressing the resultant curds, and aging. For instance, soft, semi-soft, semi-hard, and hard cheeses are often categorized according to their moisture content, which is determined by whether they are pressed or not, and if so, the pressure with which the cheese is packed in molds, as well as upon aging.
“Fresh cheeses” are the most simple of all, in which milk is curdled and drained, with little other processing. Among these “acid-set cheeses”, cottage cheese, cream cheese, fromage blanc, and curd cheese (also known as quark) are not pressed; when fresh cheese is pressed, it becomes the malleable, solid pot cheese; even further pressing makes a drier, more crumbly farmer’s cheese, paneer, and goat’s milk chevre, for instance. All are easy to spread, velvety, and mild-flavored.
The unpressed quark/curd cheese is common in the German-speaking countries and those of northern Europe, the Netherlands, Hungary, Belgium, Albania, Israel, Romania, as well as with the Slavic peoples. It is also found in some parts of the United States and Canada.
Quark is usually synonymous with cottage cheese in Eastern Europe, though these differ in America and Germany, where cottage cheese has lumps (the flavor of German cottage cheese is much more sour than ours). Curd cheese or quark is similar to French fromage blanc, Indian paneer, Spanish queso blanco, as well as the yogurt cheeses of south and central Asia and parts of the Arab world.
These (fresh) acid-set cheeses are coagulated milk, which has been soured naturally, or by the addition of lactic acid bacteria; this in turn is heated to a 20-27 degrees C, or until the desired curdling is met; then, the curds are drained, but not pressed, such as in the link above.
In America, quark, which is always smooth, differs from our cottage cheese, which has curdled chunks in it. These lumps are large in the low-acid variant, which uses rennet in coagulating the milk, or small in the high-acid form, without any rennet. In Germany, Sauermilchkase (sour milk cheese) applies to ripened (aged) acid-set cheeses only, not to fresh ones-such as their cottage cheese, which is called Huttenkase.
The world of cheese is a complex one: I have vivid memories of this smooth European cottage cheese, from my time in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, which has left me with a love for this dairy product. To this day I frequently employ its American version in my diet. Enjoy these quick dips!
1 pint cottage cheese (Whole milk is best for your health; Trader Joe’s brand is hormone and additive free.)
1/2 c salsa (Trader’s Pineapple Salsa is superb here.)
Tortilla chips (Que Pasa makes an organic red chip, colored with beet dye, available in nutrition center at our local Fred Meyer-Kroger-
- Mix cottage cheese and salsa in a bowl.
- Serve with chips. (Keeps well in refrigerator.)
Cottage Cheese, Apricots, and Green Onion Dip Yields: about 1 3/4 pints. Total prep time: 15 min. Note: may choose to refrigerate for at least 8 hr for ideal flavor and texture.
1 pint cottage cheese
1/2 c dried apricots, minced
1 c green onion, including green part, chopped
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste (Real Salt, pink salt, is important for optimum health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)
- Mix the above together in a bowl.
- Serve with a high quality cracker. (May use immediately, but this is much better when refrigerated for at least 8 hours-the flavors not only meld, but the excess moisture in the cottage cheese is absorbed by the dried apricots, producing superb texture and taste!)