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From the Field

Opportunities for Cottage Cheese Plants?

In today’s marketplace many people are placing emphasis on higher protein products with less fat in them. Cottage cheese (or low-fat cottage cheese) can fit the bill and not in the traditional sense. How? Think outside of the box a bit and compete with Greek yogurt or Quark and grind up that cottage cheese curd!

High Protein Smoothly Ground Cottage Cheese Dessert:

Recently our R&D technologists at DuPont have rediscovered a product made out of soft cottage cheese curd that had been first introduced by Frank Kosikowski from Cornell University in the 1970’s. We grind up the softer cottage cheese curd through a Sherex shear pump. The end product can be turned into a sweetened high protein dessert or snack containing fruit much like Greek Yogurt or Petite Swiss. So why would you want to go to all of the trouble of making cottage cheese curd and grinding it up later? The answer is to offer new products to the public at existing cottage cheese plants and help increase sales! Investing in just a shear pump and cooking cottage cheese out just slightly different is a heck of a lot easier than buying a Greek yogurt separator, or producing an entirely different product on other processing line equipment or fillers.  Prototype products such as a sweetened smoothed cheese curd pudding, yogurt flavored smooth cottage cheese snack, savory high protein low-fat spreads, and dips etc. have been developed. Your imagination and the sky is the limit!

Don’t Grind It Smooth:

Why? You can make a product that is similar to ricotta cheese. Cottage cheese can be used as a lower cost alternative to ricotta cheese in many Italian dishes such as lasagna, manicotti, stuffed shells, etc. It is lower in fat and higher in casein protein. The dairy I worked for installed a “peanut grinder”, an apparatus with rotating serrated heads on it to grind the cottage cheese curd to a grainy ricotta cheese looking texture. This base could be used for Italian entrée dishes, used in desserts such as cannoli, or used a base for a savory vegetable or chip dip. After all we know that full fat sour cream contains 18% fat, and even if you go with light sour cream you still get 9% fat. Full fat cottage cheese only contains 4% fat, and the low-fat varieties contain either 2% fat or 1% fat. If watching fat calories is important to you, you might consider substituting cottage cheese for high fat products such as sour cream or cream cheese.

Whip it, Whip it Good!

One product that has appeared on store shelves in the past is whipped yogurt. You can whip a cottage cheese/dressing mixture to make a dairy dessert heavier in texture than yogurt (more similar to quark, fromage 

frais, or Greek yogurt). Simply add sugar to the dressing rather than salt and combine that with a fruit prep base either before or after whipping the base, and voila`, you have a high protein dinner dessert low in fat. Aerate it to make it light and fluffy or leave it alone and consume it heavier. Many yogurt fruit preps lighter in color such as passion fruit, mango, peach, pear and Guava go well with a white cottage cheese base if you want to flavor it.

Add savory to compete with Sour Cream based Dips:

What flavors go well with cottage cheese? How about dill? What about cucumber dill? Garlic or onion flavors come to mind too and would go well with cottage cheese curd. I suppose horseradish and peppers would do well also. If people don’t like plain cottage cheese perhaps it is time to introduce some savory flavors to them so they can enjoy the product again. An idea I had was to make a “nonstandard” cottage cheese type of product that would appeal to the masses and perhaps not look or taste like the cottage cheese they are used to. Several ideas were to add “mix-ins” to the lid of the cottage cheese carton. Things like gummy bears, sunflower seeds or sesame chips. How about making an orange colored curd (they do it all of the time for cheddar cheese) with an orange colored dressing flavored with cheddar cheese powder to taste like a “cold” macaroni and cheese? Kids love macaroni and cheese, and with cottage cheese having just as much protein per serving as Greek yogurt, why not give your kids something nutritious without all of that added sugar? Go savory!

I’ll never forget a German restaurant I ate at one time. For an appetizer on each table before the meal was simply a bowl of savory flavored cottage cheese and crackers. The savory spice they used was a mixture of things such as fennel seeds, ground pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and most likely a few other things. It was delicious mixed into the creamed cottage cheese. It was so good that the restaurant sold the spice blend in the front of the store so you could enjoy it at home!

Take It As-is & Add Veggies and Other Unique Flavors:

Another product you don’t see much anymore is a savory flavored cottage cheese base. At a dairy I used to work at we would make a “garden salad” version of cottage cheese to be enjoyed as a side dish or a vegetable or cracker spread. It contained diced celery, carrots, onions, and cucumbers. It was a tasty ready to eat product with crunch in it. It was a very pleasurable product to eat, but has only been made at this one dairy to my knowledge. They would simply dress the cottage cheese in the vat, add buckets of the garden salad to a pre-measured amount of dressed curd, and package that product last after all of the plain cottage cheese had been packaged on the filler. For those people that just don’t enjoy plain cottage cheese, I guarantee you they would have liked this product. Why aren’t there more products like this out in the market? Regular cottage cheese contains 4% fat and sour cream has 18% fat. If you are watching your fat calories wouldn’t it make more sense to eat a lower fat product? Put the savory in a low-fat cottage cheese at a 1% or 2% fat level and you have an even healthier product.

And finally, pineapple goes well with cottage cheese and is the traditional flavor, but the low pH of the fruit causes the cottage cheese curd to become hard, brittle and chewy. Perhaps less acidic flavors, like pear or peach can be mixed in instead of pineapple, to be introduced as new flavors to flavor the cottage cheese without it having such a detrimental effect on the curd texture.

The ideas presented above just make some “food for thought” and can “jazz up” that plain old bland tasting product that many of the younger generation have not come to embrace as a food choice high in protein for them. Next time you go to the store be sure and add cottage cheese to your grocery list!