Most of us probably think of cottage cheese as a prosaic supermarket staple, but at the Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station, California, cheesemaker and co-owner Sue Conley raises it to a fine art, transforming milk into sweet, creamy curds.
The milk, which is from the Straus Family Dairy, a small, family-run farm nearby, is delicious, “like a singlevineyard wine,” says Conley, because it comes from the same small herd of cows that grazes the same land throughout the year. “People who don’t like cottage cheese change their minds when they taste ours,” Conley smiles.
It’s cooking that sets cottage cheese apart from other fresh cheeses; cottage cheese curds need both gentle cooking and gentle stirring (“kind of like making soft scrambled eggs,” says Conley). The stirring is crucial so that the curds don’t get big, hard, and clumpy. Large-scale dairies use huge rotary blades, which don’t give the tender, delicate result that comes from cutting and stirring curds by hand—as it’s done at the Cowgirl Creamery.