So you’ve hoarded cottage cheese when it was on sale in the supermarket only to realize later on that you don’t have enough space in your fridge. Should you put it in the freezer and perhaps be able to extend its life, too?
Well, the answer would be a Yes and a No. Yes, you can put it in the freezer. But No, you wouldn’t want to do that every single time.
Freezing indeed allows you to extend the lifespan of a food and it also enables you to stretch your budget as you can hoard food items on sale and just stock them up on the freezer. Freezing to O˚F inactivates the bacteria, yeast, molds and other microbes present in the food. Because the growth of microorganisms is prevented, food spoilage and food-borne illnesses are also prevented. The freezing process doesn’t technically destroy the nutrients in the food although for meat and poultry products, an insignificant change in nutrient value is observed because of freezer storage.
You can freeze almost any food with canned food and eggs in shell to be some of the exceptions. There are also food items that don’t freeze well and are ideally not for freezing, like mayonnaise, cream sauces, and cheeses.
Who doesn’t love cheese? This milk-based food is a staple in every home all over the world. With its wide-ranging flavors, forms and textures, along with its complex and delicious taste, and wide availability, what’s not to like about cheese? There are over a thousand varieties of natural cheeses and a countless number of processed ones so there sure to be a cheese for every palate. According to the Food Service Research Institute, the five top-selling cheeses in America are Mozzarella, Cheddar, Parmesan, Jack and Swiss. Other common types of cheeses are Blue Cheese, Ricotta, Feta, Cream Cheese, Goat Cheese, and Cottage Cheese which appears to be a favorite ingredient in most “home-cooked” dishes.
What exactly is cottage cheese?
Cottage cheese is a well-loved dairy treat. It is a soft, fresh and uncured cheese made from skimmed, part-skimmed, or whole pasteurized cow’s milk. It has a rich taste and moist texture yet the flavor is mild. Cottage cheese is soft cheese that is drained but not pressed. Compared to the more popular hard cheese varieties, cottage cheese is not colored or aged. The yellowish shade of some cottage cheese is due to the fat level of the milk used to make the cheese. Cottage cheese usually comes in three varieties: small, medium and large curd. The curd size refers to the size of the chunks in the cheese.
This type of cheese got its name from where it originated, from “cottages” or small dwellings of the early American settlers. Cottage cheese was made using the milk left after they make butter. The milk becomes solid because of the process of acidification where it is soured and because of the addition of a coagulant like rennet. This particular coagulant causes the proteins in the milk to curd and the liquid to separate. This results to the formation of individual curd particles and the separation of the whey. The remaining whey is drained off.
Cottage cheese is a versatile food item that can be consumed on its own or mixed to sweet or savory dishes. They can be included in casseroles, tarts, pasta dishes, pizza, baked goods like muffins and cinnamon rolls, or spread into crackers. Cottage cheese is also an ideal diet food. It is a good source of protein, healthy fatty acids, calcium, Vitamins A and B, and phosphorus.
Cottage cheese is President Richard Nixon’s favorite. Apparently, an average American consumes about 2-5 pounds of cottage cheese per year. A 2010 USDA survey reports a total consumption of approximately 600 million pounds of cottage cheese every year. This entails about 4 billion pounds of milk to produce enough cottage cheese for the U.S. market. Many favor the large curd, full fat variety because of the lower moisture and acidity.
If you freeze cottage cheese, expect the consistency to change. So depending on what you want to use it for, freezing cottage cheese may or may not be a good idea.
When to Freeze Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a soft cheese and the freezing process makes the milk fat of this type of cheese to separate from the rest of the cheese components. Expect that it will be more grainy and watery upon thawing.
If you plan to use cottage cheese as ingredient for various recipes, then your frozen stash would definitely do. You can buy a lot of cottage cheese on sale and stock them on your freezer if:
- you’re doing a bake sale and you intend to use cottage cheese in making cheesecakes, muffins, cheese bars or cupcake/cake frosting
- you need to prepare a large batch of baked penne, mac and cheese, or lasagna for a party
- you’re on a diet, on a strict budget, and not meticulous with food appearance: go ahead and freeze your supply of healthy, low-fat cottage cheese for your creamy fruit popsicles, scrambled eggs and veggies and dip
- you won’t mind eating frozen cottage cheese with baby-food-like appearance and consistency
If you do intend to freeze cottage cheese, select the dry or uncreamed cottage cheese, or the whole fat ones. The whole fat or large curd cottage cheese freezes better. Creamed cottage cheese, as well as fat-free and low-fat options will turn too mushy after freezing.
When Not to Freeze Cottage Cheese
The texture isn’t the only component that will change if you freeze cottage cheese, the taste might also get affected. This is important if you intend to eat the cottage cheese by itself. So basically, it is not ideal to freeze cottage cheese when:
- you’ll serve it as a snack dip or spread for the cracker you’ll serve on a party you’re hosting
- you’re very particular with the flavor of cottage cheese (freezing and thawing makes it less flavorful)
Frozen cottage cheese, although still palatable, won’t look good on a plate. The change in texture makes it unappealing so it’s best that you incorporate it into dishes like lasagna, soups, sauces, casseroles and cakes.
Below is a guideline on freezing cottage cheese:
- You can freeze cottage cheese in its original container. However, take note that cottage cheese can absorb the flavors from other foods so it is recommended that you double wrap it. Alternatively, you can also put it in a freezer-safe plastic container or a freezer bag. Make sure you leave some room for expansion and label the package with expiration date. Use the frozen cottage cheese within 2-3 months of freezing.
- Prior to freezing, give it a quick stir so all ingredients are well-blended thus reducing separation upon thawing.
- Thaw the cheese in the fridge overnight or for several hours. Never thaw dairy products on the counter because the uneven temperature can allow bacteria to grow.
- When completely thawed, remove the excess water through draining. Give it a stir to restore it somehow to its original texture. See how it becomes runny than usual; thicken it up by adding a teaspoon of cornstarch.
- Thawed cottage cheese is good for 3-4 days only and should not be re-frozen. Consider dividing it first into single-serving packages before freezing.
- The softer or creamier your cottage cheese is, the worse it freezes.
- Frozen unopened cottage cheese gets an extended shelf life of about 3-6 months past the printed sell by date. Opened cottage cheese stored in the freezer may last 2-3 months past printed date. If you keep it in the freezer for a longer period, expect the taste to deteriorate.
How to Tell If Your Cottage Cheese Has Gone Bad
Frozen or not, cottage cheese that has turned yellow, became damp and developed a sour smell and taste is no longer safe to eat. Fresh cottage cheese is characterized by a clean smell and flavor with consistent texture.
If you have a few extra cottage cheese that is about to expire, you may want to press it and convert it to a harder, long-lasting cheese. Slightly pressing and draining cottage cheese will result to a pot cheese which you can convert to farmer’s cheese with further pressing.
Then again, you’re also free to freeze your extra stash of cottage cheese. It won’t hurt you to eat cottage cheese that has been frozen. Be reminded, however, of the change in consistency and flavor. The decision to freeze cottage cheese or not basically relies on personal preference – of how you want your cottage cheese to look, taste and feel in your mouth. If you are unsure of what to do, buy a cup of cottage cheese and divide it into two portions. Freeze the other half for two to three days and just place the other half on the coldest part of your fridge. Afterwards, give both a try and see which one suits your palate more.