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I made cottage cheese yesterday using 1% milk while the recipe called for 2% milk. This got me wondering...

What effect does the fat content of the milk used in the recipe have on the final cottage cheese product? Does using milk with a higher fat content produce more cottage cheese than a milk with a lower fat content?

BOUNTY:

To see if anyone can come up with anything about the quantity of cottage cheese resulting from milk of different fat contents.

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I'm not going to answer, as I don't know for sure, but in yogurt, it'll affect the firmness, so there might be similar issues. –  Joe Jul 15 '10 at 21:38
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3 Answers

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Definitely a flavor impact. I've made it a few times at home and with skim you end up with pretty much flavorless, translucent milk protein. Pretty bland.

Either way, without the right amount of salt and re-added cream or half-and-half it will taste pretty bland regardless of fat content from my experience. It's also really easy to over salt.

Thinking through it further to completion, if you're re-adding something like cream or half-and-half the original fat in the source milk will be negligible compared to the additives before serving. (Unless, again, you're simply going for a solid brick of milk solids.)

I cannot cite anything saying a change in the fat of the source milk will produce more, less, or the same amount. I'd imagine you'd have more mass left over, but as for the effective amount of cottage cheese I'd say that primarily depends on the amount of milk proteins and that should have no bearing on the fat content left in the milk used.

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Not having made cottage cheese before, I'm unsure of what effect it has on the quantity produced. However, I do know that it has a significant effect on the flavor of the finished product. Just like skim milk tastes blander than whole milk, the same applies to cheese. When you buy non/low-fat cottage cheese in the supermarket you'll notice they add sugar to prevent it from tasting like runny mashed styrofoam.

Update - I sent some emails out to a few food science professors regarding the role of fat in cheese yield, and got a response from Art Hill, Professor and Chair, Department of Food Science, University of Guelph.

Fat is a principal yield component in cheese. Fat is trapped in the casein protein matrix during cheese making. Thus the mass of the fat contributes to the cheese yield. However, lower fat cheese often contains more water so yield loss is partially compensated by increased water retention.

I did some additional research and found that many cheeses have strict MNFS (moisture in the non-fat substance, calculated by subtracting the fat and expressing the moisture as a percentage of what is left) limits in which they can legally be called whatever they claim to be. Take Cheddar for example, the highest moisture, lowest fat cheese that can legally be called Cheddar 56.12% MNFS. To limit the moisture content of low-fat cheddar at less than a 1/3 fat reduction, fat substitutes are used. These can include protein based beads designed to mimic fat globules, and starches.

Sources:

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From this site on the University of Guelph it says that fat is important in cheese because it :

contributes lubrication and creamy mouth feel

contributes flavour and acts as a reservoir for other flavours

globules disperse light and suppress translucence making the cheese appear darker

alteration of polar/non-polar constituents affects biochemistry

occupies space in the protein matrix and prevents the formation of a dense matrix which produces a hard, corky cheese

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