Pot cheese is a type of soft, crumbly, unaged cheese. It is very simple to make and it is also highly versatile, making it a popular cheese through the ages. It can sometimes be difficult to find in the store, unfortunately. Dairies and specialty stores may be able to provide it, and cooks can also try their hand at making pot cheese at home. The fundamental recipe can also be used to make farmer cheese, and it can be tweaked with additional seasonings like fresh herbs to make flavored cheese.
Essentially, pot cheese is the midway stage between cottage cheese and farmers' cheese. It still has some whey in it, unlike the more dry farmer cheese, but it is not swimming in whey, like cottage cheese. It is slightly dry and crumbly with a neutral, creamy texture, and it can be used like a spread or as a substitute for cheeses such as ricotta. It also tends to be high in protein, and it can be made vegetarian friendly as well.
Because the cheese is unaged and it does not have a long shelf life, it is likely that it originated in farms and dairies for personal use. The cheese is quick and easy to make, and it does not take up storage space while it ages since it has no aging time. Cooks can also alter the flavor as desired, making it very versatile. Since most people no longer live on farms, pot cheese is not as popular as it once was, and recipes which once called for it usually call for ricotta instead.
A whole family of cheeses are considered pot cheese, including quark, a fresh cheese made in Northern Europe. Quark is very popular in nations like Germany. It is traditionally made by culturing milk with fast acting bacteria, which raise the acidity of the cheese. Rennet is typically added to quark to make it more solid, although not all recipes for this cheese require rennet.
There are several ways to make pot cheese. Some cooks simply heat buttermilk, which already has active cultures, and strain the resulting curds to press into cheese. The cheese can also be made by souring one gallon (3.8 liters) of milk with one quarter cup vinegar, or by adding mesophilic cultures to heated milk. These cultures are often available in a dry or suspended state for cheesemaking. After the milk has been curdled, it is strained through cheesecloth before being pressed and hung to dry. Typically the cheese will be pressed again before being stored under refrigeration for up to three days before use.