Dairy products tend to have a relatively short half-life, especially when they have undergone fermentation. Delicious staples like cottage cheese and sour cream are versatile dairy products that work in a variety of recipes. However, since they can go bad pretty fast, knowing how to stop food wastage when using ingredients such as cottage cheese is important. If you are stuck with plenty of leftovers and wondering if you can freeze cottage cheese the answer is—yes.
Cottage cheese can be frozen for up to six months. However, since this type of cheese is a soft cheese, the milk fat can disintegrate from the rest of the cheese during the freezing process. This means that the texture of the cheese will not be the same after freezing. Frozen cottage cheese can still be used in various dishes but it will not work well for all types of recipes.
Can You Freeze Cottage Cheese after Opening?
Varieties ofsoft cheese (like cottage and ricotta cheese) are highly perishable and tend to go bad quickly if not stored properly. This is because soft cheese varieties have high liquid content and typically disintegrate when freezing, altering the texture and taste of the cheese. However, it is possible to freeze your cottage cheese if you want to extend its shelf life.
Whole fat or large curd cottage cheese is a better option for freezing since it does not disintegrate as quickly as low-fat options.
If you want to freeze an unopened can of cottage cheese, you can just freeze it in its original container. You can also cover the container with a freezer bag to prevent freezer burn. However, it is best to keep the container flipped upside down. When you invert the container, the vacuum created helps to prevent the growth of bacteria, allowing your cheese to keep for longer.
If you want to store an opened can of cottage cheese, you can start by dividing the cheese into small portions. This is the most convenient way to store the cheese since you will be able to pick and thaw only the portion size required for a particular recipe.
Once you have divided the cheese into portions, you can place it in airtight containers or freezer bags. Cottage cheese is very susceptible to contamination—so an airtight container is a necessity when freezing this type of cheese.
Once the cheese is tightly sealed in the freezer bags or airtight container, you can then keep it in the freezer until it is needed.
How Long Does Cottage Cheese Last?
Fresh cottage cheese is highly perishable and will go bad if left out at room temperature for more than two hours. It is recommended that you keep your cheese in the refrigerator to reduce the risk of contamination, which can cause food poisoning.
You can refrigerate unopened cottage cheese for two weeks. It is, however, best to check package instructions for the sell-by date. If the cheese is open, the leftovers should only be refrigerated for a week.
Frozen cottage cheese can last for up to six months. However, the quality of the cheese will keep depreciating with time—so it is best to consume the cheese as soon as possible. It is generally recommended that you consume frozen cheese within three months.
How to Thaw Frozen Cottage Cheese
The best way to thaw frozen cottage cheese is to let it defrost in the refrigerator overnight. You should never thaw the frozen cheese by leaving it out at room temperature as this could lead to contamination and make your cheese unsafe for consumption.
You can thaw the cheese in cold water if you would like to speed up the thawing process. Alternatively, depending on your recipe, you might also be able to add the frozen cheese directly into the cooking process and let it thaw right then.
After the thawing process, it’s a good idea to drain off the excess liquid.
After thawing, you may find that the cheese has disintegrated and become crumbly and watery. In this case, you can add some sour cream to the cheese and stir. This will help to reconstitute it and remedy the watery grainy texture.
Signs That Your Cottage Cheese Has Gone Bad
One of the tell-tale signs that your cottage cheese has gone bad is finding pockets of water in the storage container. This happens when the cheese disintegrates and separates with the solid matter separating from the liquid. This disintegration is one of the first signs that your cheese may no longer be safe to eat.
Change in Color and Odor
If you notice that the cheese has developed an off smell and has started turning yellowish, this indicates that the cheese has gone bad. Fresh cottage cheese does not have a strong odor. The tangy or sour smells only sets in once the cheese starts to go bad
Mold can easily develop on cottage cheese if it has been stored for too long or if it was not stored properly. Dairy products get contaminated easily and one of the first signs of contamination is finding mold on the surface of the cheese. If your cheese shows any signs of molding, discard it immediately as it is not safe for consumption.
Cheese that has gone bad may sometimes turn into a dry paste. When this happens, the cheese is spoiled and not fit for consumption.
Read also: Can You Microwave Milk?
Tips for Storing and Freezing Cottage Cheese
- One of the main reasons cheese will go bad fast is if it is not stored in an airtight container. If possible, wrap cling film or foil on your cottage cheese container to ensure that no air is seeping into it.
- When storing an unopened can of cottage cheese, placing it upside down in the fridge helps to prevent molding and keeps your cheese fresher for longer.
- It is normal for cottage cheese to change in texture after freezing, but you can still use it in cooked dishes where the change in texture will not affect the end result.
- When freezing your cheese, always label the date of freezing on the container to ensure that you do not freeze it longer than three to six months.
- You should never refreeze cottage cheese. Once it has thawed, it should be used immediately and any leftovers discarded. Refreezing cheese can lead to contamination.
- If you thaw your cheese and it appears separated, first drain off the excess water and then add some sour cream and stir. Sour cream works great when you want to reconstitute the cheese and give it a creamier texture.
- Frozen cottage cheese should only be used in cooked dishes. The change in texture and flavor after freezing makes it unsuitable for eating directly.
How to Use Frozen and Thawed Cottage Cheese
There are plenty of ways to utilize cottage cheese after freezing. Provided you are using it in a cooked dish, the thawed cheese should still give you great results. Here are some common dishes that work well with frozen and thawed cheese.
Casseroles and Pasta
Since casseroles and pasta are usually cooked, the consistency of frozen cheese will not affect your recipe. The frozen cheese will still thicken your casseroles effectively and give them a nice creamy texture.
Cottage cheese is great for soups—both fresh and frozen. If you have a soup recipe, you can add some frozen cottage cheese to get a nice, thick texture. In soups, you may not even have to thaw the cheese before use. Simply chuck the frozen cheese into the pot and let it slowly thaw as the soup cooks.
Another great way to utilize frozen and thawed cottage cheese is in your pancake batter. The cheese will add a nice flavor and infuse some creaminess into the texture. However, before using the cheese in your pancake batter, make sure that you have drained off any water that accumulated during the thawing process. You can also add some sour cream to the cheese to make it thicker and improve its consistency, making it ideal for pancake batter.
If you are making some baked goods, you can use thawed cheese if your recipe calls for cottage cheese. In this case, you will need to allow the cheese to thaw completely before adding it to your cake batter. It is also important to stir the cheese after thawing to reconstitute it in case it has started to separate.
Soft cheeses have a relatively short shelf life but you can refrigerate or freeze them to make them last longer. When dealing with dairy products, it is always important to take precautions when storing the product since they can easily get contaminated. Cottage cheese can be frozen, but it may not retain the same qualities it has when fresh. This means if you have to freeze your cottage cheese, freeze it for the shortest time possible.