The first time I ever heard of curds was in the nursery rhyme “Little Miss Muffet – Eating her curds and whey.” Curds look similar to cottage cheese, but in the recipes I found in old cookbooks, they used rennet for milk curds, but not for cottage cheese.
FROM 1800s COOKBOOKS:
TO PREPARE A RENNET
A rennet is the stomach of the calf. As soon as the calf is killed, take it, wash it very quickly, and cover it with salt. Let it lie three or four days, stretch it on sticks, and hang it up to dry. When dry, put it in a bag, and set it in a dry place to keep. The same piece salted and dried will do several times.
Rub the salt from a nicely dried rennet, and cut it up. Put it in a bottle and fill it up with good wine. If care is taken to keep it filled up, it will last for several years, to make cold custard and cheese curds. Either the wine or the rennet will be found good for turning milk, but do not put in both together, or the curd will become so hard and tough, as to be uneatable.
Rennets properly prepared and dried are sold constantly in the markets. The cost is trifling and it is well to have one always in the house in case of being wanted to make whey for sick persons. They will keep a year or more.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF RENNET
According to the Italian method, a more delicate and tender curd is made without the use of common rennet. Take a number of the rough coats that line the gizzards of turkeys and fowls, clean them from the pebbles they contain, rub them well with salt, and hang them up to dry. When to be used, break off some bits of the skin, and pour on some boiling water. In eight or nine hours the liquor may be used as other rennet.
CURDS AND WHEY
Take a piece of rennet about three inches square, and wash it in two or three cold waters to get off the salt. Wipe it dry and fasten a string to one corner of it. Have ready in a deep dish or pan, a quart of unskimmed milk that has been warmed but not boiled. Put the rennet into it, leaving the string hanging out over the side, that you may know where to find it. Cover the pan, and set it by the fire-side or in some other warm place. When the milk becomes a firm mass of curd, and the whey looks clear and greenish, remove the rennet as gently as possible, pulling it out by the string. Set the pan in ice, or in a very cold place. Send to table with it a small pitcher of white wine, sugar and nutmeg mixed together, or a bowl of sweetened cream, with nutmeg grated over it.
CURDS AND CREAM
One gallon of milk will make a moderate dish. Put one spoonful of prepared rennet to each quart of milk, and when you find that it has become curd, tie it loosely in a thin cloth and hang it to drain. Do not wring or press the cloth. When drained, put the curd into a mug and set in cool water, which must be frequently changed. When you dish it, if there is whey in the mug, lie it gently out without pressing the curd. Lay it on a deep dish, and pour fresh cream over it. If turned only two hours before wanted, it is very light. Those who like it harder may have it so by making it earlier, and squeezing it. Cream, milk, or a whip of cream, sugar, wine, and lemon, may be put into the dish to serve with the curd. Have powdered loaf-sugar to eat with it and also hand the nutmeg grater.
Prepared rennet can be had at almost any druggist’s, and at a reasonable price.
Rub the curd of two gallons of milk well drained through a sieve. Mix it with six eggs, a little cream, two spoonfuls of orange-flower water, half a nutmeg, three spoonfuls each of flour and crumbs of bread, and half a pound each of raisins and currants. Boil the pudding an hour in a thick well-floured cloth.
Turn two quarts of milk to curd, press the whey from it, and rub it through a sieve. Mix four ounces of butter, the crumb of a penny loaf [bread], two spoonfuls of cream, half a nutmeg, a little sugar, and two spoonfuls of white wine. Butter some small cups or pattipans, and fill them three parts full. Orange-flower water is an improvement. Bake the puffs with care, and serve with sweet sauce in a boat.