Ricotta is an example of a fresh farmer's cheese born out of necessity and invention. Traditionally made from the whey left-over from making hard cheeses, this cheese made sure nothing went to waste at the farm. That makes sense if you make cheese in large quantities because you need A LOT of whey, but luckily, we have a way to make it using milk. To make creamy ricotta in under an hour, you will need:
INGREDIENTS 1/2 gallon of whole milk- raw or pasteurized preferred (avoid ultra-pasteurized) 1/2 tsp citric acid OR 1/8 cup vinegar of choice OR lemon juice Flake or fine salt and herbs (to taste)
SUPPLIES Stainless Steel, Glass or Enamel- Coated Pot (no aluminum or cast iron) Butter Muslin/Fine Cheesecloth or other tightly woven thin cloth Thermometer that reads accurately to 185°F Large Colander Large Spoon- not aluminum
YIELD- about 1lb
Step 1- Measure the ½ tsp of citric acid into a ½ cup of water and stir to dissolve.
Step 2- Pour your ½ gal of milk into the pot, pour the citric acid solution into the milk and mix thoroughly.
Step 3- Heat the milk at medium heat to 185°F (do not allow to boil over). Check the bottom of the pot with your spoon every couple of minutes to check for any stuck milk or scorching, reduce heat if necessary. Avoid breaking up the fragile curds as they form.
Step 4- You may see curds begin to form as soon as you pour the solution in and as the milk heats. We are looking for maximum coagulation, however, you will see this at 185°F. The curds and whey will clearly separate- curds are white and whey is yellowish. When you hit that temperature and see this result, turn off the heat. Allow the pot to sit off the heat and undisturbed for 10 minutes.
Step 5- Line the colander with your fine cheesecloth (90# if you want to get technical). If you would like to reserve the whey to use in smoothies, soups or pancakes, place a large bowl or pot under the colander to catch it- otherwise, place the colander right in your sink. Step 6- Gently and carefully, pour the pot's contents into the cloth.
Drain the curds in the colander for 15-30 minutes, or until the cheese has reached your desired consistency. You can expedite the draining by gathering the corners and hanging the "bag" to drain from a kitchen cupboard handle (with a bowl underneath of course).
Step 7- When the cheese has drained to your desired texture (very creamy or firm and crumbly, it's up to you), you can mix in herbs and salt to taste or you can leave it plain and use it for pasta, pizza, crepes, cheesecake...you can even let it cool completely and chop in some dark chocolate, dry fruit or nut bits and lemon zest, drizzle it with good honey and you have a fancy dessert cheese. You can shape it in different containers and let it cool in the fridge to retain its shape, or you can just leave it as a spread. The cheese is ready to eat immediately! Store any leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Enjoy.