Some things we have become so accustomed to buying, we never think to make it ourselves. Yogurt, hot sauce, protein bars, wool sweaters… Well, in reality, you can indeed make all these things on your own. With just a little ambition, and perhaps some planning– you would be surprised what all you can make on your own, and much more healthily to boot.
Cheese is a prime example of this idea. Not necessarily all cheeses, as many cheeses vary depending on dozens of factors– everything from type of milk, to whey, to aging, region, temperature, etc etc… Ricotta however is the perfect guinea pig to help you break into cheese-making at home. Its all about using high quality products, and just being patient. You heat some milk and cream, salt–add acid– then it curdles. Like magic! Let it hang out for a few hours– then let it drain. That’s it. Seriously. You could be the most ADD person in the world, and probably still manage to be a successful ricotta maker. I’m the perfect example.
Don’t use low-fat or…shudder…fat-free milk. Not when making ricotta, the lack of flavor is so evident, its just sad.
10 C Pasteurized whole milk
6 C Heavy cream
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1/2 tsp teaspoon salt + more to taste
Rinse the inside of the pot you intend to use with cold water (this helps prevent the milk from scorching). Place cream and milk in large, heavy pot on medium heat. Add salt and stir briefly. Allow to heat up slowly, stirring occasionally. As the milk/cream mixture comes up to temperature tiny bubbles will begin to appear on the surface, around the edges of the pot– that is a good sign that your cream is about up to temperature. You want it to reach 180-185 degrees, near scalding temperature, just before it comes to a boil. Be sure to use a candy thermometer, to keep an eye on the temperature (yes, it really does matter)
When it reaches the correct temperature, take the pot off, add the vinegar and stir gently for one minute. Add salt. Don’t stir too aggressively, because you want the big curds that begin forming, to stay intact– not get all broken up. Cover with a dry clean towel and let the mixture just hang out, un-disturbed for a couple of hours. When the ricotta has rested for a few hours, pour it all into one, (really big) or several (as I did ) cheesecloth lined colanders, set over a deep bowl. Let it drain for +/- two hours, depending on how wet or dry you want the final product to be. Then just toss the drained whey liquid, and lightly wring the ricotta (if needed) then store it in a big container, sealed tightly, in your fridge. OR eat it all asap.
This stuff is so dang delicious, and it can be used in so many ways! I used it in a salad I made for a private dinner I catered. I served it alongside golden tomatoes, with Thai basil oil, thin baguette crisps, rich, aged reduced balsamic, and some smoked sea salt…. It was divine. Or stuff it into some dates, or figs, roast with agave. Eat with a spoon, with balsamic, or use as a spread for sandwiches, pita, pizzas… literally anything. And I must say, the fresh cheese, still slightly warm, is unbelievably flavorful. Be sure to season it. If it’s under-seasoned, its a travesty. Let the flavor really come out. Don’t skimp on salt people!!! If you learn nothing else from this entire post, its to SEASON YOUR FOOD! Every. Single. Time.