Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pass the Ricotta Cheese, Please...

Want to do something wild and crazy in the kitchen?

(Blush!  No--you'll need your spouse for that!)

I am talking about making your own cheese!

Ricotta cheese!

Wait!  Where are you going?  Don't leave!  Keep reading!  I promise you can do it.

And you'll be suspender-snapping proud of yourself when you're done.

My long-lost-and-recently-found college friend, Wendy, just announced how simple and easy it is to make ricotta cheese.   We are both food nuts, and I smacked myself in the forehead with the "why-didn't-I-think-of-this" groan when I read her Facebook news feed about how she made it and how delicious it was.

So I am currently making ricotta cheese. 

Think beyond lasagna and manicotti here.  Ricotta is yummy in so many different ways:
  • Straight off the cheesecloth
  • Mixed with fresh herbs and spread on roasted-garlic-coated crostini (thin slices of toasted baguettes or other types of breads)
  • Mixed with scraped vanilla pods, rolled inside crepes, and spread with warm Nutella (check back soon for this recipe!  Wendy and I were hollering out this creation to each other, simultaneously, on the phone this morning..."spread it in crepes, arrange them in the pan like enchiladas...spread with Nutella!")
  • Mixed into scrambled eggs, diced ham, and chives, spooned into hollowed-out zucchini halves, topped with mozzarella slices and baked
  • Mixed with cream, cocoa powder and a little powdered sugar and spread on Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies
The possibilities go on and on, but I'm running on the-boys-are-going-to-wake-up-from-their-naps-any-minute-now adrenaline, so I need to get on with the recipe...

Just a quick science lesson:  adding an acid to heated milk makes it curdle.  It sounds unappealing, yes, but stay with me here.  The more acid you add, the larger the curds will be (at least that's what I learned from my little experiment this afternoon).  Two common acid options for making ricotta cheese are lemon juice and vinegar.  I chose lemon juice. 

I made two batches of cheese:  the first had a smaller lemon-juice-to-milk ratio and resulted in a finer cheese.  The second had a larger ratio, resulting in larger "curds." 

(Is anyone else reciting, "Little Miss Muppet, sat on her tuppet, eating her curds and whey..."?  Probably not.  I am alone in my quirkiness.)

Ingredients:  Milk, Cream (optional), Food-Grade
Cheesecloth, Lemon Juice, Salt
(I had no fresh lemons on hand.  The boys were sleeping. 
Going to the store was out of the question.)
Set out a large bowl.

Put a colander inside of the bowl.   
(And stop laughing at the ugly plastic one I've had since college.)

Line it with the cheesecloth.

I just took this one for fun.


While I was setting this up, the milk was heating on the Aga

What? A girl can dream, right?



(Mothers of babies:  this stuff looks quite similar to what you just wiped
 off of wee bebe's chin after he burped.  Forge on!  Make the fromage!)

Let it drain through.  Might take a while. 

Curds of my labor.

Good enough to eat on your best china.
(I added a dash of scraped vanilla pods to this little snack...)

Ricotta Cheese
4 cups of whole milk
1 cup of cream (a yummy addition option)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lemon juice

(Yield: 1 1/2 cups of ricotta cheese)

1) Gently heat the milk and the salt (and the cream, if using), stirring constantly, until it is just about boiling.  Don't let it scorch.

2) Add the lemon juice. 

(If you want to be scientific about it, use a cooking thermometer and add the lemon juice exactly when the milk hits 200 degrees F.  That's what I did.  I like being scientific.)

3)  Curds will form immediately.  Remove from heat.

4) Line a colander with food-grade cheesecloth (you can find it in the craft section of your local discount retailer...).

5)  Set the lined colander in a bowl.  (You can also do this over the sink, but if you want to reserve the whey, use the bowl.  Google "whey".  There are many different uses for it.)

6)  Pour the hot milk mixture carefully over the cheesecloth.  The whey will slowly drain, leaving you with beautiful ricotta cheese. 

7)  Refrigerate it for about 30 minutes:  it will firm up nicely.

8)  Go stand out in the street, raise your arms over your head and declare, "I am a cheesemaker!")

I want to post this tonight.  Unfortunately, I dropped the bowl with the ricotta cheese in it.  It splattered on the wall.  I therefore am unable to tell you the precise yield.  It's more than a cup, though.  I'll edit the recipe when I make more tomorrow...

Thanks for letting me be my quirky self here.  Thanks for still reading my blog if milk products make you want to put on rough cloth and rub gravel in your hair.

I'll post a "normal" recipe soon.

The Cheesemaker


Wendy said...

That is wonderful. I feel so .....famous! Your pictures are great. I wish I could do that. I should take some one day, you would laugh at how much worse mine look. Thanks, I hope you enjoyed it. Miss you.

Anonymous said...

Wow that does sound easy!? cheesemaker...hahaha

Rachael said...

I love this :) The more things we learn to do, the more power we have to take control over what we feed our families and ourselves. (Organic, no GMO foods) It also provides a larger array of variety for home cooking in the event options in general become limited with what can be safely purchased. Wonderful tutorial, thank you :)