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Friday 22 February 2013

Making homemade ricotta - cheesemaking may not be so hard after all!

Like the large majority of the population, I've been store buying ricotta since forever.  Ever since tasting the divinely light as a cloud goats milk ricotta made fresh daily at Corso32, I've been back again and again just to have a taste of that delicious creamy texture.  Comparing freshly made ricotta is like putting a rich airy cloud in your mouth with a taste of fresh milk versus the bland, mealy, grainy mush we can buy at the grocery store.  Once you taste it, there's no turning back.  I've had friends, chefs, and not a few bloggers tell me its super dooper easy to make ricotta.  For years, I didn't doubt them (after all, they were the source of addictively smooth, airy ricotta, and creamy thick dry Lebanese cheese/yogurt spread)... I doubted my ability to pull off this wondrous concoction.  So one cold weekend, I finally took the plunge into making ricotta... and haven't looked back since!

One of the nice things I've learned about making cheese is it requires few kitchen gadgets (that won't break the bank if you only decide to do this once) and a few simple ingredients... so make sure you get good quality since ricotta only requires full fat milk, cream and lemon juice.

I learned a few things along the way:
-I didn't have to obsessively compulsively stir every 0.0035seconds... once in a while is good
-Just like a little kid, it seems like it takes forever for the milk and cream to heat up to temperature!  Getting a simple candy thermometer (look for glass not plastic covers) like: Starfrit Thermometer will make your life a lot easier!

-Cheese making, at least ricotta making is forgiving... the first time, I forgot to add salt and so I stirred it in like crazy after I added in the lemon juice.
-Double cheese cloth up if you have to (I used 2 sheets of Ultra Fine Cheesecloth), and keep an eye on the cheese cloth flopping over - once I had 1/2 my cheese mixture pour down my counters, cabinets and floor with my attempt at pouring as the curds were so small, a slotted spoon didn't work worth a $%^#!  It looked a lot like baby spit up, but thankfully cleaned up easy.
-What I thought was a fancy way of showcasing the fresh ricotta in the cheesecloth by other bloggers - was just a really good way of draining off the whey fast without making a mess - its elevated and any extra drips will just fall into the sink.

-Be gentle when scraping out the soft butter like cheese curds - and try not to taste test too much.

-Don't skimp on the cream... I tried once to make it with a higher ratio of milk to cream and I ended up with less creamy cheese and far far far less ricotta in the end... though dumping a lot of it onto my floor and counters and cabinets may have been the culprit...

The resulting ricotta was light as a cloud, ultra creamy, smooth like silk and had a subtle milky flavor to it.

After adding in some olive oil, I found I had to add a bit more salt so the cheese flavor shone through.

After trying out a few tried and true recipes from fellow bloggers and cheese makers extraordinaries: Kate Jackson of FramedCooks, and Ian Treuer of Muchtodoaboutcheese - My favourite was Valorie Lugonja's of A Canadian Foodie fame's  Fresh Wet Ricotta Recipe
-1 cup heavy cream
-3 cups whole/homo milk
-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-Candy thermometer
-cheesecloth: shake it out and refold into large square that overlaps large bowl/sieve

1. Prepare lemon juice: squeeze lemon juice into bowl, de-seed and set aside
2. Cover large bowl/sieve with three to four layers of cheese cloth set over a big bowl to catch the whey (the liquid that you'll be draining)
3. Measure milk and cream - add to small pot, add sal
4.  Heat slowly over medium heat to 80 degrees C stirring to ensure milk will not stick to bottom of the pan
5. Take off heat immediately; add lemon juice and stir only once to incorporate
6. Do not move the pot or bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes
7.  Pour curds very gently into the cheesecloth covered bowl/sieve
8. Gather up the cheesecloth so the mixture sits in the middle.  Hang it up with bowl at bottom to catch why and let sit for 30-60min to strain, depending upon desired consistency.
9. Save whey for baking sourdough breads or muffins, or discard.
10. Scrape the small white cheese curds into a serving dish and serve drizzled with a fruity olive oil and sprinkled with Fleur de Sel or Maldon Salt; will keep 4 to 5 days tightly covered in the fridge.


Anonymous said...

This homemade ricotta recipe seems like the easiest one I've seen so far so I might just try it :) How much ricotta does this make? Thanks!
- Jenn said...

Hi Jenn,
The amount of ricotta that this recipe makes depends on milk fat content (more cream = more curds), and how patient you are (if you don't let the mixture come to temperature and/or stir/poke at it before the curds set = tinny tiny curds that will sail right through the cheese cloth instead of being captured by it), and how long you drain.. the "drier" the ricotta, the less you'll have.

That said, I've had as much as about 2 cups (really wet) or 1 3/4 cups of ricotta ("commercial wet") to as low as 1/2 cup ricotta and lots of cups of whey lol! (the 1/2 cup product was cuz I experimented with 2% milk and cream... and I stoopidly tried straining before the curds were really set)

But do pick up a cheap candy thermometer and it'll make your life easier, and with patience (which I have little of lol!), you'll be a pro at making ricotta in no time! Happy cheese making!! One of these days I'm going to try this with goat's milk and drizzle with rosemary infused olive oil :D

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