Thursday, September 5, 2013

Quick Homemade Ricotta (in 30 minutes!)

My friend Andrea made ricotta and we'd been wanting for a long time to try it ourselves! And it is so easy and delicious, just like she said.

TRUE ricotta cheese, we learned, is made from whey ("ricotta" means "recooked"), but it only works with whey from a rennet-coagulated cheese. [Update: I'm wrong. It only works with whey from a CULTURE-coagulated cheese. So you can't use the whey from the mozzarella cheese to make ricotta, either, unfortunately.] In other words, you can't make this ricotta (which is vinegar-coagulated) and then make MORE ricotta from its whey. More's the pity. So this is not a true ricotta, because it begins with whole milk instead of with whey.

We tried out Andrea's recipe, and a few others, and one thing we eventually modified from hers is that the two-hour cooling time after you add the vinegar seemed unnecessary (many other recipes omitted that step). Which means you can be eating the ricotta that much sooner; yay!

Here is what we did:

In a large pot, combine a gallon of whole milk (lower-fat milks work too, from what I have read) and a pint of cream.

Heat until the milk is not-quite-boiling, between 165 and 185 degrees. Heating it all the way to 185, we read, is not really necessary if the milk has already been pasteurized, so the lower temperature works fine.

Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

Stir in 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar. (You can use lemon juice instead, especially if you're going to use the ricotta in a sweet recipe like cheesecake.) Watch the milk coagulate as you stir! The curds are white blobs and the whey is a clearish liquid. This is really cool to watch.

Let it sit for a few minutes and continue to coagulate.

Line a strainer with cheesecloth or a few paper towels. If you want to save your whey (it's great for adding protein to bread, smoothies, etc.), put the strainer on top of a bowl or bucket to catch the whey. If not, put the strainer in the sink. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the curds into the strainer. When you have most of the curds removed, pour the rest of the mixture into the strainer to get the last curds. The whey will slowly drain out either into the sink or into your lower bowl. 

At this point you can let the curds sit for as long as you want to get the desired consistency. If you're going to eat the ricotta immediately, you only need to let them drain for 5-10 minutes! (That means you can make this ricotta, start to finish, in about a half hour!) If you want a drier ricotta for cooking lasagne, etc. with, let the curds drain for a half hour or longer.
We ate our ricotta immediately, drizzled with honey, and it was amazing! 

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