Yes, my friends, you read that right … homemade ricotta cheese! But, before we get to the cheesemaking, here’s a bit of backstory …
I recently signed up to participate in Cheesepalooza, a year-long, at-home cheesemaking project. 12 months of cheesemaking? I bet you’re asking yourself if I’m crazy, right? Well, that’s debatable for so many other reasons than contemplating making cheese for the next 12 months, but this isn’t the time nor place for that discussion.
Anyway … Cheesepalooza was dreampt up by four Canadian food bloggers, Valerie from A Canadian Foodie, Deb from Deb The Locavore, Ian from Much To Do About Cheese, and Addie from Big Addie and The Big Cheese Project, and the “tagline” for Cheesepalooza is “It is the year of the cheese: We’re going all the whey!” Hee hee hee … get it? Well, I got it … and since I’m a huge cheese lover (and have dabbled in cheesemaking in the past), I decided to take the plunge and expand my cheesemaking horizons. Here goes nothing!
Our first “assignment” was homemade ricotta cheese, and our guidebook for our cheesemaking journey is Mary Karlin’s Artisan Cheese Making at Home. Mary has even agreed to mentor the Cheesepalooza participants through our monthly projects, which is extremely helpful since cheesemaking can be daunting, and it’s nice to know we’re not going it alone.
And I’ve already begun reaping the benefits of our collective little project. A number of folks who didn’t wait until the last minute to make their cheese (umm, who me?) used Mary’s recipe for their ricotta, which calls for citric acid … and let’s just say the results were mixed. Since I’ve made ricotta before (and love the version I make), I decided to forego the use of citric acid and stick with my tried and true method. I think I’ll try the citric acid version sometime to see if I can get it to work, but starting this project off with success also sounded pretty good to me.
Making homemade ricotta is fairly simple and requires only three ingredients: milk, salt, and an acid of some sort. I typically use apple cider vinegar when I make my ricotta cheese, but you could also use plain white vinegar or lemon juice. Some folks believe the use of vinegar alters the taste of the cheese, but I haven’t found that to be the case. I have noticed a taste difference when using lemon juice, but I don’t mind the slighly tart flavor that it imparts … and depending on what I want to use the ricotta for, I’ll choose to use lemon juice over vinegar.
Aside from the required ingredients, you’ll need a heavy pot, a colander, some cheesecloth, and, while not entirely necessary, a thermometer. Oh, you’ll also need a little patience, but believe me … it will be worth it. All that said, here’s my recipe for homemade ricotta cheese!
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
- 8 cups (1/2 gallon) whole milk (any type of pastuerized milk may be used, but I prefer to use organic, vat-pastuerized milk, or ever better, raw milk)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or fresh lemon juice
- Additional vinegar or lemon juice (if necessary)
1. Line a medium-holed colander with cheesecloth; set aside.
2. Pour the milk in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the salt, then turn on heat to medium. Stir the milk occasionally so it doesn’t scorch.
3. If using a thermometer, heat the milk to 180 degrees F (82 degrees C). If you don’t have a thermometer, heat the milk until it begins to slightly simmer (the milk will appear to foam on the sides of the pan). Do not allow the milk to boil.
4. Add the vinegar or lemon juice, stirring only slightly to incorporate. Curds should start to form immediately and begin to separate from the whey, which becomes yellowish-green in color. If curds do not form, add more vinegar or lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time. You can also increase the heat slightly as well. Once curds have formed, remove the pot from the heat and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
5. Place the cheesecloth-lined colander in the sink so the whey will drain off, or alternatively, set it over another pot slightly smaller than the colander to catch the whey, which can then be used to water your plants. Trust me … they’ll love the additional nutrients they get!
6. Carefully pour the curds and whey into the cheesecloth-lined colander. Let drain for 5 to 20 minutes until it reaches your desired consistency. If you’re looking for a moist, creamy cheese, drain for only 5 minutes. If you’re looking for a drier cheeese, drain for 20 minutes.
7. Once drained, transfer the ricotta to a container, and cool to room temperature. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate. (Important note: Some homemade ricotta may last longer than others depending on the type of milk used. Just use common sense ~ and your nose ~ to determine whether any leftover ricotta you may have is still edible.)
See … wasn’t that easy? Okay, it may sound a bit complicated, but trust me, it’s not. As I said, just be patient, and you’ll surprise yourself with your homemade ricotta cheese!
As part of Cheesepalooza, we’ll be including tasting notes for each cheese we make. Here are my tasting notes for this version of homemade ricotta cheese:
- Appearance: Soft and slightly creamy
- Aroma: Minimal, with just the faint smell of milk
- Overall Taste: No overtly discernable taste, just soft and milky
- Sweet to Salty: Neither sweet nor salty
- Mild, Robust, or Pungent: Very mild
- Mouth Feel: Smooth and creamy
And one final note … To stem the comments that are sure to ensue explaining to me that this is not in fact ricotta, but really farmer’s cheese, I’ll just go ahead and agree because it’s true. Traditional ricotta cheese is made from the whey left over from other cheesemaking processes. Since we’re not making ricotta from whey here, feel free to call it farmer’s cheese … or call it ricotta … either way, call it delicious!
[This post is linked to Gastronomical Sovereignty’s Fresh Foods Blog Hop #9, Petite Hermine’s Sunday Linky Party #76, Gooseberry Patch’s What Have YOU Made this Week? Recipe Round-Up, Tidy Mom’s I’m Lovin’ It – Week 125 Link Party, and A Bowl Full of Lemons One Project at a Time.]