Remember, just last week, when I made that yummy ricotta cheese, basil and lemon mixture tossed with pasta and topped with walnuts? Wouldn't you know the very next day Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen would post a recipe for making fresh ricotta at home that seemed too easy to be true? The only possibly-odd requirements were a candy thermometer and a bit of cheesecloth (and these items are not odd at my house).
The recipe calls for whole milk, a bit of cream, a dash of salt and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Completely normal every-day ingredients give-way to luscious creamy ricotta. It takes 20 minutes of your time to heat the milk, 90-minutes of waiting for the cheese to set-up - and the fresh ricotta is yours.
I was able to purchase non-homogenized milk locally, which I think was the key factor in my first attempt at making cheese, but any good quality (hopefully organic) whole milk and heavy cream should produce fabulous results. My first attempt was so spectacular, I may never buy ricotta cheese again. (If the ricotta turned-out this well the first time, imagine how wonderful the cheese will be when I get some experience at making cheese!)
Milk, cream and salt are heated to 190°, then the fresh lemon juice is stirred-in and the mixture rests for five minutes. During that time the cheese curds separate from the whey and float to the top of the pot. Then, the entire pot of curds & whey is poured into a cheesecloth-lined sieve. (Save or discard the whey.) One hour or so later - you have a fluffy mound of lovely ricotta!
Yes, it was easy. Ridiculously easy. But the few minutes in the kitchen producing a simple ricotta will give you a new respect for cheese makers. I used 4 cups of milk/cream which resulted in one cup of ricotta and three cups of (usually discarded) whey. No wonder cheese is so danged expensive!
(More on my "baking bread with whey-instead-of-water" experiments later.)
The cheese was so smooth. Rich. Nearly buttery.
Fresh ricotta, drizzled with olive oil and topped with fresh cracked black pepper on crostini
I asked DT what he wanted me to do with the ricotta and he asked that I make the same pasta dish from the other night. Sweet man. This will truly be a good experiment, as the ricotta I used the other night was a very good cheese from a local organic dairy!
Can I top myownself?
TOO MUCH PRESSURE for my first cheese-making experiment!
I urge you to try making ricotta at home.
Next week, I am going to try goat cheese!
Side note: I bought a 2 cup jug of heavy cream from Lady Lane Farms to use in making ricotta, so had 1.5 cups remaining. I knew we would not use the cream this week, but butter will never go to waste at our house, so I made butter again because my cholesterol isn't high enough already from the remaining cream. Wowser! Delicious! Easy!
Until my next update, I remain, your "Miss Muffett" correspondent.