Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Homemade Ricotta

I snuck in a little experiment while we were finishing our work upstairs on Sunday.  Two years ago I saw this article in Food & Wine about making your own ricotta that I've been wanting to try since.  I bought some cheesecloth soon after that, which I was glad to have when I finally got around to it this weekend.  It takes a few hours in total, but only about 20 minutes of active work, and in the end, you can say you made cheese! 

First, take two quarts of whole milk and a cup of heavy cream, and put it on moderate to high heat on the stove.  Heat it until the milk froths and steams at the top, but do not let it boil.  I used my meat thermometer to see when it got to 185 degrees, and then I immediately took it off the heat.

Add 3 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar and stir for 30 seconds.  Add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and stir for another 30 seconds.  Cover the pot with a towel and let it sit for 2 hours.

After two hours, you can use a slotted spoon to take the curds from the liquid, and transfer them into a strainer lined with several layers (I used six) of cheesecloth.

I found that was easy enough in the beginning, but it didn't take long for the curds to be few and far between, floating in a sea of whey, so I wound up just pouring all the contents of the pot through the cheesecloth-lined strainer.  Then I gathered the cloth together and wrapped a rubber band around the top, and let the whey continue to drain out for a half hour, squeezing it a few times to push the liquid out.

And in the end, there was cheese!

Is it more delicious than the ricotta you buy in a store?  I think so, but I'm biased because I'm proud.  I would say it is fresher, lighter and creamier than what you get in a store-bought container.  And I would do it again.  I've read that you can vary the ingredients (lemon or buttermilk instead of vinegar) and the amount of time you heat the milk or drain the cheese to produce a different texture.  I might drain mine a little less next time. 

I used these ingredients to make a quick dinner, adapted from this recipe, also from Food & Wine.
I sauteed the eggplant in olive oil, then set it aside.  While I had a pound of pasta cooking, I sauteed two cloves of garlic, some crushed red pepper, the fresh oregano, zucchini and grape tomatoes in a little more olive oil.  I added the eggplant back in, salt and pepper, and 1 cup of the pasta water, and then tossed it all with the pasta.  I served the pasta in bowls, with a big dollup of fresh ricotta and a sprinkling of parmesan on top. 

We also topped the pasta with these amazing breadcrumbs leftover from last week when I brought home broccolini from the grocery store and didn't know what to do with it.  Have you tried broccolini?  It was my first time and upon eating it I immediately did a Google search to see if we could grow it.  It turns out it's a patented vegetable (?), a cross between kale and broccoli, that we'll have to keep buying in the store.  Delicious.  I digress. 

I look forward to trying this recipe again when we can take the eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes from the garden.  Do you have any good recipes with ricotta?  Have you ever made cheese, or would you try?  I highly recommend it. 

P.S. It's spray paint season (if the rain ever stops).  Check out this Spray Paint Party for inspiration.  I posted a link to my porch furniture makeover.

1 comment:

Tortla Dot said...

Love the ricotta adventure! Funny - I rarely cook with ricotta, but last night I added it to frozen spinach along with some feta cheese. Yum!