This is seriously easy and exceptionally good.
For REAL, authentic in every detail ricotta, first you milk your cow…..
Woman milking a cow – Karel Dujardin – 1650 Dutch
or your sheep or water buffalo OR you could got to your favorite market and pick up a gallon – whole milk, please, regardless of beast of origin.
Modern Day Milk Jug
What I’m going to suggest isn’t EXACTLY ricotta, but 1,000 times better then anything in a plastic carton
The particular brand is not important – if you have a local dairy that is making fresh cheeses, you may stop here and then go there. Otherwise, keep reading.
I’ve been working a lot with curds and whey lately, partly as part of my job and partly because it’s the fresh dairy time of year.
A small time out before I go any further.
RICOTTA MEANS ‘RE-COOKED’
IT IS A CHEESE MADE FROM WHEY LEFT OVER FROM CHEESE-MAKING.
First you have milk, then you add rennet,then you have curds and whey, then you take the whey and with THAT you make ricotta (at last!)
Like other whey cheeses, it is made by coagulating the keratin proteins that remain after the casein has been used to make cheese, notably albumin and globulin. Thus, ricotta can be eaten by persons with casein intolerance.
Thus speaketh Wikipedia, the most complete and least technical explanation I could find. In English. True ricotta is more complicated and involved than what I’m about to suggest.
Two simple truths:
- It is easy to curdle milk.
- Fresh is better then packaged, especially for dairy products.
Cook’s Illustrated to the rescue.
Because I keep back issues, and because I’ve been reviewing them, I rediscovered simple, easy homemade ricotta.
Cook’s Illustrated September 2009. Influencer
The reason I LOVE Cook’s Illustrated and consider them an Influencer?
Things like this:
This technique will yield 3 1/2 cups of a superior-tasting ricotta facsimile (true ricotta is made from whey created as a by product of cheese-making) that can be used in recipes from lasagna to manicotti to cheesecake and ricotta pie.
And if this isn’t a lasagna/manicotti/ricotta pie time of year, when is?
1 gallon whole milk
1 tsp salt
2 lemons, juiced, for 1/3 cup lemon juice plus another tablespoon (1/3 c lemon juice = 5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon. 2 lemons = approximately 6 T) OR 1/3 cup white vinegar
2 lemons should give you enough juice for this ricotta – wash them first so you can use the zest after for something else. Warm them for 10-20 seconds in the microwave before squeezing and you’ll get more juice out.
thermometer (or trust your impeccably clean fingers )
cheesecloth (flour sack towels work even better, cost less and wash up more easily, if you’ve got them. If you’re going to be making cheeses at home, you’ll want some of these. K-Mart, Vermont Country Store – they’re everywhere)
Flour-sack towels – evidently they’re quite the thing with the cloth baby diaper crowd…You can also use them to boil up a Christmas Pudding or two…..or dry a dish.
- Juice the lemons and put the juice aside.
- Heat the milk and salt to 185° over medium high heat in a heavy bottomed pan. If you’re doing this Old-School and not using a thermometer, the milk should be at a simmer, not a boil and not still still. Use your impeccably clean finger, dip it in and the milk should be hot – not warm, hot, but not boiling. Heating helps, boiling hinders.
- Remove from heat.
- Add the lemon juice, stir it in.
- Allow it to stand, undisturbed, for 5 minutes.
- Solid white curds should now be visible above liquid translucent whey.
Curds and whey – where’s Miss Muffet?
- IF it is not setting up, add another tablespoon of lemon juice, stirring gently and let stand for another 5 minutes.
- Once there are curds,gently scoop them up with a slotted spoon and place them in a cheesecloth lined colander (over a pot or a bowl or in the sink; there will be more whey dripping).
If it’s very drippy, hang it over the sink till it slows…but get it into the fridge before to very long . This is food prep, not science experiment.
- DO NOT try to speed things up by dumping the whole pot of curds into the colander – the weight of the whey will destroy the beautiful, delicate curds, you’ll have a mess and be stuck with buying packaged ricotta.
- Drain without pressing (which will essentially give you paneer, a soft cheese that can be sliced) or squeezing. Let drain overnight in the fridge over a bowl (do I really have to say that out loud? Since I’m the one not always good with The Obvious….at least for one)
Ricotta draining baskets – you could invest or you could improvise….
- Keep refrigerated and use within five days.
- Makes about 3 1/2 cups of ricotta.
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, September/October 2009, p. 31.
Go to University of Cincinnati Clermont College ricotta making site for Real Ricotta .