Fresh, Homemade Ricotta, step by step — so simple!
I realized after I posted my little lemony ricotta cheesecakes that I got a little ahead of myself. I’m not sure why I didn’t post this first, but no matter –I hope you’ll be as excited about this as I am!
See, for the past month or so I’ve been making little batches of homemade ricotta cheese. And I will tell you this: it is DEAD easy. All you need is some milk, heavy cream, a lemon, and some salt; plus, a colander to drain the cheese. It takes all of about 15 minutes, and the result is so much better than anything you buy in the store. It’s creamy, has a wonderful mild flavor, and lacks the watery runoff that so many of the supermarket brands of ricotta have. I’ve been using it on pizzas, in the ricotta cheesecakes, mixed with some yogurt, and in a few other dishes that I’ll post over the next few days.
I mentioned in my “5 things” meme that cheesemaking was a hobby I eventually would like to take up — I’m not really sure why it took me so long to start doing this ricotta, since it’s so easy! I came across the recipe by accident one day when I was browsing epicurious (this eats up a lot of my time, I’m afraid). You can view the original recipe here, but I thought I’d take you step by step through the process in pictures.
I should say two things before I start:
(a) I haven’t yet tried it with anything other than whole milk. If you want to try a lower-fat version, some of the people commenting on the recipe said they used 1% milk successfully. I usually make this cheese when I have whole milk leftover from another recipe, since we only drink skim milk.
(b) The recipe as listed on epicurious makes about 2 cups. I’ve been halving the recipe to make smaller batches, as I find it’s a bit easier to drain in my small colander, and it gets used up more quickly this way. The recipe I list below is the halved version.
Now…onto the process!
After I measure out the milk, heavy cream, salt, and lemon juice, I set a small colander in a bowl and line the colander with cheesecloth. (Note: after doing this a few times, I really think you could probably get away without the cheesecloth, as long as your colander doesn’t have really large holes — though, the cheesecloth does help when squeezing out some of the whey at the end, but you could mickey-mouse your way around by tilting the colander and maybe pressing gently on the curds with a spoon.)
Now I add the milk, cream, and salt to a medium saucepan and heat it over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula to prevent the bottom from scalding. I have the lemon juice in a little bowl nearby. When the milk reaches a steady simmer, I dump in the lemon juice and give it a quick, gentle stir with my spatula. You’ll see it immediately start to curdle; I usually turn the heat down a bit so it doesn’t reach a hard boil.
The first time I made this, I followed the directions of the recipe and stirred it continuously for 2 minutes after adding the lemon juice, but I found this created harder, rubbery curds. Now, I just add the lemon juice, quickly give it a gentle stir just to combine, turn down the heat slightly and LET IT SIT for about 1 minute. I’ll then give it another gentle stir with the spatula, and let it sit for another minute. After about 2 minutes of gentle simmering, most of the curds will have separated from the whey.
Now you’ll dump this mixture into your colander.
You can pick up the cheesecloth and tilt it a bit to help drain off the whey.
Let the curds drain for 1 hour in this colander at room temperature. Transfer the cheese to an airtight bowl and keep it in the fridge.
Like I said above, I have a few recipes to share with you that I’ve made using the homemade ricotta…so stay tuned for those over the next week or so!
Fresh, Homemade Ricotta
From Gourmet, April 2006
The ingredients listed below will make about 1 cup’s worth of ricotta, which is half the original recipe. It doubles easily.
1 quart whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
Combine the milk, cream, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Separately, line a colander with cheesecloth and set it in a large bowl. Measure out the lemon juice and set it aside.
Bring the milk mixture to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring occasionally with a spatula to prevent scalding. Once the mixture has reached a steady simmer, add the lemon juice and stir gently with the spatula — quickly, just to blend. Let the mixture sit for about 1 minute, turning down the heat slightly so it stays at a simmer but doesn’t reach a hard, rolling boil. Stir with the spatula after about 1 minute, then let it sit another minute until it looks like most of the liquid has separated into curds and whey.
Drain the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined colander set over a bowl, and let it drain at room temperature for 1 hour. Transfer the ricotta to an airtight container and refrigerate.
Makes about 1 cup.