Saturday, February 5, 2011

Make Your Own Homemade Ricotta Cheese

ricotta cheese with bananas, honey and almonds
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"I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him."
-Galileo Galilei
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This post is to accompany my talk on BTO for Monday January 31st 2011.
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I've been reading about making your own ricotta for years, I'm so glad I finally did it! It's so easy, I mean really, really easy. I want to thank BTO listener (and reader of this blog), Jen, for suggesting I do a show on cheesemaking. For my next show I'm going to research making other cheeses that are easy to make at home, such as cottage cheese, and mascarpone cheese. I look forward to expanding my cheesemaking horizons, and becoming an amateur cheesemaker!
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ricotta with the whey draining from it

When we make ricotta cheese at home it's not really true ricotta cheese. Ricotta, translated means, "cooked again". It is traditionally made with the whey left over from making other cheeses. Since whey isn't readily available to home cooks, (you will have some left over if you make yogurt, or if you make mozzarella cheese at home, you'd have the whey left from that. For us that don't make cheese at home, milk is used instead. What we have instead of true ricotta, is fresh cheese, such as paneer, queso fresco, or farmer cheese.

Speaking of milk, raw milk will produce the best tasting ricotta. If you use regular milk the taste won't be as pronounced, it may be bland. A small amount of salt is added in the end to enhance the flavor, which does help. Goat's or Sheep's milk can also be used instead of cow's milk.
If you often wind up with leftover milk, this is a great way to use it. I know of someone who buys 2 gallons of milk from Costco regularly, sometimes it got used, sometimes not. So when she was left with a gallon or half a gallon of milk, a few days before it expired she would make ricotta. You could also make yogurt.
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The instructions are really simple, first you heat the milk (slowly), then you add an acid to separate the curds from the whey. I used lemon juice, vinegar can also be used. Some people use buttermilk, or even yogurt as a separating agent, but I spoke to someone who has used yogurt, and they mentioned that you can taste the yogurt in the final product.

The curds will be your ricotta, and the whey that's left is highly nutritious. Whey is a complete protein that contains all of the essential amino acids needed by the body. Using it when making bread, or when soaking dry beans makes the bread or the beans, more digestible. If your whey looks greenish, don't worry, that's the riboflavin or vitamin B2.

the curds seperating from the whey


Homemade Fresh Ricotta Cheese
this recipe makes about 2 1/2-3 cups ricotta


Ingredients8 cups fresh whole milk, raw milk is best, but you can also use homogenized. Goat milk or sheeps milk works also

3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or vinegar

a cup or so of cream, or milk (optional) for adding in later
salt

DirectionsGently heat the milk over medium heat. Or use a double boiler, (a bowl placed over simmering water) make sure you do this slowly. If you heat it over too high a heat, the milk will burn the bottom of your pot, and also milk loves to boil over on the stove.

Heat the milk until it reaches a simmer. This will take on medium heat about 20 or 30 minutes. Or until it reaches a temperature of 190 degrees Fahrenheit (90 degrees Celsius.)

When the milk comes to temperature, remove the pot from the stove and stir in the lemon juice, (or vinegar). Add it, then stir gently, only to distribute the acid. Then stop stirring and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. The curds will have separated from the whey. Gently pour this mixture over a fine mesh sieve covered with cheesecloth sitting over a bowl to catch the whey.

Let it drain for just a minute or two. You will know at this point how dry the ricotta looks, or how moist it is. Mine got dry fast. I wanted it to be quite moist, so I stirred in some cream to get it to the consistency I wanted it. You could also stir in some of the whey to reach the desired consistency, or milk, your choice. Stir in a few pinches of salt, to taste. Store in the refrigerator.

This keeps in the fridge just for 3 or 4 days.

2 comments:

Amanda said...

Oh, I love Ricotta cheese, I'm going to try this, thanks for the info.

yummyfoodies said...

hi, this is a really great idea! i love ricotta, but i was planning on making bread today. so i think ill make both of them and use the whey. wow i never thought the water left from it are actually useful- there's something to learn every day!

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