Friday, October 29, 2010

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

I'm all about finding things that I can make at home.

Part of the motivation behind the hunt is simply to take the mystery out of things.

Today's find is how to make homemade ricotta cheese.  You can use ricotta in lasagne, on pizza, in stuffed shells (remember my trick of putting pumpkin in with it!) on bagels, on top of baked potatoes...and the list really does go on...cheesecake...

Here is one link from Eggs on Sunday blog where she makes ricotta cheese using whole milk, cream, salt, and lemon juice. Browse through her blog and find ricotta cheesecakes, and ricotta stuffed mushrooms.  Yum!

Then I heard that you can make ricotta cheese from milk and buttermilk. This is not quite how ricotta is traditionally made, which is made from the whey that is left over after making cheese, like buffalo mozzarella or pecorino.  Because most of us don't have the luxury of these raw ingredients, and it is easier than most cheesemaking techniques (except making yogurt cheese) so you should try it at least once.

Keep in mind that your cheese will taste and smell like the milk products you use to make it with, so use fresh milk and buttermilk. Consistency is fully controllable as well.  For softer cheese that is creamier, watch carefully and stop draining as soon as you reach the desired consistency.  For drier ricotta, drain it for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Mix equal quantities of whole milk and buttermilk.  If you want to make 4 cups of cheese, use one gallon of each.  For two cups of cheese, use half a gallon of each.

Mix both milks in a stainless steel pan with a thick bottom and put over med to med-hi heat. Stir frequently so the milk doesn't scorch, stopping once the milk becomes hot the curds will rise to the surface.

While the milk is heating, line a colander with 5 - 6 layers of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl, or you can use the sink if it is more convenient. (You'll make less of a mess.)

At 175 degrees, the curds and whey will separate. Carefully ladle the curds from the pan into the lined colander.  Be fairly gentle with this process. You'll discard the remainder of the whey.

Gather the cheesecloth edges together and gently squeeze from the top, but don't squeeze the cheese directly. Drain until you have reached the desired texture for your homemade ricotta cheese.  Store in the fridge in an airtight container.  Use within 5 days.

I'm curious to know what you've decided to use your fresh ricotta on!

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