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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

I MADE CHEESE TODAY!

I was shocked to see how easy it is to make your own Ricotta Cheese!  I was reading about how to make different kinds of cheeses and I considered trying to make Feta Cheese.... in my searching I found the absolute easiest recipe for making homemade ricotta instead.

I found this information about ricotta -
In Italian it means "recooked". Ricotta is strictly speaking not a cheese; ricotta is made from the leftover whey from other cheeses, either ewes' or cows' milk, and is sometimes enriched with Milk or cream. As the whey is heated, the cloudy top layer is skimmed off and drained to make the cheese. - "The Chef's Companion" by Elizabeth Riely

That description, however, is when you use a whey from a cooked cheese.  The kind I was interested in is made directly from cow's milk and an acid is added to make the curds separate.   Oddly enough, Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, happened to be making it zippity quick on her show the other morning...and I think it was obvious serendipity that I flipped over to Food Network at just that time.  Sometimes it sends a shiver down my spine when I'm searching for information on a topic, turn on the television, and there is someone demonstrating it.  Woo woo stuff!

Here's the recipe and photos of my endeavors.  I am hoping to make some lasagna using my ricotta...what a kick!  I always think about making the noodles (have done so on more than one occasion)...but who thinks about making the cheese???  Fun!

I'll also make a batch of my favorite lemon cookies, Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze. (although I'll have to make another batch of ricotta for that).  I'm so excited to be developing a new skill :-)  and I can't wait to find a doable recipe for Feta Cheese too!

HOMEMADE RICOTTA CHEESE
Courtesy of Ina Garten and Food Network

Ingredients

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar

Directions

Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.

Damp cheesecloth over strainer


Pour the milk and cream into a stainless-steel or enameled pot such as Le Creuset.
Stir in the salt.
Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar.
Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).
the curds are forming in the pan
Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. 

The cheese is forming on top of the cheesecloth

Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth and any remaining whey.

Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.

OK - it's done and it was really easy!  It made about 2 cups I think.  There was a lot more whey (over 3 cups of whey) than there were curds!  Hmmm, I can't believe I should throw all that nutritious whey away...but what does one do with whey?  While I waited for my curds to separate from the whey in the cheese cloth-lined strainer, I Googled "what to do with whey" and I'm finding out some interesting stuff.  I'm not tossing this protein-laden stuff down the drain.  I'll keep you posted on what I do with it!

First, though, I had to sample my homemade Ricotta.  It still has about 10 minutes to sit - but it's not letting off a lot more whey at this point.  IT IS FREAKING DELICIOUS!  It tastes like cream cheese more than cottage cheese.  It has a tiny "bite" to it I don't taste in cottage cheese.  Definitely RICOTTA!  I'm so happy.

I calculate it cost about $2.75 to make...and I got 17.3 ounces by weight...actually a bit more, because I sampled about a teaspoon of the nummy delicious stuff. I know that I bought some ricotta (a 15 ounce container) for my cookies and it cost about $3.58 at the grocery store (if my memory serves me correctly - I'll double check next time I'm there).

Now, I don't know if it tastes better to me because I made it myself...or if it REALLY tastes that much better than the stuff you buy in the store.  But, gotta tell you.  I won't be buying much of that stuff any more.  THIS is delectable!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!
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