Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ricotta

I've always been enamored with the idea of making my own cheese. But I always viewed it as an impossible task; I thought it was like baking in that it required precision and skill. Turns out, not so much. It was much simpler than I thought, and absolutely worth the effort.

Creamier and less chalky than store bought ricotta, I would have eaten the whole pile of it, if I could. I mean physically I could. But I'd be pretty grossed out by it.  Grossed out by myself. So instead, I shared it with friends! We went to a BBQ and I used this as an appetizer paired with prosciutto, basil, honey and rye bread squares. But you can pair this with whatever you would like, whether it's fresh grilled vegetables, fresh tomatoes, or use in lasagna.

I encourage anyone who sees this, thinks "I can't make cheese" to think again.  While this isn't the "traditional" ricotta (traditional is made from the whey from making other cheeses), and could really be considered a "farmer's cheese," it is delicious.


Ingredients
1/2 gallon whole milk
2 T lemon juice
1 T distilled white wine vinegar
1/2 t salt

In a large pot, heat up the milk.

Using a candy or instant read thermometer, heat the milk until about 180°.   It should be anywhere between 175-185° but basically the rule of thumb is when it starts to simmer and not at the point of boiling.  

While the milk heats, using fresh lemons, extract 2 T of fresh squeezed lemon juice. 

Once the temperature reaches 180°, remove the pan from heat, and stir in the 2 T lemon juice and 1 T vinegar. Stir carefully for 30 seconds. Add the salt and stir carefully for 30 seconds. 

The milk should be curdling pretty well. 

Cover the mixture with a clean towel and leave sitting for 1 hour.

While the mixture sits, line a strainer with several pieces of cheesecloth.  Put a bowl underneath the strainer if you want to capture the whey.

After the hour, remove the towel. The mixture should be a bit more curdled.

Pour the mixture into the strainer.  Tie the cheesecloth around the cheese and carefully squeeze out the excess liquid.  But don't press too hard!

Let strain for 30 minutes and occasionally squeeze out the excess liquid.  Unwrap and then it will be all done!

You can put in the fridge for later if you want.  That is what I did.  You can serve with whatever you might like!

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