YAY! I MADE MY FIRST CHEESE! WOO HOO! NOW I'M GOING TO BUY A LARGER PIECE OF LAND AND RAISE COWS AND GOATS AND SHEEP AND MAKE LOTS AND LOTS OF CHEESE!
Okay, yeah, I'm getting carried away. But still. I've never made cheese before – well, okay, I made yogurt cheese but that's basically just straining the liquid out of plain yogurt – I didn't have to COOK anything.
So anyway, I'm on a cheese kick now, so consider yourself warned. I've bought a book, I've ordered a kit, and next up will be fresh mozzarella, baby. ALL. SUMMER. LONG. And when the tomatoes start coming in? And basil? Layered with the FRESH MOZZARELLA THAT I WILL MAKE and drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with a bit of salt and pepper? OH, you will wish you were my neighbor.
Okay, I've calmed down now.
I've seen other food bloggers mention making their own ricotta and how easy it is, so I finally decided to pick out a recipe and go for it. I used this recipe for this batch, and I'll probably try others here and there.
It was pretty easy, and cool, and fun, and if you're at all inclined, and interested, and if you like Ricotta cheese, then go make some.
This version makes it using whole milk, but traditionally ricotta is made from the whey left over from making mozzarella. I plan to try it that way, too, once I've actually MADE the mozzarella.
So anyway, to make this version, all you need are milk, non-iodized salt (that's kosher salt in the little bowl), and white vinegar. (Please excuse the slight blur to that photo – I was trembling with excitement and the camera shook.)
The fresher the better, as far as the milk goes, and you want to make sure it's not ULTRA-pasteurized. Pasteurized is fine, but not the ULTRA, because that stuff's been pasteurized at too high a temperature to successfully make cheese.
Here we go.
My gallon of milk is in the pot – the recipe in the link tells you to rinse the pot with cold water before adding the milk, in order to prevent scorching – along with the salt, and a thermometer. I'm heating it on medium to bring it to just before the boil – also called scalding – which, per this recipe, should be between 180-185.
Per my scribbled notes, this was begun at 12:13. I stirred it every so often.
While I was stirring, the acid in the vinegar was already causing the curds to separate from the whey.
It was pretty cool, actually.
Then, I covered the pot with a dry dish towel, as instructed, and left it to its own devices. This was at 12:40.
While the ricotta was forming, I made some pasta dough.
The recipe said to let the pot of ricotta-to-be sit for at least 2 hours. I held out for an extra fifteen minutes.
At 2:55, I took the dish towel off for good and here's what I saw.
Nope, it doesn't look all that different from the picture above it. But there's actually more of the curds than there were initially.
Here's a lovely close-up shot.
And a closer one.
Next step is to strain the curds from the whey.
I lined a collander with some cheesecloth and set it on one of the bowls to my mixer.
Then I ladled the curds into the cheesecloth-lined collander.
And let them sit for another couple of hours.
And, TA-DA! It's ricotta.
How simple, huh???????
From one gallon of milk, I got a little over 4 cups of cheese.
And THEN what did I do?
I covered the measuring cup above with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. I had to get back to the ravioli I was working on. I could have used the ricotta in the ravioli instead of the goat cheese, yes, but I'd already planned on the goat cheese and had the flavor kind of working in my mind. So I figured I'd make lasagna or manicotti in a day or two with the ricotta.
Which, of course, I did. And I'll share that whole adventure with you next time.
For now, I've got to go make two pie crusts. One of them is for a strawberry-rhubarb pie (strawberries from the Farmers' Market and rhubarb from our back yard), and the other is for a quiche my husband will be making tonight – on the grill! So even though it's a quiche, if it's cooked on the grill, it's a manly food.
That's it for the moment! Now go make some ricotta!