Sundays are my day to be inspired. While many people are laying low, staying in, and relaxing before Monday, I find that I have all the motivation in the world to tackle something new. And because my fiancé and I like to eat a lot on Sundays, I usually feel like rolling up my sleeves and making something new and delicious. Usually we’ve got something in mind (“let’s use up this frozen pork”) so I scour the index in every cookbook for the best pork recipe; sometimes I read through specific chapters if we’ve got a particular craving (“Asian cuisine”); and sometimes I open up a random book to a random page, point and commit: “Ok, we’re having whole milk ricotta”. Which is exactly what happened to us this past weekend.
I actually own a home cheese making book because one of my many goals in life is to make my own cheese. I figured this was a pipe dream because I needed goats and cows to make milk for my cheese. Turns out I could purchase whole milk at the grocery store for $3.09 for many cheese recipes; I don’t need the animals just yet. And yes, sure, I could also buy ricotta while I’m there, but how cool is it to say “I can make ricotta cheese”? You will no doubt impress your family and friends when you start talking about curds and whey and other cheese lingo. Forget the fact that they’ll be blown away by the flavor and presentation of your fresh ricotta spread onto a slice of sourdough bread with olive oil and sea salt drizzled on top. Trust me, once you see how easy and delicious this recipe is, you’ll jump on the homemade cheese wagon, maybe not for every day, but for special occasions. Start small and easy with ricotta and eventually you will be making gouda, cheddar and more complex, hard cheeses.
1 gallon whole milk (I used 1/2)
1 teaspoon citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water (I squeeze a whole lemon into my milk and did not do anything with the water)
1 teaspoon cheese salt – optional (I did not use)
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream – optional (I did not use)
Note: Traditionally, ricotta is made by reheating the whey after making cheese from ewe’s milk. This simple variation uses whole milk from the grocery store instead of whey; the resulting ricotta has a good flavor and a high yield.
1. Add the citric acid solution and salt into the milk and mix thoroughly.
2. In a large pot, directly heat the milk to 185 to 195 degrees Fahrenheit (do not boil). Stir often to prevent scorching.
3. As soon as the curds and whey separate (make sure there is no milky whey), turn off the heat. Allow to set, undisturbed, for 10 minutes.
4. Line a colander with butter muslin. Carefully ladle the curds into the colander. Tie the corners of the muslin into a knot and hang the bag to drain for 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese has reached the desired consistency. The cheese is ready to eat immediately. For a creamier consistency, add the cream at the end and mix thoroughly.
5. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.
Yields: 1 1/2-2 pounds