Ian and I took a cheesemaking course in March 2004 held at Red Hill in Australia (well, we lived there at the time!) from Neil and Carole Willman, two fantastic local cheese-makers. You can see photos of me and Cakes at the Willmans' cheese-making school here and here and here, as well as info on the courses that they offer!
There, among the other things we learned, we learned that making your own ricotta is dead easy.
Which is a lucky thing, as it is so much nicer than the day-old (or older) crap you buy in the store. Fresh ricotta is so totally unlike the store bought stuff: it is milky, and sweet and creamy...and, if yours is really fresh, warm to boot. Nothing beats a warm bowl of fresh ricotta, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with fresh toasted nuts or granola.
Real ricotta is usually made with the whey leftover after cheese-making. If you make cheese, you probably already know how to make ricotta, so the recipe I'm going to give you is for whole milk ricotta. It works with cows, goats or sheep's milk. Make sure you use full fat milk. If your milk is unpasteurized (unlikely in most of North America), you'll have to pasteurize it first. Again, I assume if your milk is unpasteurized you know a fair bit about cheese-making already, so won't bother with instructions for pasteurizing. I don't know if this works with UHT milk, if you try it out with that sort of milk, let me know whether it works. I suspect it won't, but that's just an amateur cheese-maker's hunch, nothing more.
This recipe makes about 500 grams of ricotta. You'll need a dairy thermometer. A candy thermometer might work as well. You just need to be able to read from between 85 t0 100 degrees Celsius.
- 1 gallon whole milk
- 1/4 cup vinegar
yup. that's it for the ingredients.
Gently heat your milk to 90-95 degrees Celsius. Do this very slowly in a heavy bottomed pot, or in a water bath inside a larger pot. Your milk should not stick or burn. It should take at least 20- 25 minutes for your milk to achieve the correct temperature if you start using cold milk. Mine sometimes takes 45 minutes.
When your milk is between 90 and 95 degrees (not a smidgen under or over - if you've heated your milk gradually, your window of opportunity here can be as long as five minutes) quickly pour in the vinegar, and give one quick, brief stir - only to aid in the dispersal of the vinegar, but not to stir up the milk too much - or you risk breaking up your gorgeous big ricotta curds into tiny, grainy little ricotta curds. Remove the pot from the source of heat and let it set for about 10 or 15 minutes. Your ricotta curd should have risen nicely to the top, and will be floating there.
Using a finely slotted spoon, gently ladle the curd into a cheesecloth lined sieve, or if you have some, into ricotta molds (Ricotta molds - like mine pictured above - are small plastic basket shaped molds meant to mimic the pattern of the wicker baskets that ricotta used to be drained in). Cheesemaking.com sells some great disposable ones for super cheap. And here`s the best bit about that...you don`t have to dispose of them. You can use them over and over again. Not a bad deal when you consider that the fancy-pants ones like the one pictured above are 12 times the price!
When ladling, try to keep the curd chunks as large as you can, the more they are handles and broken up the tougher they will become, which is exactly what you don`t want. You want cloud-soft moist and creamy ricotta. Not rubbery, grainy grocery store stuff!
Allow your ricotta to drain for at least 30 minutes (or longer if you`re still having a lot of whey run off)
Use in your favourite lasagna or cake recipe or in one of these recipes!
Now, go forth and ricott.