Friday, 20 February 2009

Fresh Ricotta for supper

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Cooking from scratch with everyday fixings can be an empowering feeling. The less processed foodstuffs we purchase the better off we feel. Control over food ingredients and our pocketbook is a worthy goal.

Here is a simple recipe I have used continuously since I took my first cheese making class - homemade ricotta cheese with ingredients most of us have in our refrigerator and pantry. You could call this cheater ricotta, since some cheese books only give recipes for ricotta made with whey, but they are assuming you are already making cheese. This way you don't have to have a cow in the back yard. I usually make it for lasagna, while I'm making the noodles. It literally can be made and ready for use in 10 minutes. The fresh ricotta will keep up to a week in the refrigerator or it freezes well, if you have a milk surplus. Most of the time though, I just make it and use immediately.

All you need is milk and acid. You can use skim to full fat milk, raw or pasteurized and you add acid - vinegar, lemon juice or citric acid.

Heat the milk in a non-reactive pan to 190F (88C) (Any temperature between 190F (88C) and 212F (100C) is fine.)

The milk will foam at this point.

Turn off heat, add acid and stir. I used lemon juice in this batch, and started with 2 Tablespoons. My milk was fresh, so I ended up adding 1 additional Tablespoon before the curd started to form. It happens fast.

This is the curds and whey. Set aside and let cool to a safe handling temperature.

When curds and whey have cooled, drain through a colander lined with wet cheesecloth*. Save the whey, it has many uses - bread, pancakes, nutritional drinks, and livestock feed are some of the ways to use your whey. You could also repeat this process with the whey and get more ricotta cheese. The yield will be smaller since only the water-soluble albumen protein remains in the whey. When milk is used both the casein and albumen proteins are separated from the liquid and the yield will be higher.

Pour off the first whey, and tie the cheesecloth into a bag and suspend over a bowl for further draining. At this point, you could use the cheese, if you are going to keep it several days, the more whey you drain off the better.

Yield: 3/4 pound of cheese and 1 quart + whey from 1/2 gallon of milk.

Tools needed:
Milk one gallon will yield approximately 1 1/2 pounds of milk.
Lemon Juice, vinegar, or citric acid - approximately 1/4 cup per gallon.
Non reactive pan
Non reactive colander
Non reactive mixing spoon
Large bowl

Thanks Della!

*To be on the safe side it is recommended that you boil your cheesecloth to sterilize it before draining your cheese.

An easy way to do this is in the microwave: Wet your cheesecloth and place in a microwave safe bowl, microwave for one minute. Be careful, the cloth will be extremely hot, after it cools you can use it to drain your cheese.