With the arrival of the ice cream maker in our household, I seem to have a lot more whole milk on hand. What better use of that extra milk than homemade cheese? Whole milk has the perfect fat content for a rich and creamy ricotta, though any percentage of milk will work to. Buttermilk is used in lieu of lemon juice or vinegar. The benefit is a much more tender curd without the sharp tang.
adapted from the recipe at Napa Style
each quart of milk yields approximately 1 cup of ricotta
4 parts whole milk
1 part buttermilk
pinch of salt
Line a sieve with several layers of cheesecloth or muslin and set aside.
Pour the milk and buttermilk into a large non-reactive saucepan with a heavy bottom. Heat slowly over medium high heat, stirring the milk constantly to prevent scorching. Bring to a gentle boil and stop stirring. It will look like nothing is happening until the milk reaches about 175-180. Once the mixture reaches this temperature curds will begin to form and clump on the surface. Gently stir to encourage the curds to separate from the whey. Stir infrequently at this point...over stirring will break up the curds too much and yield a drier ricotta. Once the curds appear to have fully separated remove the pot for the heat.
Ladle the cloudy liquid (whey) through the clothe lined sieve, working slowly to avoid breaking up the curd. Once most of the whey has been ladled out of the pot, carefully pour the rest of the curd/whey mixture through the sieve. Allow most of the liquid to drain. Gather the edges of the cloth together to form a bag. Thread a dowel or the handle of a wooden spoon through the knot and suspend the bag over a pot or the sink. Allow to slowly drip drain for about 30 minutes. Resist the urge to press the ricotta.
Remove the ricotta from the muslin bag and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to one week.
Homemade ricotta can be used in any recipe where ricotta is called for.
This was by far the most moist, tender and flavorful ricotta I have ever tried. The curds were plump without being huge, and they weren't super tiny either. Previous attempts at cheese have all been resounding successes (even on the occasions when I wasn't trying to make cheese...). But this ricotta was hands and shoulder above the rest. Why? Aside from the amazing texture? The tang of the lemon juice was not present. The lack of acidic flavor really let the creaminess of the dairy shine through.
So how does this cook up? By the spoonful the ricotta blew me away, but how many of us sit down with a bowl of this cheese on a regular basis? More often than not, the ricotta is added into another dish. In our case it was a baked ziti, courtesy of my husband. Even mixed into a dish, this ricotta was a noticeable improvement over most store bought varieties. The next test will be ricotta waffles this weekend...