Friday, June 6, 2014

Saison Ricotta

I know, I know. I am on a saison kick at the moment. I have no regrets.

With an excess of whole milk on hand, as well as a stellar home-brewed saison, the time seemed appropriated to revisit ricotta. I've made this simple cheese several time before, once with goats milk, once with buttermilk in lieu lemon juice or vinegar. Most frequently, I turn the curd into paneer. But not once have I incorporated beer.

The difference is flavor is definitely there. The beer isn't shy, offering up a bready base with a hoppy, herbal bite.

The biggest surprise I had with this version was how much the milk mixture frothed up as I heated it this time around. The curd that resulted was very fine, not at all like the plump tender curds from the buttermilk version. As a result, the ricotta took much, much longer to drain than I would normally like. I also substantially reduced the amount of vinegar the original recipe called for. I've had luck with 1 Tbsp per 4 cups of dairy without any problems. 3 Tbsp per 4 cups dairy seemed a bit excessive. I wanted the flavors of the beer to come through, not the tang of the acid.

As I had plans to turns this batch into gnocchi later in the week, I hung the ricotta to drain for over two hours before storing it. A half an hour should suffice to remove most of the liquid, and yields a creamier, spreadable cheese.

adapted from Jackie Dodd's recipe at

yields about 1 pound

The Ingredients:
6 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup, plus 1/4 cup saison, divided
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

The Process:
Line a sieve with several layers of cheesecloth or muslin and set aside.

Pour the milk, cream, salt and 2/3 cup beer 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 mixture to 190 and remove from heat.

Gently stir in the vinegar and remaining 1/4 cup beer. After a minute or so curds will begin to form and clump on the surface.  Allow the mixture to rest for about 5 minutes. 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, ladle the cloudy liquid (whey) through the cloth 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.  Once the moisture is cool enough to handle, 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 at least 15 minutes, and up to two hours.  Resist the urge to press the ricotta.

Place in an air tight container and store in the refrigerator.

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