Fresh ricotta. Oh my. I had always used the store-bought stuff in recipes and frankly it had never crossed my mind to make it fresh. I wrongly assumed it was going to involve hours of bubbling pots and praying to the heavens. I’m a bit gun shy on making products I can easily buy after the croissant experiment – 7 hours of my life and a pound of butter gone for no palatable reason. I figured some things, like baking and cheese making, were better left to the experts. Then one day in a cooking class the chef brought homemade ricotta and she swore I could tackle this at home. With 3 ingredients and 20 minutes I made fresh ricotta. No, for real, it’s that easy. It doesn’t store long so plan on using it within a couple of days. True ricotta is made from whey so while this recipe is not traditional it makes a lovely ricotta-like cheese with a bit of tang from the lemon. Use it as you would traditional ricotta.
3 c. whole milk
1 c. half & half or heavy cream
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Add the milk and salt to a large pot and heat over medium heat. Stir gently from time to time to prevent scorching. Okay, here’s the rub, you can live on the edge like I do which means not using a thermometer and bringing the milk to the point it’s steaming and forming tight bubbles around the edges (not a boil but getting pretty darn close) or use a thermometer and take the milk to 190 degrees. Don’t try to shorten the process by bringing the milk to temp over higher heat. That will only end in tears.
2. As soon as the milk reaches the proper temp, remove it from the heat. Pour in the lemon juice. The milk will immediately begin to separate into curds and whey. Using a spatula or spoon make 2 gentle S’s through the milk. Then drop the mike and step away. Boom, you’re making cheese. Do not stir it again.
3. Let it sit for 10 minutes. While it sits, double the cheesecloth and line the colander. Make sure you’ve draped the cheesecloth over the edges so you don’t lose all your curds over the sides when you pour it through and so you can hang your cheese.
4. After 10 minutes, pour the curds and whey through the cheesecloth. The whey is nutrient rich and has many uses if you want to keep it otherwise just let it drain awhey (whoo, I slay me). Hang the cheesecloth bag so the cheese continues to drain. Hang time determines the firmness of the cheese.