8 April, 2021
Uncle Emanuele’s Fresh RicottaPosted in : Misc., Sides on by : Christine Tags: milk, ricotta
There is nothing like fresh ricotta that you make from scratch. It is so easy and only takes three ingredients. If you never thought you could make cheese at home here is your chance!
Servings 2 cups
- 8 c Whole milk See notes for important info about milk
- 1/2 t salt
- 3 T Lemon juice Can sub white vinegar
- Fresh Herbs Optional
- Lemon slices for garnish Optional
- Dampen a large enough piece of cheese cloth that when folded over 3 - 4 times it will fit into a colander big enough to hold your curds, approx 3 - 4 c (you can also use a very small holed colander). Place the colander inside a large bowl to collect the whey. (You can save this whey to use in other things, see notes.) If you don’t want to save the whey you can drain over a clean sink.
- In a heavy saucepan, over medium heat, slowly warm the milk. Stir occasionally with a heat resistant spatula or wooden spoon scrapping the bottom. Be sure the milk does not boil or it will scorch. I use a thermometer to ensure the milk reaches 185 F. If you do not have a thermometer, bring it to a low simmer. It should take about 20 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the salt (if using) then pour the lemon juice (or vinegar) over the surface evenly.
- Coax out the curds by gently stirring the mixture for 1 - 2 minutes, a slotted spoon works best for this to help break up the mixture. The curds should start forming immediately as they begin separating from the whey (yellowish liquid). Pretty cool! If you do not see curds or if they look too thick add another 1T lemon juice (lemon's acidity varies).
- Remove from heat and let chill for 10 - 20 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon or small strainer to ladle your ricotta curds into the cheesecloth lined colander. Fold over the ends of the cheese cloth to cover if making firm ricotta. You can also top with a plate for a little extra weight.
- How loose or firm your ricotta will be depends on long you leave it to drain. The more drainage the firmer it will be. Its ultimate end use will decide what consistency you desire. For a creamy, spreadable ricotta 5 - 10 minutes; a dryer ricotta for stuffing and desserts, it can sit up to 24 hours. To make a very dry, firm ricotta salata type cheese top with a weighted plate and drain for 24 hours. If draining longer than a couple of hours place in the refrigerator.
- Store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. Can be frozen.
Milk: It is important to use whole, animal milk for this. Plant milk and skim milk do not have enough fat to make curds which is what ricotta is. You also cannot use ultra-high temperature (UHT) pasteurized milk for this as that process changes the protein structure of the milk preventing the formation of curds. Many organic milks are UHT so read the label to prevent a curd tragedy. If you want a creamier ricotta (great for deserts) sub out an equal measure of cream for milk not to surpass 50%. What will happen if you do? I have no idea as I have not been that brave. Colander: In my picture I do not use cheesecloth as I have a very fine holed colander so didn't need the cheese cloth. I also like the texture it gave to the final product. If I were going for a firmer ricotta I would have used cheese cloth with a plate on top and a colander with bigger holes. The inner basket of a spin strainer lined with cheese cloth works really well too. Whey Not!: If you want to collect the whey invert a small bowl into a larger one that will hold your colander. Set the colander on top of the smaller bowl so the whey will drain down over it. Use the whey to make bread or pizza dough, for soup stocks, or other cooking applications. You can use it diluted to water plants. My pets also love it! Lemon or Vinegar: Both work equally well and the taste difference is not as big as you would imagine. The acidity of lemons varies so you may need a little more juice whereas vinegar is pretty reliable. Don't use Meyer lemons as they are just not acidic enough. Some people use lemon juice for dessert applications and vinegar for savory ones. Herbs: I like adding fresh herbs and lemon/orange zest if I am going to be spreading this fresh on some crusty bread or serving as part of a salad. You could also chiffonade some basil into it if using as a pasta stuffing. Add the herbs or zest to the pot after the curds have cooled. Give them a gentle stir to just combine then strain.