I don't know if I've made it clear before, but if not, let's set the record straight, I absolutely love cheese. All kinds of cheese, it doesn't matter, I have never met a cheese I didn't like. So of course I've been interested in making my own. Now I know that making any aged cheese takes a lot more work, and is a bigger investment then I want to make right now, so currently I'm sticking to fresh cheeses that are quick and easy to make, and are ready right away.
Homemade ricotta is about as easy as it gets. You don't need any fancy ingredients or tools and it can be ready to eat in less than an hour. All you need to start is some milk and an acid such as vinegar or citrus juice. A thermometer of some kind and a small amount of cheesecloth are the only other tools that you really do need (and you can get by without the cheesecloth if you have too, that's what happened to me the first time!). After you have this all set, all it takes are some heat and a little time and you'll have a bowl of fresh, homemade ricotta, ready for anything you might imagine!
Traditionally, ricotta is actually made from the whey that is leftover from cheesemaking. But since I don't generally have a lot of whey sitting around ready and waiting, this alternative using milk does the trick. I've heard some people complain that this is not actually ricotta then, but in the end I don't really care. Call it whatever you want, but it's close enough to ricotta for me. All I know is that it is easy to make and absolutely delicious to eat! If you've ever been interested in making your own cheese, this is definitely the place to start!
Heating the milk and vinegar over medium heat
You can see some nice curds forming
Straining the cheese in a cheesecloth lined colander
(or in my case, an old cotton t-shirt lined colander, definitely
not ideal, but sometimes you have to improvise!)
All strained with the salt mixed in
A beautiful bowl of cheese!
(don't look too closely at the 6 ounce measurement,
I actually lost some cheese down the drain while I was
straining it :( so you should actually get more than this!)
Ready to eat!
Adapted from One Hour Cheese by Claudia Lucero
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (can also use lemon juice)
- 6 cups whole milk, not ultra-pasteurized (I highly recommend whole milk, you can use other milks, but they will result in a less creamy final product and a lower yield, whatever you do, don't use skim milk)
- 1/4 teaspoon flake salt
Pour the milk and vinegar into a large pot and set over medium heat. Heat the milk and vinegar mixture to 190 degrees, gently stirring occasionally to prevent a skim from forming and to prevent any milk from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Don't stir so vigorously that the curds are not broken up. Some curds will begin to form right away, and will begin to form more rapidly as the milk approaches the target temperature of 190 degrees. It should look like thin oatmeal.
Once the mixture reaches 190 degrees, turn the heat off and take the pot off the burner. Allow the curds to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. They will release more whey this time.
While you wait, line a colander with cheesecloth and either set over a large bowl (if you want to save the whey) or in the sink.
After the 10 minutes are up, pour the curds and whey into the cheesecloth lined colander. Allow the whey to drain for about 10 minutes, or until you get the creamy smooth texture of smooth mashed potatoes.
Gather the cheesecloth into a bundle and give it a gentle squeeze to remove the last bit of whey. Place the clothe of fully drained ricotta back in the colander and add the salt. Stir the salt into the ricotta gently until thoroughly mixed. The salt will help release more whey, but air will dry out the cheese so if you stir too long the cheese will become crumbly instead of creamy.
The ricotta is ready to eat. It will be loose and creamy while warm, but will firm up after being chilled in the fridge.
Yield: about 7-8 ounces cheese