Tuesday, March 10, 2015

homemade ricotta

One of the things that has been so fun and interesting for me as I ventured into a real-food diet has been the evolution of my concept of consumer choice.  For instance, your standard American mom makes a grocery list based on some recipes she wants to make (or maybe she doesn't even make a list - she just goes to the store and sees what looks good), goes to the grocery store, buys what she needs to make what she wants, and goes home.

I'm kind of doing things backward now!  I buy a half-cow in various cuts, then I look in my deep freeze at the beginning of the week and think about what I can make with what I have.  I get my CSA box and see what will spoil first, and plan on cooking those vegetables early in the week.  And we do a static dairy order each week - we can only change at the new order for the month.  So, if I ordered a gallon of milk, I get a gallon of milk each week, whether I want it or not.  And then I need to figure out what to do with it before it sours!

This may sound like a lot of work, but I really think it's a lot of fun.  It's about being resourceful and imaginative.  And once your brain gets used to shifting the order of operations a bit, it becomes second nature.  

Preserving dairy is a great extension of this resourcefulness.  Whatever we don't bake with or drink straight up or in coffee gets turned into butter, yogurt, puddingice cream, sherbet, mozzarella, ricotta, or ricotta salata.  I have shared most of these recipes with you already, but today let's talk ricotta!  

Ricotta is really the easiest soft cheese to make (aside from labneh, which is just strained yogurt).  And the uses are endless!  You can ripen it in the fridge to make ricotta salata, which is a salted, dried, aged version.  You can dollop it on a white pizza.  You can mix with salt, olive oil, and fresh herbs for a nice dip.  You can fold it into a cheesecake.   You can mix it into pasta (a traditional lasagna is my favorite!).  It has a mild, creamy texture and flavor that really make it versatile.  

So here's how you do it.

Start with a quart of whole milk.  (Raw, pasteurized, whatever.)

Heat gently to 95 C (~205 F).  I do this over medium heat, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, mix 1/2 teaspoon citric acid with a few tablespoons of cool water.

When the milk is up to temp, pull it off the heat and stir in the dissolved citric acid.  The milk will begin to curdle immediately.  Cover and leave it for half an hour.

This is what it will look like when the half-hour is up - totally separated into curds and whey.

I use a ricotta strainer basket to drain off the whey.  I just discard it.  Some people save it to feed to their plants or things like that.  The whey at this point has lost all its probiotic quality due to being heated so high, so it's not a very useful dietary supplement.  You can strain it to your desired dryness. 

After straining mine for about an hour, I turn it out into a container.  

And there you have it!  Fresh, creamy, homemade ricotta, waiting in your fridge for you to eat it up!

From a quart of milk, I will get about 8 ounces of ricotta.

Have you ever ventured into cheesemaking?  Tell me about it!

[This post submitted to Fat Tuesday 3/10/15 and Simply Natural Saturday 3/7/15.]


Andrea said...

We like using whey from things like that to make bread with. Works great!

Emily said...

Ooo that's a good idea Andrea! What qualities does it add to the bread? More protein, I imagine . . .