Friday, January 23, 2015

Homemade Ricotta

A few months ago, we had friends staying with us for the weekend.  In the afternoon, as we were all sitting around the kitchen talking, I pulled out a pot to start making a before-dinner snack.

“What are you making?”

“Ricotta cheese.”

“What?! You’re making ricotta?”

“It’s ridiculously easy. Watch.”

I pulled out a pot and poured in whole milk from a local dairy and cultured buttermilk.  I turned the burner to medium and waited until the mixture started to just simmer and you could see the curds developing.  I took a sieve and scooped out the curds.  There you have it—ricotta!

Have you made homemade ricotta yet?  It will change the way you think about the boring and rather bland store bought stuff.  Run to the grocery and buy one gallon of fresh local whole milk and one quart of cultured buttermilk.  In less than 20 minutes, you’ll have creamy, delicious ricotta cheese to use for lasagna, blintzes, crostini or eating with a spoon while standing at the refrigerator door.

Some recipes for homemade ricotta call for a mixture of whole milk and heavy whipping cream, but I find that making it with just the whole milk still produces a rich and delicious ricotta that is a little better for our overall health.  As you know from reading our blog, we’re not advocates for ‘light’ or ‘reduced calorie’ foods, but we are advocates for making something delicious from real, whole ingredients that you can feel good about eating.   

My favorite way to eat fresh ricotta is to sprinkle it with a good sea salt, like Murray River salt, drizzle it with a good extra virgin olive oil, and top with dried Aleppo pepper if you can find it and red pepper flakes if you can’t.  Serve with crostini or crackers.   

I hope you enjoy, preferably surrounded by the people you love!

Homemade Ricotta

8 cups whole local milk
2 cups cultured buttermilk
Sea salt

Add the milk and buttermilk to a large, heavy large pot.  Place the pot over medium heat and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, until bubbles are just starting to form and you can see the curds separating.  Turn off the burner and let it sit for a few minutes.     

Using a mesh skimmer, lift the curds out of the pot and place them in a colander lined with cheesecloth.  Let the curds drain for about 5 minutes for a soft ricotta or up to 20 minutes for a firm ricotta.  Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, add a pinch of sea salt and stir.  Cover the cheese and place in the refrigerator to chill.  The ricotta can be made one day ahead. 

Lastly, don’t throw away the whey (the leftover liquid).  I freeze it and then use it in soups or as a substitute for water in making bread or pizza dough.     

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