I don’t think I’ll ever become a cheesemaker but I find it fascinating to learn to make things that I otherwise take for granted this it’s important to me that I learn a bit about how to make cheese. When it comes to ricotta, it’s super easy, limited ‘equipment’ or special ingredients are needed and the results are very quickly achieved. Ricotta is a fantastic gateway drug into the world of making cheese.
Ingredients/ Equipment (this makes about 2 cups of cheese and could be doubled)
- 2 liters of skim milk (a half-gallon) – whole milk will produce richer results
- 0.5 teaspoon of salt
- 3 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar
- Pour cold milk into a large pan. Stir in salt.
- Place the milk on medium and gently raise the heat to a near-simmer. If you have a thermometer (recommended but optional), remove at 180 degrees farenheight. If you do not, look for small bubbles to be forming (milk will enter a full boil at 212 degrees depending on atmospheric pressure). I stir regularly to prevent scorching and to ensure the heat is distributed through the pan.
- Remove from heat and turn off burner.
- Add vinegar and stir for 1 minute. You should see small curds starting to appear (I think you’d see more with whole milk – I only saw tiny bits with the skim).
- Cover pot (I used a clean cloth) and let rest for 2-3 hours (this likely can be cut considerably shorter but I like to think that the longer resting period yields greater volume.)
- Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth. Pour the contents of the pot through it and let it drain. If you are impatient (like I can be), gently shift the colander back and forth and more whey will drain on ‘dry’ parts of the cloth that hasn’t been clogged with tiny cheese particles. You could let it rest like this but I waited a total of 10-15 minutes after draining.
- Tighten the works into a ball and squeeze to drain more liquid (the ‘fragile’ cheese is surprisingly resilient).
It’s lovely and fresh tasting. I used it in a heavy pasta dish and wish I would have kept it more simple (such as a salad) to really pick out the fresh flavor.
You will also be left with about a liter of whey (some use it for baking and other purposes that we’ve yet to explore).
Depending o0n your milk supply you could make varients on this including goats milk ricotta following the same process.
This would be a fantastic project with kids and takes minimal work and is a lot of fun. I’m not sure I’ll make it frequently but I’ll definitely not look at a tub of ricotta the same way (whey?) again.