The other day I was wandering around different recipe sites and came across this little gem. I buy a reasonable amount of ricotta, and was intrigued by the concept of making it at home. This recipe is not “real” ricotta, which is made from the whey left over from the manufacture of mozzarella. Perhaps it should more appropriately be called a type of farmer’s cheese…or perhaps if it was pressed into a block, a version of paneer. It could be used for anything calling for ricotta, such as lasagna, etc., but it is also delicious with fruit (fresh figs, a sprinkle of fresh thyme and a drizzle of honey!), or mixed with garlic and herbs to make a faux Boursin.
This cheese is so easy to make it is ridiculous, and the result just too good not to make it all the time. It is made of ingredients readily available to anybody, and takes very little time.
You will need some cheesecloth, although you could use a clean tea towel in a pinch…because it is more tightly woven than cheesecloth, the tea towel could increase the draining time of the cheese. Or not. Not sure. You will also need a large, heavy saucepan for heating the mixture.
Something I did, which might be considered a novice – or greedy – move, was I took the cheese after about 40 minutes and wrung most of the remaining whey out of it. The resulting consistency was fairly dry but still spreadable. To remediate this, I took some of the whey (which I had saved) and, with my trusty stick blender, whizzed some back into the cheese, a bit at a time. It is now creamy and spreadable, much like a cream cheese spread but sooooooo much tastier. The lemon juice leaves such a fresh, light taste it does not really need anything.
I actually did not mess around at all with the ingredients this recipe, and the full credit for the ingredients goes to epicurious.com for their post of Gourmet Magazine’s recipe. I could just post a link, but you are already here, so…there are other recipes online, but this one clicked for me. Ina Garten’s version on food network.com also caught my eye, but looked a little rich for me with so much cream. I will try it, but will be hard pressed to be more dazzled than I am with this version, which is plenty creamy!
I have taken the liberty of amending the original instructions to include things I did to make the job a bit easier. Also, keep the whey – you can use it for baking bread or other uses. It is full of protein!
2 litres (or quarts) whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used sea salt)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Dampen the cheesecloth and line a large sieve or colander. Set this colander over a large bowl.
Slowly bring milk, cream and salt to a rolling boil in a heavy, large (5 litre) pot over moderate heat. Stir often to prevent scorching.
Once it reaches a boil, remove the pot from heat and add the lemon juice.
Now, stir it slowly and steadily for a couple of minutes until the curds form, about two minutes. You will see the curds separating from the whey, it’s quite magical!
Pour (or ladle, if it is easier) the entire lot into the lined sieve/colander. Allow it to drain the whey into the bowl below for one hour (if you can).
Once it has drained, turn the ricotta into a bowl and enjoy. It will keep in the refrigerator for two days, but most likely won’t last that long 🙂