Farm Foodie: Easy Cheesy – Homemade Ricotta
Today’s post is by our resident farm foodie – Debra Dubief
There is an allure to cheesemaking that completely captivates me when I stop to think about it. I envision a magical process with highly skilled artisans turning fresh milk into a solid state before placing it in mystical aging rooms.
With all this in mind, I decided it was high time to try the recipe that has been bookmarked on my laptop for awhile now. There are many versions of fresh, homemade ricotta that I’d love to try, but for my first attempt at “cheesemaking,” I opted for the recipe on SmittenKitchen.com.
Let me tell you, this stuff is as wonderful as it is easy! I used the lesser amount of cream called for and still ended up with a deliciously rich, smooth cheese. I am sure the extra deliciousness was due to the high quality ingredients I used: organic, fat pastueurized milk and cream from Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy – which I had added to my Green Grocery order. A small scoop made our pasta and tomato sauce seem ultra lux. Another spoonful added to a salad of farm greens, white peaches and fresh raspberries was so satisfying we didn’t even think about dessert. I am certain this would be wonderful atop pizza instead of fresh mozzarella or stuffed into a calzone. Spread on crostini and you have a fantastic base for appetizers that can be ready in a snap. Top with tomato slices, fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil, thin slivers of fig and aged balsamic or chopped, grilled vegetables—perfect for an impromptu gathering. I’ll leave the real cheesemaking to others, but fresh ricotta is in my repertoire for good.
photo | debra dubief
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream (see note below)
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Pour the milk, cream and salt into a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan. Attach a candy or deep-fry thermometer. Heat the milk to 190°F, stirring it occasionally to keep it from scorching on the bottom. Turn off the heat. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, then stir it once or twice, gently and slowly. Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.
- Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl (to catch the whey). Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least an hour. At an hour, you’ll have a tender, spreadable ricotta. At two hours, it will be spreadable but a bit firmer, almost like cream cheese. (It will firm as it cools, so do not judge its final texture by what you have in your cheesecloth.) Discard the whey, or, if you’re one of those crafty people who use it for other things, of course, save it. Eat the ricotta right away or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Serve: On 1/2-inch slices of baguette that have been run under the broiler until lightly bronzed. Serve it simply [as shown in the top photo, left to right] with honey and a pinch of flaky sea salt, a couple grinds of black pepper, pinch of salt and drizzle of olive oil, and/or a few droplets of an aged balsamic. Or with zucchini ribbons, I started with about half a pound of miniature zucchini my mother-in-law had found at Trader Joes. Larger ones will work just fine, but you might want to first cut a big one in half lengthwise. Peel them into ribbons and toss them with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and let them drain in a colander for a while (this wilts them), about 20 minutes. Rinse and pat them dry. Toss with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste. Arrange in piles on ricotta crostini.
- Do ahead: I keep mine only 3 to 4 days; the really fresh milk I used doesn’t last long. However, Salvatore also uses really fresh milk, and theirs appears to keep closer to two weeks. In conclusion? Shelf lives will vary. Use your nose to judge freshness. Or your partner’s nose, because who doesn’t like hearing “Hey honey, sniff this for me?”
- Note: Try less cream to milk. 3 1/2 cups milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream, for an equally indulgent result with a little less fat.