Each Wednesday Cheryl and I have “date night” where we do something together like a movie or dinner out. Last week we went out to a new restaurant (for us) and had an amazing appetizer of whipped ricotta, honey, and balsamic vinegar and the dish was one of our favorites from the dinner. Of course, Cheryl said, “you can make this.” I said yeah, but it’d be even better with homemade ricotta cheese which is really easy to make.
Did I say really easy? I meant absolutely so simple anyone can make this. Even someone who can’t even boil water can make this as there’s no water boiling involved (just some milk simmering). The only complex thing you need to do is purchase some cheesecloth which should be readily available in your grocery store. Heat up some milk, add some vinegar and salt, and set aside. That’s it! Your actual active time doing anything here is probably, at most, 10 minutes.
Now, I know ricotta in the store isn’t all that expensive but once you make this you’ll think twice about buying the mass produced stuff. As always, when you make something yourself you can control the process. You know what’s going into it and you can make adjustments to get the flavor and texture you want. If you’d like a creamier ricotta cheese you simply shorten your drain time.
I feel this is a recipe where the quality of your milk will make all the difference in this ricotta cheese. I’d love to somehow get my hands on some raw milk, make ricotta with it, and compare raw milk ricotta with store milk ricotta to taste the difference in the two. You’ll get a little more than 1 lb of ricotta cheese which is just the right amount for making a ricotta cheese cake (ahem…check back in a few days). The recipe called for using a slotted spoon to transfer the curds to the cheesecloth but I didn’t think it was working well so I ended up just pouring the curds and liquid into the cheesecloth in small batches which worked fine. I got my ricotta cheese. Also, the whey liquid is supposedly really good for use in baking bread (and other things) so save it if you like. It adds some tanginess and is often substituted or used in addition to milk. You can also just discard it if you aren’t baking bread in the next couple of days.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese (makes approx. 1 lb) adapted from Food & Wine magazine
- 2 quarts whole milk
- 1 C heavy cream
- 3 Tbs white vinegar
- ½ tsp salt
Place the milk and cream into a large pot and place on stove over medium-high heat. Bring the milk to 185°F (either use a thermometer or if you don’t have one the surface of the milk will become foamy and steam, do NOT let it boil).
Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the vinegar for 30 seconds. Yes, it will curdle, this is the point. Next add the salt and stir for another 30 seconds.
Cover with a clean towel and allow to cool for 2 hours.
Line a colander with a couple layers of cheesecloth and allow the cheesecloth to hang over the edges. Place the cheesecloth lined colander over a large bowl. In small batches, slowly pour the curds and whey into the cheesecloth lined colander.
Gather up the corners of the cheesecloth and tie off with some kitchen twine or rubber band. Allow the ball to drain for 30 minutes, occasionally squeezing to assist draining the whey.
When drained to your satisfaction transfer the ricotta to a bowl and cover. The ricotta will keep for a few days in the fridge.