My experience with homemade ricotta
So easy and so much better than store bought.
Making homemade ricotta is one of the easiest and most delicious foods to make. I will admit, I was intimidated by the process of making my own ricotta (as I was with homemade bread), but the simplicity of the process is really nothing to be intimidated by. The result is a rich, creamy and flavorful cheese that cannot be compared to any product you would buy in your local supermarket.
The process of making ricotta goes back to the 1st century BC in the Roman countryside where sheep’s milk was used to make both fresh and aged cheese. This versatile cheese has since been used in desserts such as cannoli, cakes and cookies, in main dishes as part of many pasta and eggplant creations and also for use in pancakes, calzones and pizzas (also in Sfincione, yes!). The many uses of this delicious cheese go as far as your creative imagination will take you.
To begin making ricotta, it is important to obtain the freshest, organic milk and heavy cream possible. If you live in an area where sheep’s milk is available, so much the better but for most of us in the USA, the resulting cheese made with fresh organic milk will still result in a delicious and creamy cheese.
You will also need white vinegar ( I use white Modena vinegar ) or freshly squeezed lemon juice. I have used both with great results. Your preference depends on how you will use the ricotta. For pasta dishes, I use vinegar. For desserts, especially ricotta cheesecake, I use the lemon. It’s your own personal choice. The last ingredient is a small amount of kosher salt. That’s it! Just four ingredients: Milk, cream, vinegar and salt.
Use a 4.5 or 5-quart stainless steel or cast iron pot. I use a Le Creuset pot with great results and with no scorching of the milk on the bottom of the pot. You will also need a large bowl, a medium-size sieve, some cheesecloth and some cooking twine.
This recipe will make approximately 2 cups of ricotta.
4 cups of fresh, organic whole milk
2 cups of fresh, organic heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Before cooking, set your sieve on top of a large bowl. Take a piece of cheesecloth and cut enough cloth so that the cloth overlaps the bowl until it reaches your countertop. You will need the extra cloth to twist and tie the cheese when the mixture cools. Wet the cloth and wring it out. Place the cloth on top of the sieve and bowl pushing the cloth down into the sieve.
- Pour the milk, cream and salt into your pot and cook on medium heat until the mixture comes to a rapid boil, stirring occasionally. Do not over boil as the mixture will rise quickly at the boiling point and can boil over your pot resulting in a mess you will need to clean. Once the mixture boils, immediately turn off the heat.
- Add the vinegar or lemon juice to the mixture and give it a quick stir. Let the mixture sit two or three minutes until the mixture starts to curdle. At this point, you will see small pieces (curd) floating in liquid (whey).
- Carefully and slowly pour the entire mixture into your cloth-lined sieve and let the mixture ‘s liquid (whey) drain into the bowl for about 30-45 minutes emptying the bowl every 10 minutes. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the resulting ricotta will be. I like a thick, almost solid cheese so I usually let it drain for about an hour. If you like a looser cheese, then use less draining time.
- At the end of the draining process, gather the ends of your cheesecloth over the ricotta, twist the cloth and tie to secure. Take the cloth-lined ricotta still sitting in the sieve and place in a smaller bowl and put it in the fridge overnight. The ricotta will continue to drain into the bowl so remember to empty the bowl every so often.
This process will result in a very firm, rich and creamy ricotta. When you are ready to use, just cut the cord, empty the ricotta into a covered container and use as you like. The ricotta will keep in the fridge for several days.
Once you taste your ricotta, you will see how much better fresh home- made ricotta is compared to store-bought. Personally, I will never buy store-bought ricotta again! Enjoy and Buon appetito!