Raise your hand if you’ve been curious about making your own cheese! Anyone? [Bueller?] Well I’ve been firmly in the “want to” category for ages and thought this summer was a good time start trying. I’ve heard that making ricotta is sort of the ground level of home cheese-making I finally decided to start off with a basic ricotta cheese recipe a few weeks ago. Umm…that recipe was a major fail. A half gallon of milk wasted. I was not a happy camper.
Fast-forward one month and the recipe I’m sharing with you today is pretty fantastic. Truly, lick-the-spoon, fantastic. I’ve made 3 separate batches now as it turns out, really good homemade ricotta cheese is so ridiculously easy to make. I have used different ratios of milk:cream each time, based on what I have in the fridge (and once used half-and-half in place of the cream), and yes while each batch has turned out slightly different I’ve loved every batch so far.
I was home to monitor the moisture in the cheese while the whey drained for the first two batches I made, but for the most recent batch (made as shown in the ingredient list below) earlier this week, I sort of squeezed it in before heading to work and let the whey drain out in the fridge for the day. Versatility in ingredients and methods sometimes kills a recipe but in this case, perfection. The homemade ricotta turns out lusciously creamy no matter how you make it with just a hint of acidity from the lemon juice (it’s not lemon-flavored though). I love this ricotta so much that I schmeared it all over three different types of crostini for dinner last night and I cannot wait to share with you how that dinner turned out! Stay tuned!
Keep in mind that the more milk you use, the larger the curds will be and the ricotta will be a little drier. If you're planning to use the ricotta for a filling or topping in a dish (like lasagna, warm pasta salad, or pizza), you'll want it a little on the drier side. For spreading on sandwiches or grilled bread, you'll want it to be less dry. So extra milk, like 3 ½ cups milk and ½ cup cream, will yield a drier ricotta. And more cream, like as shown below, will yield a much creamier texture.
If you forget about the cheese while it is straining (it happens!) and it ends up too dry for your liking, stir in the whey (strained-off liquid) by the tablespoon until it loosens up a little. Generally, the cheese will dry a little and firm up while in the fridge so you'll want to err on the side of it being a little less dry before you stick it in the fridge.
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ tsp coarse sea salt
- 3 tbsp freshly squeeze lemon juice
- Pour the milk and cream into 3- or 4- quart saucepan, stir in the salt, and pop your long candy/deep fryer thermometer onto the side of the pan. Over medium heat, bring the temperature of the mixture up to 190° F, remove the pan from the heat, and slowly pour in the lemon juice. Give it a slow stir for a couple seconds and let the mixture sit untouched for 5 minutes. In that time, line a mesh strainer with a double-layer of cheesecloth or one paper towel and set the strainer over a large bowl. I'm partial to the paper towel since I almost never have cheesecloth in the house when I need it.
- After 5 minutes, pour the whole mixture into the lined strainer and allow the whey to drain out into the bowl for 1-2 hours. After the first hour, check the cheese for consistency. If it's too loose for what you plan to use the it for, allow it to strain for up to one more hour. If it's the right consistency, transfer the cheese to a resealable container, stir to combine and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using; discard the whey unless you have other recipes you could use it for (I don't yet).
adapted from Smitten Kitchen