Monday, November 26, 2012

Homemade ricotta

Why make ricotta when it's so easy to purchase?  Why indeed?

One taste, and you'll understand -- the homemade stuff has a richness, smoothness, and character not found in commercially produced product.  And, to boot, it's pretty easy to do.

I'd seen it done a couple times in online videos, among them Melissa Clark (New York Times) and Mark Bittman (also New York Times).  Both are similar.

My recipe:

   1 gallon whole milk
   1 quart heavy cream
   1 quart buttermilk
   juice of two lemons
   2 tsp salt

I put all the stuff into an 8-quart stockpot, and brought to a boil, stirring occasionally to be sure there was nothing sticking/burning on the bottom.

As it came to a boil, the curds started forming, and I let it boil for several minutes.  The curds seemed VERY fine, finer than what I was seeing on the instructional videos, possibly the consequence that I added more cream (and thus more fat) than Bittman or Clark.

I ladled the curds and whey into a cheesecloth-lined colander and let it drain.  I was only able to fill the colander up about halfway.  The draining was VERY slow, again, probably the result of my very fine curds.  Coarser curds would have drained more quickly.  I ended up having to line another big strainer with a linen tea towel and drained the other half of the curds in that.  I covered both, and walked away for an hour to let them drain.  Upon returning, most of the liquid was gone, but the collected curds were very fine and very smooth -- and very moist.

I transferred all to a container, and popped it into the fridge.  A couple hours later, I checked on it, and noticed that it was still quite wet, even "soupy."  Not good.  I lined a strainer with a few layers of paper towel, and suspended it over a stainless bowl, dumped the soupy ricotta into it, covered it with plastic wrap, and put it back into the fridge overnight.

Next morning -- a dense, dry ball of ricotta, and about another half-cup of whey drained out below.  Perfect.

Where to use it?  Here, and here, and here, and here, and...

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