I’m no expert cheesemaker (yet…) but one cheese that I do frequently make is ricotta. By making your own ricotta you can get the freshest, most delicious ricotta with no added preservatives. It’s also incredibly easy. Below is my ricotta recipe. I hope you give it a try and enjoy it. If your house is like mine, fresh ricotta doesn’t sit in the fridge long. 🙂
2 quarts of whole milk (pasteurized is fine but do not use ultra-pasteurized milk)
3 tbsp of distilled white vinegar (3 tbsp = 1-1/2 oz)
3-quart saucepan (or larger)
candy thermometer (desirable but not necessary)
large spoon for stirring (I prefer a wooden spoon)
large mesh sieve
cheesecloth (enough to cover the sieve when folded in thirds)
- Pour the milk in the saucepan and put it over medium heat. If you have a candy thermometer, clip it to the side of the saucepan so the tip is submerged in the milk but not touching the bottom of the saucepan.
- Slowly heat the milk to 180°F, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom of the saucepan so that the milk doesn’t stick or burn to the bottom. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, 180°F is right before the milk boils and the milk will be foamy at the top. (Check out the picture below.)
- Once the milk reaches 180°F, pull it off the heat. Add in the 3 tablespoons of vinegar and gently stir. You should see the curds start to separate from the whitish-yellow whey. If not, add more vinegar, one teaspoon at a time.
- Generously sprinkle salt on top of the milk and vinegar mixture and let it sit for 15 minutes.
- While it sits, arrange your setup for the next step. Position a sieve above a stockpot or other large vessel. Fold a piece of cheesecloth in thirds and place it in the sieve.
- After 15 minutes, carefully pour the milk and vinegar mixture in the cheesecloth. The curds will be caught in the cheesecloth and the whey will drain to the stockpot.
- Let the whey drain away for several minutes. Then pick up the cheesecloth and gently twist it into a teardrop shape to squeeze out any remaining whey from the curds.
- The curds that remain in the cheesecloth are your ricotta – store the ricotta in a container in the fridge until you plan to use it. The whey can be drained down the sink. But, better yet, it can also be used! I’ve recently started using my whey in place of the water in my pizza dough recipe. And if that doesn’t excite you, do a little Google searching and find many other uses for whey.
Wondering what to do with your fresh ricotta? My favorite thing to do with ricotta is to pair it with roasted cherry tomatoes. You could put the two on a pizza or on a crostini. Or if you are looking for something sweet you could make Ricotta Cookies. Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy!