Sunday, March 24, 2013

homemade ricotta.

I spend most of my work week coming up with weekend food projects.  The types of things that are impossible to tackle during the hours of 6:30 - 10:30 during the week because I am going to the gym, making sensible dinners, showering, and reading something other then the never ending stream of emails I seem to get.  I delegate Saturday's and Sunday's to making homemade breads and fresh pasta and all other illogical foods that most people don't think twice about buying from the supermarket which is why I devoted last weekend to ricotta. Perhaps it's just me, but I find the ricotta cheese that is sold in the plastic tubs at the supermarket to be completely off-putting. The texture is always bizarre, the taste is always too sweet, and it's always filled with all sorts of strange additives.  I knew there had to be something better, something homemade to fill this void between the Polly-O ricotta I can't stand and the Salvatore Brooklyn ricotta I adore.  And there is!  There is a whole world of ricotta making that seems to be happening in kitchens across the country.  There are case studies discussing the merits of vinegar vs. lemon juice and how much cream is necessary or if buttermilk is better.  I did a lot of cross referencing and I cobbled a recipe together that encompassed everything I love about ricotta.  The end result is the complete opposite of anything you will ever find in a supermarket.  This is impossibly creamy and rich.  The taste is pure and simple - the milk knows how to steal the show in the best possible way.  I love this slathered on a simple baguette with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of flaky salt and black pepper, but I am sure you can come up with a million other ways to eat it (by the spoonful is also suggested.)  

Homemade Ricotta
Adopted from about every source I could find on the subject

I imagined making cheese would be difficult but it really isn't at all.  You watch the pot boil pour the cheese into the cloth (without spilling it all over the stove like some people do...) and let gravity do its thing.  The leftover whey can be saved and used for homemade bread and I will be back with that recipe later this week (because no one should waste really good milk.)  They key here is to buy the best milk possible - local, organic milk is ideal.

Makes about 2 cups

4 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon flaky salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice

In a large heavy bottomed sauce pan combine the milk, cream, and salt and heat over medium heat.  Cook the mixture until it reached 190 degrees, stirring on occasion so the milk doesn't scorch.  Remove the pan from the heat, and pour in the lemon juice. Gently (very gently!) stir the mixture and then let sit 5 - 10 minutes.  

Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl (to catch the whey). Ladle the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least two hours.  it will be spreadable but a little firm, almost like cream cheese. (It will firm more as it cools, so do not judge its final texture by what you have in your cheesecloth.) Save the whey in a air-tight container unless you are silly and don’t want homemade bread. 

You can store the ricotta in a air-tight container for about 5 days (maybe even longer if your milk is super fresh.) 

Serve the ricotta on toasts, tossed in pasta, or as I suggested above, by the spoonful.   

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