There are many fantastic recipes that call for ricotta cheese, but if you’ve ever priced it at the store, the thought of purchasing it is bound to make you cringe.
You can often substitute cottage cheese (depending on the recipe) but if you want the real deal here’s a way you can make it yourself using items typically found in your kitchen.
- 1 Gallon Whole Milk ( not ultra pasturized, regular pasturized is fine)
- 1/2 cup + Vinegar (apple cider is preferable but not required)
- Floursack or Buttermuslin (or just a really clean towel)
- Large Pot
- Slotted Spoon
Pour your whole milk into your pot and place on the stove on a med-med high heat.
Our goal is to heat the milk to 185 degrees without boiling or allowing the milk to stick to the bottom. Patience pays off here. Stir frequently but gently.
Make sure you take the milk’s temperature often, because again we don’t want to boil the milk. Give it a good stir and take the temp in various parts of your milk to make sure you get a correct reading.
Once you’ve come to about 180, pour in your vinegar. It should almost immediately separate the curds from they whey. (If it doesn’t, you can add a tiny bit more vinegar until you reach it’s threshhold, just go slowly and make sure you stir thoroughly before adding more).
Some people say you can use lemon juice, and I have tried that, but it does change the flavor. I would suggest using fresh squeezed instead of concentrated if you go this route).
Once your temp hits that 180-185 degree mark, shut off the heat. The lower the temp, the creamier the cheese, higher means dryer and firmer. You can experiment until you find the texture you want. Let rest for 10 minutes.
Once that 10 minutes is up, CAREFULLY pour or ladle the mixture into a collander covered with your buttermuslin or floursack. You don’t want to use cheesecloth because the holes are too big and you’ll loose valuable little curds in the straining process. Fold up the cloth and hold it up for a while to allow the whey to drain off. How much whey you leave behind is up to you.
Now, if you find your cheese is still a little too wet for your taste, you can throw a little salt into the mix and it will pull some of that moisture off, but don’t do this if the cheese is going to be used for a dessert recipe. :-)
And that’s it! Mix some herbs into it while it’s still warm and place it in a cheese mold to create a nice spread, or use it “as is” to stuff shells or whatever your recipe calls for!
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