According to…practically every food blog out there, ricotta is super easy to make. I gave it a shot and guess what? That slew of bloggers is correct: this is easy stuff. I’m gonna go ahead and say that if you can boil a pot of water, you can probably make ricotta cheese. You don’t really need any special equipment or ingredients (there are only three of them!) and it doesn’t take very long. Most importantly, it’s seriously good stuff. Homemade ricotta totally trumps most of the tubbed stuff I’ve paid too much for at the grocery store. I’m going to be making and eating a lot of ricotta in the upcoming weeks. I don’t know if I’ll ever need to buy it again.
You don’t need any fancy equipment, but you will need a colander or something to strain the cheese with. You put a double layer of cheesecloth over the strainer in preparation for the straining that’s to come. A package of cheesecloth is only a few bucks, but in a pinch you could probably just use thick paper towels or some other kind of porous fabric (although you can find cheesecloth anywhere and it costs next to nothing).
The first part of the whole process happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to snap photos. Basically, you just pour some milk into a big pot along with a little bit of salt and bring it to simmer on med-high heat, stirring occasionally (you do want to keep your eye on it though). As soon as it begins to simmer, add some vinegar and wait for it to curdle. After just a few minutes, you will see the curds beginning to form. The contents of your pot will look chunky and gross, but don’t worry; this is what delicious looks like.
Most of the curds will float to the top. Skim them off with a slotted spoon and dump them into your lined colander. Do you see this spoon? It was not a very effective skimming tool. Despite having a crappy spoon, this was still an easy process. It only took a few minutes.
After most of the curds were transferred from the pot to the colander, I let them sit in the strainer for around 20 minutes. If you want creamier ricotta, you only need to let it drain for a few minutes.
I had to stop myself from eating this stuff by the spoonful. There are so many uses for fresh ricotta (and I’ll be posting some ricotta-filled recipes very soon). Besides the obvious lasagna or manicotti filling, you could swirl it into just about any pasta dish. You can also use it to make cheesecake, cookies and pancakes. You can eat it on toast with some honey or orange marmalade. I like to eat it with tomatoes and some salt and pepper. I could go on and on…
As for the recipe:
There are dozens and dozens of variations out there. Some call for lemon juice or buttermilk as the acidic component. Some require the addition of cream or yogurt. Several of them want you to use a thermometer at some point. I’m sure these are all great recipes that will result in wonderful ricotta, but I went for the simplest combination possible and I was more than pleased with the results. If you’re still feeling a little apprehensive, or need more ricotta-making info in general, check out this post, which is chock full of handy advice (it also addresses some common problems). S0… are you ready for this? Go make some cheese (and let me know how it turns out)! This recipe can easily be multiplied:
yields around 3/4 cup
Supplies you will need: cheesecloth, a colander, a large pot (preferably stainless steel), a slotted spoon or skimming tool
- 1 quart (4 cups) pasteurized whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (I used sea salt)
- 1 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
Line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth.
In a large heavy bottomed pot, slowly bring the milk and salt to a simmer on med-high heat, stirring occasionally. Then add the vinegar and lower heat if necessary (the mixture should be gently simmering). In a few minutes, curdles will begin to form. Skim the curds out with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the cheesecloth lined colander.
Let the curds sit until drained to your texture preference.
Notes: Do not use ultra-pasteurized milk. Apparently it won’t work. After around five minutes in the colander, my ricotta had drained to a crumbly texture (but in total it sat there for around 20 minutes). Be careful not to scorch your milk because it’s easy to do. Just keep an eye on it and don’t let it get too hot and it should be fine.