Blog posts

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Recipes

homemade-ricotta-cheeseI didn’t like ricotta cheese until I started making it myself.  That stuff in the tubs?  I object to being robbed blind at the cash register for a container of dry, gritty, grainy, tasteless mush.

(I know — Don’t hold back, Theresa.  Let us know how you really feel.)

On that note, I’ll tell you that I absolutely love my homemade ricotta cheese.   Soft, fresh, creamy and adaptable — use it in lasagne, filled pastas, salads, desserts, pastries…

organic-whole-milk-bottleTraditionally, ricotta cheese is made from whey, a by-product of cheese making.  But since our little island’s grocery store doesn’t stock whey, I use milk.  If you have access to whey, by all means, go crazy (and let me know what it’s like — I’m curious!)

You can use whole or 2% milk.  Obviously, whole milk gives you a creamier result.  I used organic whole milk this time — 1 litre (quart) — which yielded approx 3/4 cup (200 g).

Don’t you love how I think in metric for some measurements, but in imperial for others?  A real-life product of Canadian metric education in the ’70s…

ricotta-curds-whey

I originally found this method on Cook’s Illustrated.  I’ve made it a number of times, and had success all but twice — the first time I attempted it (I still don’t know why it failed), and another time when I used bottled lemon juice because I had no fresh lemons/limes.  I’m pretty sure the bottled (pasteurized) juice caused the failure.

I’ve given you 3 different quantities and yields here, so that you can make as much as you need.  It’s an excellent way to use expiring milk — just keep in mind that older milk may need an extra tablespoon or 2 of lemon juice to separate, and that cheese made from older milk will sour more quickly.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Yield ¾ cup (200 grams) 1½ cups (400 grams) 3 cups (600 grams)
Milk 1 litre (1 quart) 2 litres (½ gallon) 4 litres (1 gallon)
Lemon Juice (fresh) 2 tablespoons + ¼ cup + ½ cup +
Salt ¼ teaspoon ½ teaspoon 1 teaspoon

In an appropriately sized non-reactive pan (do not use aluminum), heat the milk and the salt over medium heat.  Stir occasionally to prevent the milk from burning on the bottom.

When the milk reaches 185° F (85° C), remove the pan from the heat.  Slowly pour in the lemon juice and gently stir to mix well.  Allow to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.  Check after 5 minutes to ensure that the white curds have separated from the translucent whey.  If not, add another tablespoon of lemon juice and wait 5 minutes.  Check and repeat again with extra lemon juice if required.  Once the curds and whey have separated, allow the pot to sit undisturbed for 30 minutes.

Line a colander with 3 layers of cheesecloth.  Gently spoon the curds into the colander, and discard the whey.  With a rubber spatula, gently fold the curds over each other, until all of the whey has drained and the curds are on the dry side.  Do not press down on the curds.  Allow the drained cheese to sit, undisturbed, for 30 minutes before using.  Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

straining-the-ricotta

As you can see, I didn’t have any cheese cloth, so I ended up using a clean linen napkin.  It worked, but it took a LONG time to drain.  I ended up tying the ends to a wooden spoon and hanging the whole thing over a pot for a couple of hours.  Resourcefulness can lead to delays.