Yes, I am that crazy that I am now making my own cheese! Actually, making ricotta is supposedly very simple, so I decided that I would give it a try. (It was my day off, why not?) The recipe sounded simple enough…1/2 gallon of whole milk, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, and a teaspoon of salt. That’s it – all you need to make your own creamy ricotta cheese. If you have never had fresh ricotta, you are missing out. Unlike the processed brands found in grocery stores, fresh ricotta has a light airiness about it. Without sounding over-dramatic, it has the texture of what you would imagine a creamy cloud. The flavor is subtle, yet with a sweet tang, and with millions of uses and recipes, fresh ricotta is certainly a treat to cook and bake with.
With much anticipation, I set to work boiling a large pot of whole milk. And in this process, I certainly tested the “watched pot does not boil.” I stood there, in front of the stove, for what seemed like hours. I was excited to get to the curdling stage and so, like an impatient child, literally stood and watched milk boil. (I know you are thinking, what kind of time does this girl have to sit and watch milk boil? Unfortunately things like this just really intrigue me.) The recipe called for the salted milk to come to a slow boil. And so I watched as it began to simmer, thinking ok – just a few more minutes. And then it boiled lightly and I thought, “now?” To be sure, I let the milk come to a full rolling boil. I reached behind and grab the lemon juice, and by the time I turned back around, the milk formed a thick foam and almost appeared to begin curdling (picture on right). I dumped in the lemon juice quickly and gave a stir to find large curds already formed. (The recipe said that it would take 1-2 minutes after the addition of the lemon juice for the curds to form – clearly my curds were as impatient as I was.) To be on the safe side, I let the milk boil for an extra minute, and then fished out my curds using a small mesh sieve. The recipe directed the ricotta drain for 1 minute. Well, it took me about 5 minutes to remove all the curds, so by the time the last addition went into the colander, I was much past the original “draining” time. Oh well, I figured it would be fine. I was excited enough as it was that I had curds at all! (more…)