Ricotta cheese is definitely the “gateway cheese”. I’m pretty sure most, if not all, people I know have had ricotta cheese that came from a carton. But they have also not had the chance to enjoy fresh, homemade ricotta. It is such a vastly different product that it will instantly sell you on the notion of going to the trouble (all though, it really is incredibly quick and easy!) of making your own. It is so scrumptious you may not even want to cook with it. You may want to sprinkle it with salt and pepper, drizzle of olive oil, and spread it on slices of baguettes… or just eat it with a spoon. Can you say that about a carton of mystery cheese from the supermarket?!
Before you start, read this post about choosing milk for cheesemaking, and about equipment here.
DIY RICOTTA CHEESE
Makes approx 2 1/2 to 3 cups
1/2 gallon whole milk, NOT ultra pasteurized (see milk buying guide here)
1 to 4 cups cream (Ultra pasteurized is okay here)*
1/2 cup lemon juice
kosher salt, to taste (I usually add 1/2-1 tsp)
Prepare your strainer. Line a large stainless or enamel colander with butter muslin or nut milk bag in a clean sink.
Pour milk and cream into a heavy bottomed pot. (Stainless steel or nonreactive)
Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until milk reaches 190 degrees F.
You’ll know you’re getting close when the milk gets foamy. Don’t let it boil though, as the cheese won’t taste quite as good.
Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice. Stir very gently just to combine. If you don’t see the curds separate add lemon juice, 1 T at a time. Remove from the heat, cover, and leave undisturbed for 5-10 minutes.
Pour the curds and whey into the prepared strainer.
Drain for about 10 minutes then gently twist the ends to squeeze out more whey.
Scrape out into a bowl and sprinkle with salt and any other seasonings.
Very gently mix in. Over mixing will make the ricotta drier and crumblier so be quick for the creamiest texture!
If it isn’t as creamy as you want, try adding a few spoons of heavy cream.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 7-10 days.
Note: The more cream you use, the creamier your ricotta with be. I typically use 2 cups per half gallon of milk.
In this instance, ultra-pasteurized is okay for the heavy cream (also labeled as heavy whipping cream) because it is being used for added butterfat. This will make for a super creamy ricotta, instead of a drier, crumbly farmer cheese.