Last week, I posted a “Supermarket Score” blog with some new ideas for using up buttermilk. One idea in particular – the homemade ricotta cheese – elicited some facebook comments and emails from some of my friends. They were intrigued, but wanted to know more. “It can’t be that simple to make at home!” some said. “How do I know if I’m doing it right?” said others.
Be not intimidated! I’ve got a Play-By-Play coming your way to walk you through the whole thing so that you, too, can show off your own homemade ricotta cheese to your friends and family.
GATHER YOUR EQUIPMENT & INGREDIENTS
To make about 1 3/4 cups of fresh ricotta, you’ll need:
· A medium saucepot
· A fine-mesh strainer
· 2 (10-inch) squares of cheesecloth
· A slotted spoon or small strainer
· 4 cups whole milk
· 1 cup heavy cream
· 1 cup buttermilk
· Pinch salt
HEAT THE MILK
Heating the dairy is what enables the compounds in the buttermilk to culture the other dairy into cheese. Combine all of the ingredients in the pot and place it over medium heat. Don’t rush the boil here, let it come up nice and slowly, stirring it often. As it begins to heat up, you’ll notice that the milk will start to look “curdled” and separate – that’s exactly what you want.
Once the milk is just about at a boil, the curdling with continue and the lumps will get larger. At this point, reduce the heat to very low and leave the pot alone for 2 minutes – stirring with only break up the curds, so resist the temptation!
LET IT DO ITS THING
After 2 minutes on very low heat, remove the pot from the stove and cover it with a tea towel. Let the milk sit at room temperature, undisturbed, for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, line a fine mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth, allowing any excess to hang over the edge, and place it over a large bowl.
At this point, after having rested for 1 hour, visibly large curds will have formed.
Using a small handheld strainer or slotted spoon, carefully transfer the curds to the prepared strainer to let them drain. Pouring the curds out at this point will break them up, so maintain their consistency by using the spoon to gently transfer them. Once most of the curds are moved over, slowly pour the whey through the strainer as well. Fold the overhanging edges of cheesecloth over top of the ricotta.
DRAIN IT & SERVE IT
Let the ricotta drain at room temperature for at least 30 minutes (for a drier cheese, place it in the refrigerator and allow it to drain overnight). Your fresh ricotta is now ready to be served! Trust me – few things in life are more satisfying than warm, freshly made ricotta with some extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.
Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
WAIT, WAIT – THE WHEY!
No need to throw out all of that flavor! (Not to mention the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes it still has) Use the whey that drains off from the cheese to boil up your next batch of mashed potatoes or make a pot of morning oatmeal. It also works just like water or milk when mixing up batters like waffles, pancakes, or brownies.
Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars like Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Bobby Deen and Paula Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest tweets on Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.