|© 2015 Laura Flippin|
The word “ricotta” literally means “re-cooked” in Italian and has been made there since the Bronze Age. Traditionally, it is made by reheating the whey left over from cheese making and adding an acid, like lemon juice or even vinegar. It is technically not cheese but a diary product.
Ricotta cheese is slightly sweet and low in fat—similar to cottage cheese. You can make it as creamy or as dry as you like, with small curds or big curds, depending on your preference. When I made it, it was soft, with small curds and spread on a slice of fresh French bread, it was delicious. Because of its sweetness, ricotta makes an excellent “cheese” for dessert, either simply with fresh berries and other fruit, or in cheesecakes.
Of course, you probably don’t have extra whey sitting around because you, like me, aren’t making cheese. Also, it’s not like you can drive down to the local Piggly-Wiggly and buy some whey. (Even Whole Wallet doesn’t carry it.) So most recipes for making ricotta at home call for whole milk and cream, which is probably close enough. It is also ridiculously easy to make. Here is the recipe from Fine Cooking (Apr./May 2015) I mentioned above:
With so few ingredients, the quality of each is very important. The better your milk and cream, the better your ricotta will be. A high-quality sea salt will also make a difference. This recipe is easily halved.
Yield: about 4 1/2 cups ricotta
1 gallon whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs. flaky sea salt,such as Maldon
1/2 cup fresh, strained lemon juice (from two large lemons)
Line a colander with 3 to 4 layers of lightly dampened cheesecloth, and set it in a clean sink or large bowl.
Clip an instant-read or candy thermometer to the side of a heavy-duty 7-to 8-quart pot. Put the milk and cram in the pot and slowly warm it over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a silicone spatula, until its’ 185 degrees, about 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat, stir in the salt, and then slowly pour the lemon juice over the surgance of the milk. Once all of the lemon juice has been added, stir gently for 1 to 2 minutes to encourage curds to form.
Gently ladle the curds into the prepared colander. Fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the curds to loosely cover. Drain until it reaches your desired consistency, 30 minutes for a soft ricotta and up to 24 hours for a very firm, dry, and dense ricotta. Transfer the drained ricotta to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.