Yes, I am so amazing that I make my own cheese now. There’s something totally magical about turning milk into cheese. Since cheese is one of my favorite foods, it feels a little like turning straw into gold. I used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen (she is totally my cooking hero) and it turned out perfectly. This was actually my second time making it… the first time I used a cup of cream to 3 cups whole milk, and it was a little rich for me, but this time I used 1/2 cup of cream to 3 1/2 cups milk, and it was perfect. I also doubled the recipe, because I needed more cheese to stuff in my face.
Because I am weird and don’t like cheesecloth (it’s expensive and coarse and single-use) I googled around and found that I could use an old t-shirt to do the job, and it worked perfectly! I think it’s way better than the cheesecloth, because none of the cheese gets caught in the t-shirt. Here’s my ghetto setup:
T-shirt, colander, large pot for catching whey. Perfect.
While I was heating the milk, my tiny kitchen assistant came in and demanded that I give her measuring spoons to play with. Who am I to resist those cheeks?
When the mixture was finally ready, I filled the colander and let it start draining. That’s a hot pot of yum, right there.
About an hour later, most of the whey had drained out, and I was left with this:
Delicious, rich ricotta! It needs a little while to firm up in the fridge, and then it’s perfect for anything you would use ricotta in (I made ricotta cookies with my last batch, and they were to die for). The texture is sort of halfway between ricotta and cream cheese, and I think it’s delicious just to smear it on bread and drizzle it with honey. Good stuff!
As far as what’s left over, when I doubled the recipe I got a little more than 2 cups of ricotta, and about 4 1/2 cups of whey. I turned again to my trusty friend google, and found that you can use whey in any bread recipe in place of the water, to improve the texture and add a little protein. I threw some in the pizza crust I made later that day, and it turned out well!
I totally feel like a prairie homesteader, having made my own cheese!
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
3 – 3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 – 1 cup heavy cream (depending on your preference)
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pour the milk, cream and salt into a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan. Attach a candy or deep-fry thermometer. Heat the milk to 190°F, stirring it occasionally to keep it from scorching on the bottom. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, then stir it once or twice, gently and slowly. Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.
Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl (to catch the whey). Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least an hour. At an hour, you’ll have a tender, spreadable ricotta. At two hours, it will be spreadable but a bit firmer, almost like cream cheese. (It will firm as it cools, so do not judge its final texture by what you have in your cheesecloth.) Discard the whey, or, if you’re one of those crafty people who use it for other things, of course, save it. Eat the ricotta right away or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.