Homemade Ricotta

I admit sometimes I can go a little overboard.  A four course dinner, homemade rolls and party favors.  Not one, but two specialty cocktails.  My husband and close friends often point out there is no need for 6 appetizers, let alone all of them made by scratch.  So when I said I was going to make my own cheese, I knew I would catch a certain amount of grief.  So worth it!  It’s like a mad science experiment in your own kitchen and the result is super yummy cheese – sold.  The process is easy but it’s definitely the kind where even the most experienced cook would second guess herself.  So apologies in advance for the not terribly interesting pictures but they do speak a million words in terms of how the ricotta is supposed to look.  At one point I almost chucked the whole thing away because I thought I had messed up but I am so glad I didn’t.

these 4 ingredients make cheese?!?!

these 4 ingredients make cheese?!?!

What to do with all this ricotta you ask?  I made it to use in a stuffed shells recipe (which was not blog worthy I am sad to say) but I think it’s delicious simply spread on grilled bread or on a homemade pizza (as in the featured picture), with eggs, dolloped on pasta with pesto…honestly the options are limitless.  It lasts for 3 weeks in the fridge so it’s a great make ahead appetizer – make the ricotta one weekend and then bake it in a dip the following.  It would be easy enough to cut in half if you aren’t as crazy for ricotta like me.  Note – I was not always a big ricotta fan but I have discovered that it was because I was eating super processed, tasteless supermarket ricotta.  Once I had some from the H Street Farmers Market it was a revelation in soft, buttery cheesey goodness.  Homemade is even better and you have control over the firmness – this go around I made it not very firm at all since it was going into a baked pasta recipe but if I were eating it on its own I would have let it drain for several more hours to reach the perfect (to me) consistency.

Homemade Ricotta (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  Fine Cooking Magazine

Special Equipment:  cheese cloth, candy thermometer (I used one but according to the original recipe you can skip it – the milk is ready when bubbles form at the edge of the pot)

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

DSC03167Cut 3 or 4 pieces of cheesecloth slightly larger than the size of your colander or alternatively do what I did and take a huge piece and just fold it over 4 times.  Run it under the faucet to get wet and then wring out the cheesecloth and line a colander.  Place it in a larger bowl or in your sink.  I did a bowl but had to empty it a couple of times so if you can spare your sink for several hours it’s probably the best way to go.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of a large pot (your pasta pot would work well here). Pour in the milk and cream and slowly warm it over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it’s 185 degrees.

DSC03170

The original recipe said it would take 20 minutes, it took me 30, just be careful not to get impatient and jack up the heat.  You want a slow gentle heat.  Once its at 185 degrees take it off the heat and stir in the salt.  Then you want to slowly pour the lemon juice over the surface of the milk.

DSC03177 DSC03178

Ok here is where it gets exciting – start to stir the whole thing gently.  Nothing will happen immediately so don’t start vigorously stirring.  Give it a minute or two and suddenly you have curds!

DSC03180 DSC03182

After 2-4 minutes you have all the curds that you are going to get and that is when you are likely thinking you just wasted a whole gallon of milk.  The curds are quite small and not cheese like at all but don’t dispar.  Gently ladle the curds into the prepared colander, they will start to collect and all the sudden it looks like a bowl of cheese!  Ladeling can be tedious but don’t skip this part otherwise all your curds will go right down the drain.

DSC03184DSC03186

Fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the curds to  cover and let it drain away.  If you are going to let it go a long time make sure to use the bowl method so you can place it in the fridge.  If under 3 to 4 hours then the sink will be fine.  You can drain it for as little as 30 minutes and up to a day depending on how firm you want it.  As you can see quite a bit drains out.

DSC03188 DSC03187

Transfer the drained ricotta to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

after 2 hours

Homemade Ricotta

  • Servings: 4 cups
  • Time: 1 hour or up to 1 day
  • Print

Special Equipment:  cheese cloth, candy thermometer (I used one but according to the original recipe you can skip it – the milk is ready when bubbles form at the edge of the pot)

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Cut 3 or 4 pieces of cheesecloth slightly larger than the size of your colander or alternatively do what I did and take huge piece and just fold it over 4 times.  Run it under the faucet to get wet and then wring out the cheesecloth and line a colander.  Place it in a larger bowl or in your sink.  I did a bowl but had to empty it a couple of times so if you can spare your sink for several hours it’s probably the best way to go.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of a large pot (your pasta pot would work well here). Pour in the milk and cream and slowly warm it over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it’s 185 degrees.  The original recipe said it would take 20 minutes, it took me 30, just be careful not to get impatient and jack up the heat.  You want a slow gentle heat.

Once its at 185 degrees take it off the heat and stir in the salt.  Then you want to slowly pour the lemon juice over the surface of the milk.Ok here is where it gets exciting – start to stir the whole thing gently.  Nothing will happen immediately so don’t start vigorously stirring.  Give it a minute or two and suddenly you have curds!After 2-4 minutes you have all the curds that you are going to get and that is when you are likely thinking you just wasted a whole gallon of milk.  The curds are quite small and not cheese like at all but don’t dispar.

Gently ladle the curds into the prepared colander, they will start to collect and all the sudden it looks like a bowl of cheese!  Ladeling can be tedious but don’t skip this part otherwise all your curds will go right down the drain.Fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the curds to  cover and let it drain away.  If you are going to let it go a long time make sure to use the bowl method so you can place it in the fridge.  If under 3 to 4 hours then the sink will be fine.  You can drain it for as little as 30 minutes and up to a day depending on how firm you want it. Transfer the drained ricotta to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

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