Family Farm

Family Farm

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Spinfully Easy Homemade Ricotta

Homemade ricotta is creamy and sublime, and it only takes about 10 minutes of your time.
Really…this is so easy I’m almost embarrassed to write a Spin about it. The main reason I am writing a Spin is to extol the awesomeness that is homemade ricotta and convince you to elevate ricotta in your kitchen. Why? Because store-bought ricotta tastes like crap and it’s no wonder few people use it beyond lasagna (where it is well hidden, I might add). Yes, I’m sure there are those out there who worship the stuff, and I applaud your loyalty and iron-clad taste buds. In a survival situation, no doubt I’d want to hunker down with folk like you because you are ever optimistic, I can tell.
For everyone else, homemade ricotta will be a whole new ingredient in your kitchen. As I said, it’s ridiculously easy to make (about 10 minutes hands-on) and it’s sublime in its tastiness. You can make it creamy and moist, or crumbly and dry. You can use it in savory or sweet dishes. It can be for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You could probably even throw it in the bathtub for an awesome skin moisturizer (I just made that up, but it sounds about right….).
First, the recipe (to see the video on this process, check out Rural Spin Makes Ricotta):
INGREDIENTS (Revised from The Home Creamery by Kathy Farrel-Kinglsey)
  • 1/2 gallon whole milk (pasteurized is fine, but avoid ultra-homogenized milk)
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons cream (this is optional, depending upon if you want it really creamy, like for a dessert)
Heat your milk in a heavy-bottomed pot until it reaches 185F. Turn off the heat and stir in your vinegar and salt; you’ll immediately see the curds starting to separate from the whey. But after an initial stir, don’t stir again. Here’s what it looks like within a minute of adding the vinegar and salt:

Immediately after stirring vinegar and salt into your warmed milk, the curds separate from the whey.
Put the lid on it and leave it sit for two hours……….THAT’S IT! Two hours later you have ricotta:

After two hours of sitting, your ricotta has totally separated from the whey.
To separate the curds from the whey, place a colander into a large bowl and line it with butter muslin, cheese muslin, paper towels, or a dish towel — just something that will allow the whey to pass through. Using a spoon, ladle, or skimmer, remove the ricotta from the pot and place in the colander. You may end up with a little or a lot of whey in your catch-bowl, depending upon what you used to remove the cheese. You could also just place the colander in the sink if you don’t want to save the whey. But try the whey for cooking (it’s great used in breads or biscuits, stirred into soups, or used to cook beans).
Now you just need to decide what character you want your ricotta to have. If you want it for a dessert, maybe you want it to be creamier. In that case, place your drained ricotta in a bowl and add a tablespoon or two of cream. If you are going to use it in something like lasagna, or as a topping for a stew (yum), you might want it really dry; in this case you can easily take the edges of your towel or muslin and gather them up to form a pouch around the ricotta. Then, gently squeeze the pouch until the excess liquid is removed.
Here are some suggested uses for ricotta, which I have served in my kitchen:

The uses for homemade ricotta are only limited by your imagination.
  • Mix 1/2 cup ricotta with plenty of nuts, fresh fruit, and rolled oats for a great breakfast. A drizzle of maple syrup doesn’t hurt.
  • Drizzle with chocolate and top with chocolate chips for a dessert.
  • Use in the place of cottage cheese in any recipe or use.
  • Use in cheesecakes instead of cream cheese, for a less rich cheesecake with a deeper flavor.
  • Mix with a tablespoon of sour cream as a more substantial side to Mexican dishes.
  • Add to soups and stews for a rich consistency.
  • Use as a filling for ravioli (and of course lasagna).
  • Spread on toast along with honey.
  • Serve on toasted bread along with sun dried tomatoes and lettuce for a tasty lunch.
  • Mix well with peanut butter and chocolate syrup and freeze for an amazing dessert.
  • Mix with fresh herbs and garlic for tasty party spreads.
  • I could go on forever…but you get the idea.
That’s really all there is to it. I encourage you to try homemade ricotta. It’s decadent and rich, and cheaper than store-bought. And if you think you hate ricotta, please try this. You will be pleasantly surprised!

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