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Homemade Ricotta

February 18, 2011

A departure – I’m branching out from my cheese cookbook, the aforementioned Home Cheesemaking, and looking for better recipes online. Today’s my first attempt at ricotta, and my guidance is coming from Martha Stewart.

In my experience, Martha Stewart recipes produce outstanding results but are more complicated than need be. Best case in point is her Golden Caramels recipe — more complex than any other I have tried, but also far and away the best.

So I was delighted to find that the Martha Stewart Homemade Ricotta is actually dead simple. Just four ingredients: whole milk, cream, lemon juice, and salt. No unnecessary complications! Go Martha. I felt like an ad for Whole Foods when I assembled the ingredients and realized that 3 of the 4 were the 365 store brand. Yes, it is great to use local milk. But 365 milk also works perfectly well.

You might note that these ingredients are nearly the same as the ingredients for paneer and, well, for many other cheeses. I’m starting to think that cheesemaking is much like breadmaking: Same ingredients most of the time, just in different proportions.

  • Fine cheesecloth
  • Sieve
  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt

And here is what you do with these ingredients:

  • Line your sieve with fine cheesecloth and put it in the sink
  • Combine milk and cream and cook at medium-low until you reach 190 degrees F, stirring occasionally.
  • Add lemon juice and salt and stir until mixture separates into curds and whey.
  • Pour the mixture into your cheesecloth-lined sieve. Let sit for ten minutes, lifting the corners of the cheesecloth occasionally to “stir” the ricotta.
  • Serve and enjoy!

My faith in Martha was tested when, a minute after adding the lemon juice, I failed to see the normal distinction between curds and whey typical in most cheesemaking. I had failed to continue boiling the milk after adding the lemon juice, instead turning the heat to low, and I thought I had messed things up. (I hate when that happens. Wasting milk feels like a crime.)

When I went to pour the milk down the drain, I figured I might as well put a spoonful into my cheesecloth. And that spoonful hung out. Even though the liquid seemed to be about the same consistency as milk, there really were granules of whey in there. So I poured the entire thing in. What do you know? My cheesecloth found ricotta in what looked to me an awful lot like milk. Below is a time-lapse photo series so you can see how the whey drains out and leaves nothing but incredibly delicious ricotta behind.

So, Martha, your recipe works. And, in fact, the ricotta is sublime. Best I have ever had. Better than the awesome Maplebrook Farm or Narragansett Creamery ricotta they sell at Whole Foods.

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