The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Making Ricotta

February 10th, 2010 · 5 Comments · Posted in Recipes

Making ricotta: This is not my wife

Cooking the milk: This is not my wife

My wife recently had an itch to make ricotta cheese. She says that cheese making and writing limericks are her new passions. Who knew?

Anyway, her ricotta, made with the grassfed milk we get from our local dairy, was the best I’ve ever tasted: thick and creamy. I ate it right out of the bowl, although I suppose you could make a smashing cheese cake with it, or lasagna. Sorry, I finished it before we ever got that far.

In Italian, ricotta means “re-cooked,” because this really isn’t a cheese, but rather a byproduct of the cheese making process. When the milk is heated to make the cheese, the whey separates from the protein. The protein becomes the cheese. Except that there’s usually some protein still left in the whey. If you cook that again (ri-cotta), the remaining protein forms ricotta.

So what happens when you cook regular milk–instead of whey–to make ricotta? Well, as I’ve said, you get an incredible ricotta, although technically speaking it isn’t “re-cooked”: it’s only been cooked once. You also end up with a lot of whey. But we’ll get to that.

To make the ricotta, my wife used the method described in the February-March issue of ReadyMade magazine. To make 2 2/3 cups ricotta, pour 1 gallon whole milk and 4 cups buttermilk into a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, line a colander with four layers of cheesecloth and set inside a large bowl.

Stir the milk, scraping the bottom of the pot, until the milk is slightly hot to the touch. White, fluffy curds will begin to separate from the paler whey. About a minute after the first curds begin to form, remove the pot from the heat and use a slotted spoon to scoop the curds into the cloth-lined colander.

Gather the cloth around the curds and let it drain for a minute (more if you want the cheese drier). Salt to taste and it’s done!

How simple could that be? You can eat the ricotta spread on bread or crackers with jam (we love our green tomato and apple chutney for this), or use it in baked goods. But now you have a pot full of whey. Do not throw it out! Tomorrow we’ll describe how to turn that extremely healthful whey into a terrific cream of broccoli soup.

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  • fastweedpuller

    Yay. What I love about ricotta is there are so many different “wheys” to make it. I use my cider vinegar to do it…so it (will) make it completely homemade. And, so many uses! Even my cheese-averse husband will eat it.

  • Diane

    After years of lasagna deprivation due to lactose intolerance I discovered that lactose free milk can be used to make paneer which is a good substitute for ricotta. I find it tastier made with lemon juice rather than vinegar and use Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe.

  • Christa

    Hi Ed,

    I’m curious to know your source for local grassfed milk. Can you share, please?

  • Ed Bruske

    El, instant recognition from my wife. The vinegar would stand in for the buttermilk in this recipe, resulting in much less way. I think guys like this home-made ricotta because it’s like baby food–a real comfort.

    Diane, excellent suggestion. We haven’t made paneer, but that would also be something for my food appreciation classes when we get to India on our virtual world food tour. So many of the same themes run through cuisines all around the globe.

    Christa, we get delivery from South Mountain Creamery. I’ll be they deliver where you are. Give them a jimgle. Easy to find via Google.

  • Christa

    Cool. I just signed up with SMC last week and was supposed to get my first delivery…uh, tomorrow (probably not, given Snowmaggedon.) Was just curious to know about other sources. Thanks!