The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Home-Grown Ricotta

May 8th, 2015 · No Comments · Posted in farming


Here’s Thursday’s breakfast: a bowl of fresh ricotta cheese with a side of bacon.

We milk our Jersey cow Emily by hand twice each day, resulting in nearly a gallon of milk just from the rear two quarters of her udder. We leave the front quarters for her calf, who’s growing like a weed.

What to do with all that milk? We don’t drink milk. Our daughter’s lactose intolerant. Our intention all along was to make cheese–or maybe buy a pig and feed it the leftover dairy. We still don’t have the pig, but recently my wife started on the cheese project. She thought a simple ricotta would be a good place to hone her skills. But try as she might, she could not get the milk to curdle and it was driving her ’round the bend.

It sounds simple enough: you heat the milk, then add an acid, like the citric acid she purchased online from a cheese supply outlet, or even something as simple as distilled vinegar. She’d heat a pot of milk, add the acid. But each time the milk just stared back at her: no curdles, no cheese.

She was about ready to throw in the towel but doubled down on her online research instead. Finally she found the problem: We were storing our milk too long before starting the cheese process.

See, we’re using raw milk. What’s the point of pasteurizing it, we figured, if we’re just going to heat it for cheese? But apparently the proteins in raw milk begin to deteriorate if you refrigerate it more than about 36 hours and it’s those proteins you need to bind together when heated to form the cheese. So we tried something totally different. We collected milk in the morning and let that sit out on the kitchen counter all day to cure a bit, then added the milk from later in the evening. Last night my wife followed the recipe again, gently heating the milk, adding the citric acid, stirring just barely, and voila!

We both stared into the pot as the protein-rich curds separated from the whey. “Those sure look like curds, don’t you think?” my wife said excitedly.

Ever so carefully–ever so slowly–she gathered the rapidly forming curds into the middle of the murky liquid, pushing them along with a  spatula as she measured the temperature with an instant-read thermometer. When the needle pointed to 195 degrees Fahrenheit, she stopped gathering and allowed the curds to rest for 15 minutes. Then she drained the whole mess through cheese cloth to reveal a softball-sized mass of perfectly white, ever-so-fine ricotta.

Never were we so glad to see basic kitchen chemistry actually work as promised. Can home-grown lasagna be far behind?

Leave a Comment

Please note: Your comment may have to wait for approval to be published to ensure that we don't accidentally publish "spam". We thank you for understanding.


There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.