I love Italian cheeses. Mozzarella, ricotta, mascarpone…. That’s one of the reasons I have decided to master making each one on my own. You can’t beat fresh cheese. Ricotta and mascarpone are the easiest two to make. I always make my own mascarpone whenever I make tiramisu. So, why not make my own ricotta for a dish I’ve been thinking about lately. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Making ricotta requires only four ingredients. Milk, salt, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and distilled vinegar. Throw in a bit of heating time for your milk and you’ve got it. The first time I made ricotta (or mascarpone) I was amazed at how simple it was to make. Now whenever I need some ricotta for a recipe, I just throw some together. Keep in mind, it takes quite a bit of milk to make it. A half gallon of milk only makes two cups of ricotta. So, if you need to make more, you’ll need to increase your milk.
Once you’re done making that lovely cheese, you’ll have quite a bit of whey left over. Don’t throw it out. Whey can stay fresh in your refrigerator for up to six months if you keep it in a sealed glass container. You can even freeze it in a zip lock bag either all at once, or frozen into individual ice cubes and stored in the bag. Though once the whey is thawed, it needs to be used so if you pour it all into the zip lock bag and freeze it that way, you’ll have to use the whole bag once thawed.
Whey can be used in many different ways. Ricotta makes acid whey since you’re using lemon juice and vinegar to subtract it from the milk. You can use it as a buttermilk substitute in baking or to marinate meats. It can also be used to soak grains or beans in or as a broth for soup. It’s very nutritious. You can even use it to cook pasta or rice in, though some of the nutrients will be boiled out, but you’ll add a great flavor to the pasta or rice. So let’s get started on that ricotta.
Makes: About 2 cups
2½ tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. distilled white vinegar, plus more as needed
2 quarts pasteurized whole milk
1 tsp. salt
- Be sure your milk is fresh homogenized or pasteurized – not ultra-pasteurized or ultra-heat-treated (these will not curdle correctly).
- Combine the milk and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Continue to heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk registers 185˚ F on an instant-read thermometer.
- While the milk is heating, prepare a colander and line with a double layer of cheesecloth. (Cheesecloth can be found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores).
- Once the milk has reached the desired 185˚ F, remove from the heat.
- Stir in the lemon juice and vinegar. The mixture will begin to curdle quickly. Stir just enough to evenly distribute the acids. Let rest 5-10 minutes.
- When the mixture is adequately curdled, it will have separated into white curds and translucent yellow whey. Gently stir at the edge to ensure that this has occurred. If there is still milky whey in the in the pot after 10 minutes, add in more vinegar 1 tablespoon at a time and let sit 2-3 minutes more until the curds separate.
- Very carefully pour the mixture into the prepared colander. If you want to reserve the whey, be sure to place a bowl underneath the colander. Let drain about 8-12 minutes (shorter for a moist result, longer for a drier end product. Moist is best for an appetizer-type spread, drier is better for lasagna and the like.) Transfer the curds to a bowl, stir, cover, and refrigerate until chilled. Store up to 5 days.
Recipe from Everyday Annie