Tuesday, May 22, 2012

say cheese

I was watching an episode of Happy Endings (Year of Penny!) last week and Max was complaining about his hipster brother and his "ricotta-making wife."  And even though I know it wasn't supposed to inspire me, I was reminded through my laughter that I had a recipe for ricotta stuck to my kitchen idea board.  

Purists will tell you true ricotta is made from heating whey and separating the curds (I'm really starting to feel like Little Miss Muffet...) but this super simple at home method does the trick and certainly yields a result better than most of what you find in the supermarket and for a lower price and without the preservatives.

And it pretty much took me longer to tell you all this than it took to actually make fresh cheese at home.

the how to

heat 2 litres of 3.25% milk over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it starts to get steamy and foamy.  Resist the urge to hurry this along by raising the heat: scalded or boiled over milk is no one's friend.  Once heated, remove the pot from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1/2 tsp of kosher salt (use kosher as iodine in table salt can react with the flavour) and let set for about two minutes as curds separate.   Strain the cheese using a  fine mesh strainer lined with two layers of cheesecloth. Ricotta can be kept sealed in the fridge for about a week.

To what degree you strain it is your choice.  As you can see from the photo above I went dry. I wanted it to be quite solid for tossing with Nashwaak noodles, baking into a leek and asparagus frittata etc.  If you want your ricotta to have a creamier, more spreadable texture you can stir in a little heavy cream or olive oil before using. (you could also toss in a few chopped fresh herbs!)  I stirred in a little Persian lime-infused olive oil and topped some flatbreads with ricotta, cherry tomatoes and basil - so delicious!

In related news - I hate paying $8 a tub for mascarpone cheese and it turns out making that at home is just as easy as the ricotta.  (And cheap at about $2 for a 375ml of cheese)

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