Let me explain how I came to make my own ricotta cos it's quite a good old yarn. One fine evening a few days before the end of summer we gave some home baked bread to Katya and Andrey, our neighbours opposite, as a thank you for helping us (= Tom) chainsaw our wood into axe-friendly chunklets. The next morning I was roused from my slovenly slumber at 11 am by Katya who was at the gate with a two litre bottle of milk fresh from the cow! She also gave us some delicious grapes and apples from her garden. I thanked her and, all to aware that she had probably been up for hours milking their thirty cows, I embarrassingly tried to make it appear as though I had been out of bed for hours (I think she and Andrey get up at 4am or something crazy... they work very hard indeed).
I wanted to make something with the milk. It was very flavourful but, not having the palette for glass after glass of milk (refrigerated or no), I wanted to do something special with it as pouring it over my cereal or into my tea seemed like a bit of an insult. I did have a token glassful... so creamy! It was basically like drinking cream. So, I thought, as I wiped my chin, why not make some cheese?
And so I did. Ricotta is a delicious simple cheese that doesn't require rennet, cultures or a thermometer. Although I think real ricotta is made from boiling whey (the leftover liquid from cheese production) and has a smooth consistency, this ricotta is made from both curd and whey and hence has the grainy texture of the shop bought ricotta you may be familiar with. Obviously it tastes a whole lot better than that because I made it, innit!
And here's how:
4 pints (2.2 litres) whole milk
lemon juice, splash
Boil the milk
Try to keep all of your utensils sterile as this will drastically improve the shelf life of your cheese. The milk should be fresh – this recipe doesn't really work with UHT. The higher the fat content the higher the yield, so you can add cream if you wish to have a creamier cheese, or if you are into your lo-cal then use skimmed milk and the proportion of whey cheese will be higher. Heat up your milk with salt added slowly in a pan on the stove, stirring occasionally – best to do it in a non-stick pan or one with a heavy base, or you will end up with a black crust at the bottom which might affect the flavour, not to mention being a bitch to wash up. Bring it to the boil – boil it for a few minutes.
Prepare your sieve
In order to separate liquid from the solid cheese that forms you need a very fine sieve. I used a large muslin square folded into four, but as I write it occurs to me that having layers is actually a bad idea; it is better practise to sieve several times through a single layer, in order to catch any granules of ricotta that somehow made it through the cloth in such a way that you can spoon it off easily. You need something with quite a tight weave – so-called 'cheesecloth' is not adequate here as it has a very open weave that will just let everything pass through. I put the sieve in a large colander which sat over a pan to catch the liquid (I might cook with it later).
Curdle the milk
So your milk is boiling away gently. Now is time to add some lemon juice, which encourages curds to form. Add splash by splash – I probably added about two tablespoons – until the mixture curdles. Keep on the boil for a few minutes to make sure all curd and whey cheeses have solidified.
Take the pan off the heat and pour the contents into your prepared sieve. It may look a bit like.. well, let's not get too vulgar. Your home (and you I'm sorry to say) probably smell quite funky too. It will take several hours to be completely dry. Don't be tempted to squeeze the cloth, because you will force out some of the cheese. You could try gathering up the four corners of the cloth sieve and twisting two opposite corners around one another to form a ball on a string with two loose corners at the top to tie to one another. You can then hang it from something or other. I can't do this because of the darned cat, but it's probably the best way (whey).
Keep it in the fridge and it will last for about a week from my experience, but all the better for being fresher. I'm not going to tell you to eat it because you probably already have, you pig!
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2009 09:29|