Thursday, October 30, 2014

About Ricotta Cheese

Our home is in the country.  Just ask the city folks who know us!  We live on a 3.5 acre wooded, hilly lot on a private road (which means that we have to pay for repaving) (and the Google people don't come up and take pictures for Street view). 

We are not, however, remote.  It takes about 8 minutes to get to the Walmart to the west of us and 10 minutes to get to the one to the east of us.  Honestly, that is closer than most of our city friends.  If I run out of something in the middle of cooking, it is not that big a problem for me to get in the car and run to the store.  Especially since I now have reliable transportation!

But some days I just don't want to stop in the middle of what I am doing, change clothes, and go to town.  I also don't like to go to the store and spend money unless I really, really need something (it's a Dave Ramsey thing).  I find ways to work around or make substitutions and move on with life.  I also like the satisfaction of making things myself.

Perusing the internet and some cook books a year or so ago, I discovered that one can make ricotta cheese.  From scratch!  I kept meaning to try it.  This week I wanted to make a casserole for a friend.  I had everything I needed except the ricotta cheese.  Aha!  A golden opportunity!  I found some cheese cloth and picked up a bottle of good quality white wine vinegar and I was ready to go. 

I found a recipe from The Barefoot Contessa (any woman who cooks barefoot and refers to herself as The Contessa has my attention).  Four ingredients.  Minimal fuss.  Rave reviews (except for the one purist who insists that this is not REAL ricotta cheese but only a "nice" cottage cheese.  Bless his heart!).  Here is the link to the recipe

This recipe is easy, and it is GOOD!  So here we go, in case you run out and want to give it a try.

The Ingredients: 
1 quart whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, (the Contessa uses a full 2 cups)
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tablespoons good white wine vinegar

 You also need a good sieve and enough cheese cloth to make a double thickness in the sieve.  Dampen it before you spread it out in there.

Put this over a tall pot of some sort so you can drain the whey after you finish the cooking.

Once you have that set up and ready, put the milk, cream and salt into a sturdy pot.

I prefer to use the copper bottomed pot I inherited from my mother-in-law.  It's one of my favorites, for many reasons.

Here is the hard part.  Turn on the stove and stir frequently.  Heat it to boiling.

That's right.  You are going to boil the milk.  I know, I know; our mothers always told us that you NEVER  let milk come to a boil because it RUINS IT.  Make yourself go ahead and let it come to a boil.  Console yourself.  As soon as it boils, you are going to turn off the heat.  Does that make you feel better?  It helped me.

After you turn off the heat, add the 3 Tablespoons of vinegar.  I have heard that you can use plain ol' every day distilled white vinegar.  I decided to live on the wild side and use "nice" vinegar.

Stir the vinegar in for 1 minute and watch it curdle.

It doesn't inspire confidence, does it?  Hold on.

Now pour it into that cheese cloth that you have lining the sieve sitting over the tall pot.

It doesn't really strand like that; it's just a lucky shot with the camera

And just let it sit there and drain for a while.  The Contessa says to let it go for at least 20-25 minutes.  I prefer mine moist rather than dry and 15 minutes was plenty long for me.  Partly because my pot is so tall.  If you have a shorter pot, you will have to drain the whey once or twice to keep the cheese from sitting in the liquid, so that might take a little longer.

When you get it to the consistency you want, put it in a container.  After you taste some, of course!

Then you take the whey and pour it into a clean quart jar.  Go look on Google and you will find plenty of suggestions for how to use that.  I'm going to be trying it in some whole-wheat bread this weekend.

Look at you; you just made Ricotta cheese!  Someone asked me tonight what in the world I am going to do with all of this Ricotta cheese?  This stuff is so good that in addition to lasagna and the casserole (Spicy Italian and Cheese Noodles), I think I may put some on an English Muffin for breakfast in the morning.  Now I just have to go make English Muffins.....

Have fun!

1 comment:

Pat Sparks said...

It really is as easy as you make it look but words can't describe how truly delicious it is and what a wonderful pan of Lasagna it really makes along with the mozzarella cheese added of course! Going to get brave tomorrow to make on my own this time. Thanks Virginia!