If someone told me that four ingredients and about thirty minutes in the kitchen would yield my very first homemade cheese, I’m not sure I would have believed them. Until yesterday.
Though our Culinary training at Escoffier is based on French technique, this week is an exploration of all things from Italia, and I’m in absolute heaven. Not just for the Ricotta and Ricotta Salada that I’ll share today, but also for the fresh pasta, potato gnocchi, bruschetta, polenta, biscotti, cannoli… the list is lengthening so quickly I’m literally overwhelmed.
Italians are the masters of slow food, simple food, local food, sustainable food… using restraint in the kitchen in such a way that the ingredient itself shines; growing produce and raising animals in a manner that is ethically sound, actually beneficial to the earth, and planet-sustainable for generation after generation.
And I’m sure every country- Italia included- has its share of ethical food challenges. But we have so much room for improvement here in the states… I’ll devote many posts to this in the future, but I hope this will plant seeds of thought in the meantime. And I want to show you cheese!
This is an incredibly simple way to make your first homemade cheese. For cheese making experts, this is not a strictly traditional Ricotta, but it’s pretty close for a home cook. And if it will bring even one of you into the kitchen to make fresh cheese with me… then it’s a win in my book.
Simple Homemade Ricotta Cheese
yield about one pound; active time less than 30 min
- 1 gallon milk (about 3.75 L)- try to find milk that isn’t ultra-pasteurized
- 1 quart buttermilk (about 950 mL)
- juice from half a lemon
- salt to taste
1. Heat milk in a large pot just until bubbles begin to form around the edges
2. Add the buttermilk and lemon juice and bring to a simmer, stirring gently and occasionally. You will notice the solid curds separating from the liquid whey.
3. Once you’ve reached a simmer, remove from heat and cover for 15 minutes.
4. Gently pour the mixture through a strainer or colander lined with a few layers of cheesecloth. You will have curds remaining in the cheesecloth, and whey liquid strained out.
Note: save your whey liquid- it’s packed with incredible protein and can be used as a base for smoothies, to substitute for the water in making bread to create a healthier loaf- try this easy Basic French Bread, or chilled for a protein-rich breakfast drink. I love it straight, but you could definitely add a little honey if you prefer.
Tie your cloth of curds into a bundle and hang over a small pan in the refrigerator to continue draining for a few hours. Season to taste with salt and you have a moist, homemade Ricotta cheese. This is incredible as is, and can also be mixed with herbs for sandwich spreads, ravioli filling, added to salads… or sweetened and used is dessert applications.
To turn your fresh Ricotta into Ricotta Salada, simply let it continue to drain refrigerated in the cheesecloth unit it becomes crumbly and dry. Ricotta Salada can be substituted anywhere you’d use a dry, crumbly cheese.
Give it a try, and let me know if your friends and neighbors don’t love you more than they already do. Buon appetito, cheese makers~