Saturday, September 14, 2013

Making Ricotta Cheese

I got it into my head that I wanted to make ricotta cheese this weekend. I think it was partly because my favorite cooking blog posted a tutorial about it recently and partly because I would be up on the South Hill where I could get milk from a local Spokane dairy:
I met the woman who owns this farm with her husband last March when I took a cheese-making class. The milk is pasturized only to 145 degrees, not homogenized, and has the cream on the top like in the good old days. I used a recipe from a blog called Annie's Eats. The ingredients are simple: white vinegar, milk, salt, and lemon juice. 
After mixing salt and milk, I heated the milk to 185 degrees, took the milk off the heat, and stirred in the lemon juice and vinegar. After leaving the mixture to curdle for about 10 minutes, I poured it into a curtain-lined colander over a bowl to catch the whey. I used the curtain in place of cheesecloth and it worked perfectly.
Here is the colander over the bowl of whey:

Here's me squeezing more whey out of the cheese. I have to admit that it was ridiculously fun to squeeze out the warm whey. My housemate was laughing at me.
It's amazing how much whey is left over after making the cheese! Good thing my co-worker sent me a link to a blog with 16 uses for whey. I'm thinking of freezing some of my whey in ice cube trays, using it to water my house plants, and cooking potatoes and oatmeal in it. I tasted it, and I can hardly describe the taste: fresh, slightly sour, rich.  

And here's the finished product!

It's amazing that eight cups of milk makes only two cups of ricotta. It made me realize how precious cheese is and why it's expensive. I have several ideas for how to use my cheese. I'm thinking of spreading it on sliced ciabatta bread with salami (from Trader Joe's!) and garden tomatoes. I'll let you know how it turns out. :)

Have you made something from scratch before? How did it turn out? Was it worth the effort?

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