Making Cheese at Home #1 Whole Milk Ricotta
Happy New Year! Following the year of meat in 2011, 2012 is going to be the year of cheese in the Midgley house. I got a cheese making kit for Christmas (it was an excellent Christmas present in 2009 that got me started with the sausage making, and Graham has realised that he can also benefit if she chooses my Christmas present wisely).
Following some research, I discovered that I could’ve been making cheese for years already. I didn’t actually have to wait until I got the fancy cheese making kit to make cheese at home, as there are some cheeses that can be made very easily, with no special equipment or ingredients.
Some cheeses definitely look easier to make than others. I didn’t want to spend ten months lovingly tending to my first cheese, only to find it is inedible at the end. I was lent a book that rates cheeses with a star rating, with one being the easiest and five being the most difficult. One star cheeses are most definitely the best place to start.
With the first phase of research under my wing I got cracking with what seems to be one of the easiest cheeses out there, whole milk ricotta. The first thing I have learnt with cheese making is that you have to use good quality milk. I now know why cheese is so expensive! But even me, as a milk hater, could taste the difference between cheese made with the average supermarket milk and cheese made with the better quality, organic supermarket milk. I would still like to increase the milk quality to the next level, but all of our local markets are closed in January, so I just have to be patient (I’m not very good at being patient which is why I rushed out on Christmas Eve to buy milk and all they had left was average stuff).
Making cheese reminds me a bit of magic, even more so than making meat. The part I have found most astounding is that most cheeses start with the same basic ingredient: milk; and the only variation is the cultures and stuff that go in it and the temperatures you heat it to. Simple, it’s amazing!
Once you have sourced your ingredients, you need to ensure all of the equipment is sterilised, then away you go.
To make about 350g of Whole milk Ricotta (plus or minus the spoonfuls that don’t make it to the tub)
2 litres of whole milk
45ml white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
non-iodised salt to taste
Large, heavy based pan
In a large pan, gently heat the milk until it reaches 93-95 degrees Celsius, do not allow it to boil. Once the milk reaches the correct temperature (this will take about 20-30 minutes) add the vinegar, stir, then allow to stand for 15 minutes to allow the curds and whey to separate. Some recipes suggest heating in a double boiler, however I don’t have one. If heating the milk directly in the pan, it must be done gently, so the milk does not burn and stick to the bottom of the pan.
While the curds and whey are resting, line a colander with the butter muslin, and set over a large pan to catch the whey. You can discard the whey, but I hate waste, so I save mine to make into other cheeses (I will post about them soon).
After 15 minutes the curds should have separated from the whey, if they haven’t leave to stand for a little longer, or you may need to add a little more acid. Once separated, drain in the muslin lined colander.
The length of time you allow the curd to drain will determine the texture of the ricotta. Season to taste and the ricotta is ready to eat immediately. It will keep in sealed container in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.
For a drier ricotta that is good for baking, I hung mine in the muslin for a couple of hours, then pressed into a mould (a circular, food storage container with a basket). The ricotta was then left to dry for a few days, making sure it holds together for baking.