Way back when, I made ricotta. I was working on a daring cooks challenge, at the last minute as usual, and I needed some ricotta fast. I followed that directions that Lisa Michele so lovingly passed along, and all I got was milk mixed with lemon juice.
I googled frantically. Ricotta! Homemade! Now!
I came to a new mixture, and google told me to use white vinegar, and to stir, stir, stir.
I did so, and was triumphant. I told you all about it.
OK, fast forward to a day in our more recent past. I am making ricotta again, and a new friend walks into my kitchen and says,
Oh! You're the one with the blog. I made ricotta!
Oh, happiness. Any cheese making from which I have planted the seed is ecstasy for me.
But then she goes back and plants a new seed.
"So this ricotta, you make... it's drier than what you buy at the store."
She is very right. In fact, it's downright squeaky.
"Do you know how to make a creamier ricotta, more like store bought?"
And I did not. This ricotta was very good for several things, chocolate ricotta mousse, for example, and decent for lasagne. But she had a very good point; this is not a ricotta that you'd want to drizzle with honey and eat with a spoon.
Well, you know how I am when I get a challenge.
I'm a little nuts until I find the solution.
Remember that whole gingerbread thing?
So, a few weeks later, I've got it. I found the answer in a place I would have never looked had I not installed it on my counter this past week, The Splendid Table. Tucked in the midst of the Chestnut keeping cakes and semifreddos was a little page just for me. There it was, Fresh Ricotta. I have seen many recipes for ricotta, but Ms. Kasper seemed to have my number.
You see, the vinegar inspired ricotta has a very large curd, it is really more like straight cheese curds. But she told me something new, that "slowly heating the milk mixture develops a soft ricotta curd. Fast heating hardens the curd, producing a very different cheese."
That very different cheese would be the one in my refrigerator.
So, I followed her recipe, and there it was, creamy, sweet, small curd ricotta.
So no more waiting... here it is.
from Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Splendid Table
makes about 1 pound
2 1/2 quarts whole milk
1/4 cup less 1 tablespoon heavy cream (not ultrapasteurized) (I left this out, as I was using cream on top raw milk)
5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
Stir together all of the ingredients except the salt in a heavy saucepan with a nonreactive interior. Set the pan over low heat. Cook 40 minutes, or until the milk reaches 170 on a candy thermometer. (Use the thermometer! It's a really good idea) Keep the heat at low, and do not stir more than three or four times. As the milk comes closer to 170, the curds will be about the size of uncooked lentils. When the temperature reaches 170, turn the heat up to medium. Do not stir. Take six to eight minutes to bring the temperature up to 205 or 208. The liquid will be on the verge of boiling, with the surface looking like it about to erupt. Turn off the heat and let the pot stand for 10 minutes.
Line a colander with a double thickness of moistened cheesecloth. Turn the mixture into it, and let it drain for 15 minutes. Use the whey for bread or soups, and put the cheese into a storage container, adding salt at this point.