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Monday, October 27, 2008

Easy cheese series - homemade ricotta

Homemade ricottaMaking your own cheese seems so horribly insurmountable that most people don't even think to try doing it themselves. It always seems like you need a ton of equipment, weird ingredients or a lot of patience to wait for your cheese to cure.

There are a number of cheeses you can make easily at home, mostly the soft style ones, with little skill and effort. I'm doing a series of cheese making posts to get you all started and to get me inspired to make them myself.

I'll be starting with some of the easier ones and working my way up to the more complicated ones. But, rest assured, I won't be telling you about cheeses that you can't easily make yourself, since I have little interest in spending all my time making cheese.

This first recipe is for making ricotta. There is a huge difference between freshly made ricotta and that dry lumpy stuff packaged in plastic that you get from the store. There's just no comparison since you are using so little in the way of ingredients and you don't having to worry about long shelf life dates.

So, here goes!

Whole Milk Ricotta

Ingredients
1 gallon whole milk
1/4 cup white vinegar (or lemon juice)
2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)

Instructions
If you like your ricotta extra creamy, add the heavy cream to the whole milk and heat on medium-low to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring often to make sure it doesn't boil or scald. This is a slow process that should take about 25 minutes, you don't want to rush this step.

Once the milk has reached temperature, gently stir in the vinegar (or lemon juice), being careful not to over stir. Take the milk mixture off the heat and let sit for about 10 minutes. You should see the ricotta curd separating from the whey.

Using a slotted spoon, ladle the curds into a lined colander (thin weave cloth like a cotton kitchen towel or double cheesecloth works well) being careful not to break up the curds. Let your ricotta drain in the colander for about 45 minutes or until desired consistency is reached (some people prefer a drier ricotta in which case let it drain longer or even overnight in the refrigerator).

Store refrigerated for up to a week.

Yield
1.5 - 2 pounds

There are so many great recipes for using ricotta cheese, ranging from sweet to savory, that you'll probably never get bored of making this cheese.

Related posts:
Make your own yogurt
Do you need to try no knead bread?
Holy cow! I made my own butter

38 comments:

jenniepowell said...

Mmm, think I'll have to give this a go! I'm enjoying making lots of home made things like jams and marmalades at the moment, so this would be another one to add to the collection. Would it be suitable for freezer storage if there's too much for me to make in one go?

ruchi aka arduous said...

Oh, hey, no rennet required!

Hmmm... maybe I'll give this a go. Let's see how brave I am. ;)

Becky @ Boys Rule My Life said...

Do you think this would work using soy milk? We have a cow's milk allergy in the family, but I would love it if I could make soy cheese! Do you have any experience, by chance? Thanks!

badhuman said...

You know I've made my own mozzarella a bunch of times but I keep forgetting to try out other cheeses. This looks super easy and would be handy for recipes like lasagna that I'll be making more of now that the weather is turning cool.

organicneedle said...

Do you think it would work the same with skim or low fat?

JAM said...

I am going to try this too. I just started attempting yogurt, inspired by your yogurt post. My first try I used the keep warm setting on the crock pot - too hot, threw it out. Next try, on top of the warm stove during a day of baking. Came out pretty well, a little runny, but maybe it always would. Not too practical for my main method since rarely do I have the stove on that much. Third try, in an insulated casserole dish with hot pack microwaved to as hot as it can go. It made yogurt, but again, a little thin. Maybe I should get a yogurt maker, or maybe this is as good as it gets? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Kim from Milw said...

OMG, that's too easy!!! Thanks CC! This cheesehead is looking forward to your cheesy series. :)

Green Bean said...

Hmmm. I think I'm going to have to try this. Perhaps during Pioneer Week. Tally-ho.

Leila said...

Yes this looks like lots of fun.

Next up, paneer! Please?

Crunchy Chicken said...

Leila - yup! I'll do paneer soon.

Paneer for pioneers!

fullfreezer said...

Thanks for the post. I was worried about cheese during pioneer week. I was hoping to make lasagna (making pasta isn't a problem)but I've never tried making cheese. This looks so easy. Something else new to try. Hurray!!!

Chili said...

Thanks SO much! A perfect recipe for Raw Milk. I've been dying to try cheese, but didn't want any recipes requiring rennet. This is awesome.

Elaine said...

Becky - yes, you can use the same procedure with soymilk, and you can call it soy cheese if you want, but I think most people would recognize it as tofu :)

LS said...

I'll look forward to your post on paneer, because as I recall from my (long-ago) experiment with paneer making, the recipe is essentially the same as this. So what makes it different??

The Cooking Lady said...

Could this same recipe be used if you had access to raw milk? Could you implement the same cooking procedure? Or what about alternative milks such as soy, almond, rice.

I would love to make ricotta, but we no longer use regular store bought milk. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

maryann said...

I'm excited about the cheese making posts. I've managed to get the bread and pasta down and cheese has been on the list of things I want to learn to make. Most of the soft cheeses don't look too hard to do but I like reading everyone's feedback their experiences.

scifichick said...

I'll definitely give this a try too, sounds so easy! I like having soft cheese on bread and jam to top it off! Yum! =)

steph said...

Looking forward to the cheese series! I started making my own cheese this summer - wow is it addictive! To the cooking lady - I've made both mozzarella and queso blanco with raw milk and both have turned out great. You don't need store-bought milk. (Actually some store-bought milk is ultra-pasteurized, which doesn't work for making cheese.)

Mrs Flam said...

I Started Making Yogurt , then i moved on to cream cheese..slowly i have fallen in love with the process. Itt (The Cheese making process) , is just as satisfying as growing my own vegetables.

JessTrev said...

Cool! That looks easy. I will definitely try it. Thanks for the boost.

Sharlene said...

That seems easy enough and pretty cheap. I likey.

Robj98168 said...

one thing I hate is ricotta cheese- my mom never used it even in her lasagna or mannicotti. Nor did she use cottage cheese. But I will keep watching for some cheese I like or will try!

Young Snowbird said...

Could this be made using rehydrated powdered milk? I've got some powdered milk in the pantry, just sitting there, and I really like lasagne. hmmm, I signed up for pioneer week, I'll try to make this with the powdered and report back.

melomano said...

Ricotta rulezzzz!!!!!

greetz from germany

eduardo

thewindscreamsmary.blogspot.com

curiousalexa said...

I'm with Rob - I don't like ricotta. But I love cottage cheese! How different is homemade ricotta? because maybe it's just the commercial shippable stuff I don't like??

dean said...

Save the liquid when you drain the cheese, by draining it into a large stainless steel pot and storing in a sealed jar in the fridge. The liquid is whey and high in protein and calcium. you can use whey in all sorts of recipes.

The difference between ricotta cheese and cottage cheese is that ricotta traditionally contains whole milk and cottage cheese contains skim milk.

RC said...

Thank you so much Crunchy, I needed to be told how to do this, and I would love to see the mozzarella recipe too. Paneer sounds great also.

turtlewoman said...

I've been making my own soft cheeses for about a year now - thanks to Barbara Kingsolver and Ricky :) It's sooooooo..... easy! I do have some problems with mozzerella - if I don't carefully follow instructions it does't set up properly - but all the others are just so super easy. Along with all the obvious benefits - like better taste and saving $ I know when I make these cheeses what the ingredients are and where they came from. I am also not purchasing additional packaging which has to be disposed of or recycled in some way.

Does it always turn out perfect? No! But the mistakes are always good in lasagna or some other pasta dish or used to bake with. I have never - NEVER - thrown away a batch because it didn't turn out as expected.

Lindy in the Sonoran Desert where we rarely need much heat in the winter.

turtlewoman said...

Jennie Powell asked if she can freeze - I have frozen my cheeses. They are fine for baking or cooking with once they have been frozen and thawed but are quite crumbly and will not slice well once thawed. Also works fine in salads once thawed. However, I do not freeze my milk prior to making cheese - I have never gotten "cheese" when I do this. Does anybody know why?

Organic Needle (:?) asked about using skim or low fat milk. It works but does not work as well and does not taste nearly as good.

Jam regarding yogurt: Try using a cooler - put in your jars of treated milk (do NOT boil first) and add water that is almost too warm to touch up to the rim of the jars. Put the cooler lid on tight and leave in a warm place in your house overnight. You should have yogurt for breakfast. It will be runny - the commercial stuff has added ingredients to help make it thick. Traditional yogurt (the real stuff) is always runny. Works great if you can get raw milk.

As for the leftover whey? I use it in all my baking - lots of good nutrients in that whey.

I am looking forward to more cheesey posts:-D

Lindy

Abi said...

Crunchy, this turned out so well!! I am impressed. Thanks for the recipe!

Emily said...

I tried the recipe today and it worked, except that I needed about 1/2 cup vinegar instead of 1/4 cup. Used it for dinner tonight and my mom (a ricotta fanatic) and guests raved. I could barely get them to stop eating the cheese as it was draining on the counter!

Crunchy Chicken said...

Emily - yeah, I ran into the same problem when I was making it yesterday. I think somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of white vinegar is probably the way to go.

Oh, and it turned out fantastic!

Emily said...

I'm still at a loss as to what to do with all the whey!

TheOrganicSister said...

But what can I do with the leftover whey??

~Tara

YAMUNA said...

Anyone wondering what to do with the whey.. one way to go is in place of vegetable stock in soup or additional to the stock.

For those of you who want a less watery yogurt.. put a papertowel in a colander and pour your yogurt in.. place the colander over a bowl and stick it in the fridge for a few minutes or longer depending on how thick you want it to be.. basically some of the water will drain out and you can plop it into a container once you reach desired consistancy.

I've been making paneer since i was a kid.. basically you follow recipe above but instead of letting the curds sit you gather the cloth that you've poured them into and set something heavy on top of it then let it sit for 15 minutes (or longer for a stiffer paneer). unwrap and store it or cut it, crumble it then cook. Great for scrambled curd (vegetarian scrambled eggs) as well! Alternatively you can make paneer like you make soy milk into tofu.. in a shape and the press so you have something uniform to work with.

thanks for this great blog! i honestly never realized ricotta was unpressed paneer! very cool!

Cucee Sprouts said...

Nice post. Thank you! And you are right, making Ricotta is so easy!!! And the final product costs a fraction of what you'd pay at Whole Foods!!!! I usually make mine with buttermilk but I have decided to experiment with various souring agents (lemon juice, vinegar, etc...) I posted pictures from my experiment on my blog: http://cuceesprouts.com/2011/04/homemade-farmers-cheese/

Anonymous said...

Hi! For everyone wondering what to do with the whey, there are two things you can do, according to a book on making cheese that I found; one, you can heat up the whey and reduce it, making a whole new cheese called 'whey cheese', OR if you used lemon juice instead of vinegar, the cheese book suggested cooling it down and serving as a summer drink, as it still has a little lemon taste to it. Good luck, and good eating!

Michelle Doll said...

Hello! I understand that chickens and pigs also enjoy the whey. It has a lot of the milk nutrients in it, so is very healthy for critters large and small. When I drain my yogurt, I give the whey to my "girls" (hens).
I have a Hare Krishna cookbook left from my college days- the panneer and yogurt recipies alone were worth the price! My kids grew up on homemade cheese, and they still ask for it!
Keep on keeping on.

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