I can remember the first time I learned the difference between something that was homemade and store bought. It started in elementary school, when my class took a field trip to a farm where we were shown how to milk cows and feed chickens. Towards the end of the day, they gathered us around and demonstrated the process of churning butter.
One by one, we were sent up to raise and lower the plunger into the cream, a grueling process that left us all a bit sweaty. Afterwards, they gave us huge hunks of crusty bread, a container of fresh jam, and a slab of butter. And, right there, at the age of seven, I was taught that homemade was better than anything you can get at the store.
Butter is one example… and cheese is another. Cheese-making has been a bit of an obsession of mine recently (the result of some fantastic food bloggers who proclaimed it was fairly simple to do). A few weeks ago, I purchased cheesecloth and vowed that I would use it to make my first batch of cheese.
Since then, I’ve been agonizing over what to make. Mozzarella? Feta? Both seemed like wonderful options that I could have a lot of fun with. The reason I went with ricotta is going to remain a bit of a secret (at least for the time being), but I promise it’s worth the wait.
This ricotta recipe comes from Katie, another Boston-based blogger who writes for her site, Once Upon a Small Boston Kitchen. Now, I’ve been dying to get my hands on Barbara Lynch’s cookbook, Stir, but have yet to buy it (I promise, that is going to change). As soon as I saw Katie’s post on Lynch’s Homemade Ricotta, I knew I had to make it.
Was it as simple as she said it would be? Yes. Does it cost twice the amount as store bought ricotta? Yes. Is it worth it? Most definitely.
When I notified Katie that I was making it, she said “Fair warning, it’s really hard to go back to the store bought ricotta.” Luckily, we so rarely use ricotta. After making it, however, that may change.
Stay tuned for a special mid-week post, my first entry for the Project Food Blog competition. You can read all about it at that link and you can view my profile here.
(Recipe from Stir, via Once Upon A Small Boston Kitchen)
Makes 2 1/2-3 cups
1 gallon organic whole milk
3/4 cup distilled vinegar
1 tbsp salt
To start, line a colander with 2 layers of cheesecloth and prop it up in a clean sink.
Next, pour a gallon of whole milk into a pot. Toss in 3/4 cup of distilled white vinegar and 1 tbs kosher salt. Fix a thermometer to the side of the pot and continuously stir the milk mixture until the thermometer reads 140 degrees.
Once the temperature reaches 140, let the milk mixture just sit until it the temperature reaches 175. This is where it gets really cool now; the curds will start to form and separate. The surface will get bubbly and dimply.
Once the temperature reaches 175 you have to be on high alert so that the milk doesn’t heat above 180 because it will overcook the cheese, resulting in a gross, grainy substance.
What you want to do instead is take the pot off the heat a couple degrees before 180. Then, using a ladle, gently scoop the mixture into the cheesecloth lined colander, allowing the whey to strain, thus creating ricotta.
Special note: the longer you strain it, the harder the cheese.