Recipe: Homemade Ricotta

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

Homemade Ricotta
(Recipe from Stir, via Once Upon A Small Boston Kitchen)
Makes 2 1/2-3 cups
Ingredients
1 gallon organic whole milk
3/4 cup distilled vinegar
1 tbsp salt 
Directions
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.
   

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MonetSeptember 13, 2010 - 4:32 am

So I was listening to the Splendid Table on NPR a few months ago, and Lynne raved about making homemade ricotta…and as much as like her, I TRUST you, so I will be making this in the near future. And I wish I had gone to your elementary school…farm field trips sound like so much fun.

LimeCakeSeptember 13, 2010 - 4:47 am

that's too cool! seems like a simple enough process for me to try at home.

Angie's RecipesSeptember 13, 2010 - 4:56 am

I always want to make my own ricotta…and your recipe is so much easier to follow. Now I have no excuse to postpone making it any more.
Thanks, Brian.

Good Day!
Angie

sara @ CaffeInaSeptember 13, 2010 - 5:02 am

My brother makes several cheeses at home and every time I go back home and visit him I love sampling them all because they just taste so different and so much better than the store bought. Ricotta is actually one of those that are not hard to make homemade but somehow we tend to forget (and I shouldn't cause really ricotta in the US taste really bland to me!) thanks for the reminder!

bakerstreet29September 13, 2010 - 5:35 am

Wow! Very impressive! You make it sound so simple :)

Casey AngelovaSeptember 13, 2010 - 10:39 am

I am eager to start cheese making. I tried mozzarella a few times, but it was a bit of a wash. Your ricotta looks great! I am inspired!

Lauren at KeepItSweetSeptember 13, 2010 - 11:12 am

thanks for this- do you think you could use a lower fat milk or would the recipe be different?

A Thought For FoodSeptember 13, 2010 - 11:15 am

Lauren-That's a very good question. I imagine it would come out differently (a bit drier). I don't think the recipe would need to be altered, but the quantity you get from that batch may be smaller. It's definitely worth trying.

SMITH BITESSeptember 13, 2010 - 11:51 am

We made the Stir Ricotta Recipe a few weeks ago and it is DIVINE!! It is true that you will never purchase store-bought ricotta again!

EmilySeptember 13, 2010 - 12:03 pm

Hello – I'm a new reader and am very impressed by your ricotta! I made ricotta at home once. It was great – except I was trying to make mozzarella and it didn't curdle properly. Oh well! Looking forward to reading more of your blog!

bunkycooksSeptember 13, 2010 - 12:19 pm

Now you have the Mr. Bunkycooks syndrome…no more store bought stuff! It's hard to go back after you've had the homemade version!

EileenSeptember 13, 2010 - 12:38 pm

Yummm… I have got to try this!

Mardi @eatlivetravelwriteSeptember 13, 2010 - 12:57 pm

Beautiful! This is on my list of things to try this fall.

JennSeptember 13, 2010 - 1:26 pm

It looks like it turned out beautifully! I have been contemplating making my own ricotta…store bought is so easy and convenient, though I know homemade is better. Maybe one of these days I'll be feeling adventurous enough to try it!! Thanks for sharing!

Lora @cakeduchessSeptember 13, 2010 - 2:01 pm

Fantastico Brian! I will have to try this soon. I love homemade ricotta:)

Fun and Fearless in BeantownSeptember 13, 2010 - 2:42 pm

Homemade ricotta is on my list of things to try…I am in love with the action milk shot!

MeetaKSeptember 13, 2010 - 2:43 pm

Great and easy stuff – just like the Indian paneer i make very often. Brilliant!

The CilantropistSeptember 13, 2010 - 2:49 pm

I have been wanting to make ricotta for awhile now, and when you posted a little 'preview' photo on twitter I knew that was what you were making. :) Lovely job, I am even more convinced than ever that I should make it now!

SusiSeptember 13, 2010 - 3:02 pm

Beautiful ricotta! I've never had homemade before only the store bought kind but I'm intrigued and will be bookmarking this recipe to give it a whirl! Thanks for sharing :o )

HeatherSeptember 13, 2010 - 3:02 pm

Since home made ravioli is on my list so is home made ricotta. I have a recipe from some at home creamer book, but since my mozz refused to stretch, I have been gun shy and just walk past that book while sticking my middle finger up at it. You made this look easy tho. SO now I must try again.

TorviewtorontoSeptember 13, 2010 - 3:26 pm

we make the same delicious

Cristina @ TeenieCakesSeptember 13, 2010 - 5:09 pm

I am so trying this! I've made homemade mascarpone, but not ricotta yet. Can't wait for your feta post! Isn't it something about some of these homemade cheeses…there's relatively few ingredients, it's the process and technique (and patience).

My Man's BellySeptember 13, 2010 - 5:18 pm

Homemade dairy products taste so much better than the store bought.

I haven't tackled the mozz yet. It's a bit more labor intensive but at some point I may end up doing it just to say I did it. Of course, if you do it first I can learn from you. ;)

emily @ the happy homeSeptember 13, 2010 - 6:36 pm

i was waiting for your ingredient list to include some random, far-off ingredients. since it looks so simple, i'll DEFINITELY be using it! nothing like a spoonful of ricotta to liven up even just store bought pasta and sauce.

jacobskitchenSeptember 13, 2010 - 9:57 pm

What a great post! I have always fantasized about my own cheese making. Goat cheese especially. But fresh ricotta can not be compared to the stuff one buys in most grocery stores. I bet it is amazing. I will add whole milk to my shopping list, and make this the first chance I get.

I gave you a little shout on my blog today, on my watermelon salad post. =)

Thanks for sharing!

JackieSeptember 13, 2010 - 10:09 pm

I've been meaning to make some homemade ricotta for AGES now, but have no cheesecloth. This is something I shall remedy IMMINENTLY. Beautiful post as always, Brian ;)

Jax x

Chef DennisSeptember 13, 2010 - 11:44 pm

Brian
I have never thought of making my own cheese until this post! it sounds so easy, and I can only imagine how much better it must taste! This would also be a great activity to teach my girls!
thanks for the inspiration!

NancySeptember 13, 2010 - 11:54 pm

Hi Brian!!

I love making homemade ricotta – it's always one of those "oooh… ahhh.." kind of experiences!!! Can't wait to see what you make with it!!!

Anna JohnstonSeptember 14, 2010 - 12:22 am

One of my big loves is preserving, I love all that mass productions stuff, but haven't really ever tried my hand at cheese making. Since I do love making breads & pastries & preserves, it seems natural I'd love cheesemaking too. You've made it all sound pretty easy so I think I'm going to try my hand at it. Thanks for inspiring me.

The Small Boston KitchenSeptember 14, 2010 - 12:34 am

LLOVED this post and your pictures came out crazy good! Glad you liked the recipe and, just so you know, I really haven't been able to find store bought ricotta since I made this. I tired once, but I couldn't do it.

The Small Boston KitchenSeptember 14, 2010 - 12:35 am

PS, drop whatever you're doing right now and buy Barbara Lynch's cookbook!!

Indonesia EatsSeptember 14, 2010 - 1:28 am

Do we have to use distilled vinegar or can be used any other vinegar?

A Thought For FoodSeptember 14, 2010 - 1:34 am

I don't know if I would recommend using any other kind of vinegar… but lemon juice can be used. This recipe, however, called for distilled vinegar, and I'm not sure how replacing it would pan out.

Lynn @ I'll Have What She's HavingSeptember 14, 2010 - 1:51 am

I'm a little torn. I want to try this, but I'm worried I'll be stuck making my own ricotta every time I want a cheesecake..

Nicole@ The Dirty OvenSeptember 14, 2010 - 2:33 am

Wow and wow and wow… I am going to have to try this out. I would never think of making my own ricotta…and I am from old school italian grandmas…

ElianaSeptember 14, 2010 - 3:00 am

Nothing beats fresh and homemade. This cheese is no exception. It looks wonderful.

Andrew FrishmanSeptember 14, 2010 - 3:08 am

Mmnn!!! I LOVES me some Ricotta, especially when it's homemade!

La receta anterior me dan ganas de ver los episodios viejos de "Welcome back Kotter."

Victoria K.September 14, 2010 - 3:27 am

I've made ricotta cheese too, using lime juice! It's so wonderful making it from scratch and just seeing it turn into cheese :) It's like magic!! Great job!

Indie.TeaSeptember 14, 2010 - 5:32 am

I've never made my own ricotta. Thanks for sharing your recipe.
And your photographs too – they're just gorgeous.

Jess @ BakericiousSeptember 14, 2010 - 7:22 am

wow thanks for sharing!

ElizabethSeptember 14, 2010 - 1:32 pm

Wow, beautiful! I too was first introduced to te wonder of homemade is better at 7 with, you guessed it: Fresh churned butter! But it was a science project made with whole fresh milk a family friend brought from his farm. It changed my life, seriously.

penny aka jeroxieSeptember 14, 2010 - 2:07 pm

It tastes really good. everytime I make mine, I keep eating it non stop!

elz + pabSeptember 14, 2010 - 5:39 pm

We are definitely adding this to the "must-do" list. This sounds & looks amazing. Your blog is really inspirational.

- Ellen

MeganSeptember 14, 2010 - 5:49 pm

Beautiful pictures. With encouragement from your and Katie's posts, I am going to have to give this a try soon. I bet it is amazing compared to store-bought. The last ricotta I got was from a local farm, so at least that's closer to homemade.

Sippity SupSeptember 14, 2010 - 6:00 pm

I have made both ricotta and mozzarella and while the process is fairly easy I was disappointed with my results. Yours looks so light and fluffy! GREG

Paula - bell'alimentoSeptember 14, 2010 - 6:48 pm

Nothing like homemade Ricotta…

Shea M. @ Blissfully UnrefinedSeptember 14, 2010 - 9:25 pm

Wow – I knew it was fairly straightforward, but I had no idea it was so easy! How long should you let it strain for "typical" ricotta, like what you might use for lasagna?

JoanneSeptember 15, 2010 - 3:39 am

I'm so glad you're project food blogging it up too! It's going to be such a fun competition.

I am really scared to make homemade ricotta. Because I fear then I will just spend my life making up excuses to eat ricotta. This looks fantastic. I am seriously impressed.

Sushma MallyaSeptember 15, 2010 - 4:32 am

Home made ricotta has come out perfect, thanks for the recipe, it seems very easy and will surely try it some day…and thanks for dropping by brian..

Elina (Healthy and Sane)September 16, 2010 - 12:23 am

Oh man, my mom used to make ricotta when we were growing up (because it was hard to find the stuff at the store). It really does taste so different. I need to get on that asap. Some things are just worth it, plus I'm sure the feeling of pride (from knowing that you MADE it) is pretty cool too. :)

Sanjeeta kkSeptember 16, 2010 - 8:51 am

Lovely to have come across your site, hope to come for more soon. Love the Ricotta cheese, looks similar to our cottage cheese in India. chBest wishes.

Lindsey FrancesSeptember 17, 2010 - 1:03 pm

I have been meaning to give this a try. I keep visioning ricotta topped pizza.

Cucee SproutsApril 14, 2011 - 4:49 pm

I really enjoy making my own ricotta (we call it Tvorog.) I usually make it with a buttermilk/milk mixture by last week I decided to experiment and try other souring agents. I posted my results on a blog, together with my recipe. http://cuceesprouts.com/2011/04/homemade-farmers-cheese/

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