One of the easiest cheeses to make at home (in my opinion) is ricotta. It has a fresh, milky flavor. A flavor that is hard to find in commercial, mass-produced brands. And increasingly so, other ingredients are making their way into the commercially produced brands. Examples of ‘other’ ingredients include: modified food starch, guar gum carrageenan, locust bean gum, and xanthan gum depending on the brand. For that very reason, I have decided to make my own ricotta at home. Fresh ricotta has just two ingredients: milk and an acid. (The acid could be lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid.) If you prefer for it to have a more pronounced flavor, salt may be added to your taste.
While ricotta is traditionally made from whey, you can also make it using milk. The advantage of using milk is that you will have a higher yield of ricotta. Now as far as the type of milk, or better stated, the type of animal… cow milk tends to be more common. Though for the purpose of this recipe (and since I have access to it) goat milk is my milk of choice.
- 1/2 gallon goat milk
- 3/4 teaspoon citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water
- Use a heavy-bottom pot that holds at least 1 gallon (the milk will begin to foam up when it heats up). Add milk to the pot and then place the pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the citric acid/water mixture to the milk and stir thoroughly. Stir frequently to prevent the milk from scorching on the bottom of the pot. Heat the milk mixture to 185°F being careful not to boil the milk.
- When the mixture reaches 185°F, immediately remove from heat. The temperature will continue to rise from ‘carry over’ heat. Allow the mixture to set for at least 15 minutes undisturbed to allow the curds to form and separate from the whey.
- Line a colander with butter muslin and place the colander over a large pot (to catch the whey). Ladle the curds into the colander and allow to drain for 20 – 30 minutes or until the ricotta reaches the desired consistency. You may use the whey (liquid) in soups or stews or as the liquid when making bread or rolls.
- Then remove the ricotta from the colander and place in a container with a lid, then refrigerate. The cheese can be eaten immediately or it will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator (though it never lasts that long in our house).
- If desired, you can add salt to taste after you remove the ricotta from the colander. For a creamier texture you could stir in up to 2 tablespoons of cream.
Use your homemade ricotta just as you would with the store-bought kind. Some of our favorite ways to use it include, but not limited to: stuffed shells, dolloped across the top of pizza prior to baking, lasagna, with fresh herbs mixed in and then spread over crackers, and a little stirred into polenta just after you take the pot off of the stove. So friends, don’t be intimidated. You really can make ricotta at home.