Thursday, July 22, 2010

Crossing Homemade Cheese off Bucket List: DIY Riccotta Cheese

It all started back in December of 2008 on a Europe to California 30+ hour plane trip trying to get home on Christmas Eve, stuck at the Washington D.C. airport. Bored, dazed and confused, I started flipping through magazines, picking up the "Best of the Year" Bon Appetit January 2009 issue. In the back was a section on the "Ingredient of the Year": Ricotta, along with New York Chef Andrew Carmellini's recipe for fresh ricotta cheese.

I could do that!

...but time slipped by, magazine became buried, some other new and exciting recipe my caught my eye making me forget about simple 3 ingredient cheese.

Somehow I managed to find my magazine copy again a few months ago, yapping to my mom how I wanted to make my own cheese, seeking her advice where to find cheesecloth.

"Just use an old pantyhose" she objected, "they both strain."

"But I don't want my cheese to smell like working woman!" I harped back determined not to listen to my mother's earth friendly ways for this particular matter.

The next day I picked up a package of cheesecloth from JoAnn Fabrics for about $3, avoiding my mother's old pantyhose.

I doubled the recipe (using an entire gallon of milk) and added fresh, minced herbs to the different cheese bowls using: oregano, chives, rosemary and basil. The chive cheese was the crowd favorite. One struggle involved the cheese not curdling initially (I was using a meyer lemon). There was not enough acid in the lemon to trigger the curdling reaction so I used a super sour lime-tangerine instead and that did the trick. Next time I'd like to try variations with truffle salt, dried chili peppers, and fresh lavender. Sure beats working woman L'eggs flavor!

Fresh Ricotta Cheese
Makes 1 1/2 Cups

8 cups whole milk (I used organic because it tastes better)
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I ended up using a lot more lemon juice than this)
Any additions you want to add (fresh or dried herbs, sun-dried tomatoes, pepper, chili flakes)

Line colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth; set in sink. Bring milk and salt to simmer in heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in lemon juice. Let simmer until curds form, 1 to 2 minutes.

Using finely slotted spoon or skimmer, scoops curds from pan and transfer to cheesecloth-lined colander.

Let drain 1 minute (curds will still be a little wet). Transfer curds to medium bowl. (I divided the cheese up 5 small bowls lined with plastic wrap: 4 bowls with herbs 1 herb for each, and 1 bowl just plain cheese). Cover and chill until cold, about 3 hours. Can be made 2 days ahead.

I found layering the herbs and cruds, smoothing the curds down after each layer, worked great.

  Be sure the first layer is herbs so they show when you un-mold.

 Ta daa!


Gastronomer said...

Chive ricotta? Mmmm! I am impressed, Banana Wonder ;-)

Esi said...

Nice! I made mascarpone a few months ago and it's so easy and way better than store bought. Need to try ricotta next!!

H. C. said...

heh, actually paper towel also does a decent job of straining -- that's what I used to make thick yogurt dips on those rare occasions when I don't have access to Greek yogurt (tyranny, I know!)

H. C. said...

also, fresh ricotta is on my list of to-do as well -- and if here's another article from SeriousEats on it... a bit more nerdy and Alton Brown-esque.

Helen said...

I'm impressed with your cheese making skills!! Chive cheese would probably be a fave of mine too. Chili pepper also sounds great. Good move on using cheesecloth rather than pantyhose LOL! You can get cheese cloth by the foot/meter at a fabric store. Oh, and I have those same blue/white Chinese rice bowls in my kitchen :)

Banana Wonder said...

Gastronomer - :) Chive is a friend to all!

Esi - Mascarpone?! Get out! Must have recipe.

H.C. - Yeah, I was thinking about a paper towel, but I wanted to follow directions 100% first time 'round. Can't wait to hear about your cheese making!

Helen - Thanks, yeah, I didn't want any pantyhose residues in my cheese! Dontcha just lose those blue and white bowls and their many uses?

Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

Bravo sou. I've seen similar recipes around but have never got around to it. Loventhenidea of adding herbs. I'd skip on the pantyhose too!

tobias kocht! said...

looks beautiful. great job!

Banana Wonder said...

Peter - I can't wait to see what you make!

Tobias - Thanks :)

stuffycheaks said...

congrats on making your own cheese!! Err and good call on the cheesecloth, $3 is worth it.i think truffle salt is a splendid idea

Banana Wonder said...

Stuffcheaks - Thanks! It's something that def makes do-over status (w/ cheesecloth)! So easy!

Banana Wonder said...

Opps I meant Stuffycheaks.

SouthBayGuy said...

I saw fresh mozzarella made recently. A little more work than this, but something I've may try.

Were you able to use the ricotta in other dishes like stuffed shells?

Banana Wonder said...

SouthBayGuy - it was too good to cook with ;) We ate it all up just plain with bread/crackers and fruit. So good!