Step 1: Get a goat. Tie her up, tie her down, tie her sideways, then milk her.
Or save yourself, I implore you, and just go to the store and buy a gallon of the freshest whole milk you can find.
Ricotta is the easiest of all soft cheeses. It’s a simple process with very few steps (especially if you skip Step 1 above), and you can have fresh ricotta anytime!
A good way to get started if you are a first-time cheesemaker is with a cheesemaking kit. I got this one from New England Cheesemaking Supply Co.
The 30 Minute Mozzarella & Ricotta kit is $24.95. It comes with enough citric acid, cheese salt, and rennet for 30 batches of cheese, plus instructions for ricotta and mozzarella, butter muslin, and a dairy thermometer. You’ll also need a large stainless steel pot, a stainless steel colander, stainless steel slotted spoon, and measuring spoons onhand.
If you don’t have access to fresh milk, please don’t let that stop you! Making cheese is fun, and slightly addictive. Once you learn how, it’s a creative process, like breadmaking, in which you can add your own flavorings and make specialty cheeses your way. While I feel fortunate to have fresh raw milk available to me, now that I’ve delved into cheesemaking, I see that there is far more to it than the milk. For one thing, it’s freshly-made even if you use milk from the store, not to mention all the creative opportunities for adding in your own herbs and other seasonings. Cheesemaking is a mecca of artistic exploration–and it’s easier than you think, particularly when you’re talking the soft cheeses!
I’m not sure why this kit is called “30 minute” mozzarella & ricotta because it really takes 60 minutes–30 minutes to prepare the milk and another 30 minutes to drain the cheese. (Still, it’s a relatively quick process, and you’re only actually doing something for the first 30 minutes.)
How to make Fresh Ricotta Cheese:
1 gallon fresh whole milk
1 teaspoon citric acid
1 teaspoon cheese salt
Pour milk into a large stainless steel pot. Add the citric acid and cheese salt. Heat on medium-high until the milk reaches 195 degrees.
It will seem as if it takes a long time to achieve the proper temperature, but you’ll get there in under 30 minutes. (You can’t just stick your heat on high because you’ll scorch the milk–I set my burner right between medium and high). Stir infrequently, just enough to avoid scalding the milk on the bottom of the pan. (I just move the spoon around the bottom of the pot gently every few minutes.)
You’ll notice curds beginning to form on the surface of the pot.
Keep checking the temperature using the dairy thermometer.
By the time it reaches 195 degrees, the milk will have separated into curds and whey.
Isn’t that awesome? You’ll feel as if you’ve performed a magic trick the first time you do it.
Turn off the heat and let the pot sit for about 10 minutes. Cross your fingers the cat doesn’t wake up and eat it when you’re not looking.
After 10 minutes, line your colander with the butter muslin.
Using a large slotted spoon, transfer the curds to the muslin-lined colander.
Look at that! Is that cool or what?
Once all the curds are transferred to the colander……
….tie the muslin together.
Then tie it onto your sink faucet.
Let drain for another 30 minutes, or to desired consistency. (There are numerous uses for all that leftover whey, but that’s a whole ‘nother post!)
When the cheese is finished draining, untie the muslin and transfer the ricotta to a container. In this case, I used two pint-size glass jars. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks, and use as you would with any ricotta–only this is better because you made it. I see Pepperoni Lasagna!
See this recipe on Farm Bell Recipes for the handy print page and save it to your recipe box.