Homemade Ricotta (on Homemade Pizza)

It’s official, I’m no longer impressed by restaurants that make their own ricotta cheese.  It’s so easy!  I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but I was intimidated – sure that it wasn’t as easy as the recipe suggests.  Wow, did I waste a lot of time.  In about 30 minutes I had made ricotta and cleaned the kitchen from some other cooking.  The is heads and shoulders above what you can buy in a tub at the grocery store.  I may never buy ricotta again.

Mostly you just dump milk and buttermilk in a pot and let it do its thing.  Maybe after some practice you don’t need the candy thermometer, but definitely use it when you’re starting out.  I used Homestead Creamery 2% milk and Kroger low fat buttermilk.  And I didn’t bother with cheesecloth I just used a clean, lint-free kitchen towel.  I have a collection of linen kitchen towels that are perfect for this kind of thing. I’m a complete novice at this so I have little advice.  I would say that you should be careful about draining the liquid.  Don’t squeeze the bundle.  You don’t want your ricotta to be dry.

Ricotta has a seemingly neutral flavor, but the creamy texture you get with this makes it well worth the little bit of effort.  And you can mix anything you like into it:  herbs, parmesan, salt and pepper, whatever.  I used mine, plain, on pizza.  Maybe it’s just that it’s been a long while since I’ve had pizza, but this was just shy of perfect.

I used Kroger fresh pizza crust from the deli section.  I hate making pizza crust so this was a good substitute.  It’s MUCH better than the crust you get in a can.  My only complaint is that I didn’t roll it thin enough.  I like my pizza crust cracker thin and this was a little too doughy for me.  Totally my fault.  I used a little fresh mozzarella, a little of the ricotta and some of the world’s most fabulous sausage.  Kudos yet again to SausageCraft.  My selection today was a very simple pork sausage with garlic, salt and pepper – that’s it.  It’s called San Miniato after the Tuscan village by the same name.  It’s 18 different kinds of yummy.  This is one of those cases where the food is so simple that the ingredients really matter.  Good dough, good cheese, good sausage.  I threw in some of the dried basil and dried parsley from my herb garden just to add a hint of green.  Seriously good stuff, folks.

If you have any interest in ricotta at all you should give this a try.  It’s really easy.  You can do other kitchen things while it’s cooking (chopping, dishes, sauteing vegetables, whatever).  I’d say it’s pretty much foolproof as long as you follow the directions.  I made a half recipe – partly because I wasn’t convinced it would turn out and partly because I didn’t want to have volumes of it. I ended up with just shy of 16 ounces.  The recipe says that the ricotta is good in the fridge for about four days so I’d better get cracking coming up with ways to use it.  Or maybe I’ll find some friends who’d like to have a little.  Either way I can’t bear to think about throwing it out so I’ll definitely find a good home for it!

Good? Oh, so good.
Easy? Oh, so easy.
Good for company? Absolutely. Impressive, n’est pas?
Special shopping? Nope.

Homemade Ricotta

Ingredients

1 gallon 2% reduced-fat milk
5 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preparation

Line a large colander or sieve with 5 layers of dampened cheesecloth, allowing the cheesecloth to extend over outside edges of colander; place colander in a large bowl.

Combine milk and buttermilk in a large, heavy stockpot. Attach a candy thermometer to edge of pan so that thermometer extends at least 2 inches into milk mixture. Cook over medium-high heat until candy thermometer registers 170° (about 20 minutes), gently stirring occasionally. As soon as milk mixture reaches 170°, stop stirring (whey and curds will begin separating at this point). Continue to cook, without stirring, until the thermometer registers 190°. (Be sure not to stir, or curds that have formed will break apart.) Immediately remove pan from heat. (Bottom of pan may be slightly scorched.)

Using a slotted spoon, gently spoon curds into cheesecloth-lined colander; discard whey, or reserve it for another use. Drain over bowl for 5 minutes. Gather edges of cheesecloth together; tie securely. Hang cheesecloth bundle from kitchen faucet; drain 15 minutes or until whey stops dripping. Scrape ricotta into a bowl. Sprinkle with salt; toss gently with a fork to combine. Cool to room temperature.

Note: Store in refrigerator up to 4 days.

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