Monday, May 4, 2009

Cheese, glorious cheese

Ricotta cheese is good. Homemade ricotta cheese is amazing. In my attempt to try to cook more and buy less, I realized that making homemade ricotta is really easy and requires only one pan, along with some cheesecloth. The catch so far is that the best kind is made with whole fat milk, so it probably won't be a weekly stand by. When I tried making it I realized that there is a huge range of recipes on the web. This one by Deborah Madison was clearly the most fussy. This one by Mark Bittman was good, but it didn't quite curdle. This recipe from the Wednesday Chef is just great-simple and good.

There is a debate among bloggers about if this cheese is really "ricotta." (By definition ricotta is supposed to be cooked twice and rarely is it made with cow's milk.) Whatever-it is delicious. I love to spread it on bread with some cinnamon, sugar and just a bit of nutmeg and toast it briefly. For an easy dinner I mix it with pasta, hot pasta water and some salt and pepper. I did try making the ricotta with 2% milk. While the final product wasn't quite as rich, it was still good. Don't be intimidated by the cheesecloth-you can get it at most supermarkets.

Ricotta Cheese adapted from the Wednesday Chef
2 quarts milk (2% or whole)
2 cups buttermilk (I used low-fat)

Line a colander with a few layers (about 4) of cheesecloth. Pour the regular and buttermilk into a heavy pan and heat the mixture on high heat, stirring frequently. Watch carefully as the milk begins to curdle. The curdling process increases rapidly, just as the milk is close to boiling. Pour the hot milk and curds carefully into the colander or scoop the curds in. Let it drain for about 10 minutes and then gently pull up the sides of the cheesecloth, tying it together with a piece of string. Let it drain (I just hang it off the faucet) for about 15 minutes. Put the cheese in a dish and gently sprinkle in a bit of salt. Enjoy.

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