Sunday, November 7, 2010

Homemade Ricotta Cheese


For the last few years Jamie and I have been regular drinkers of raw milk from grass-fed cows and there are few foods as nutritious and satisfying is a nice big glass of the stuff. It's so good we drive hours and hours to go get it at farms in Pennsylvania and New York and are sure to bring mugs in the car so we can guzzle some on the way home. The term "raw" means the milk is unpasteurized and unhomogenized - two adjectives we like attached to the dairy we consume, along with organic, whole and delicious.

The only downside to this formerly commonplace and now controversial whole food is simply that it has a shorter shelf-life than its pasteurized form. This is usually no problem - we know we have 9 days or so, sometimes 14, before the milk starts to get "farmy" - a term we think hits the nail on the head for what the milk begins to taste like. It doesn't get rancid and off-putting like pasteurized milk gets when it goes bad, raw milk just starts changing into another food, like yogurt or cheese. When I know I'm not going to be able to finish all my milk, I anticipate this transformation and turn it into ricotta cheese. It's extremely easy and can be very handy when you've got a recipe that requires ricotta and you don't want to run out to the shop to get some. Besides, it tastes better anyway.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese (makes about 2 cups)
4 cups raw milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon sea salt
Juice of one whole lemon
1 teaspoon white vinegar

In a medium saucepan, gently heat milk, cream and salt until mixture is boiling. Turn heat down to simmer and add the juice of one lemon and the white vinegar. Mix for a few minutes until curds separate from the whey. Take off heat and strain mixture in a fine sieve or in cheesecloth and leave the curds to drip dry for 1 hour, then consume or refrigerate cheese. Reserve the whey for use in bread baking (substitute it for all the liquid in the recipe).

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