Whenever it is a slow day at the office, one of my coworkers, Andy, likes to pose questions to our team to break up the afternoon lull. One of his questions a while back was: "If you could read only one magazine for the rest of your life, what would it be?" Without a doubt, mine is Cook's Illustrated. The very magazine that gave us grilled stuffed flank steak, did it again with a seemingly impossible food: homemade ricotta.
Yes, you read that correctly...it IS possible for the home chef to make your own cheese! I couldn't believe it either. The recipe was almost unnoticeable; it took only a tiny corner of a page in the magazine, and was accompanied by the claim that really sold me: "superior to store-bought." Really?! I could make ricotta? And it will be better than something made by people who actually know how to make cheese? I had to try it.
I couldn't believe how impossibly simple the recipe was. There are only 3 ingredients:
- One gallon of whole milk
- One tsp. salt
- 1/3 c. lemon juice
From Cook's Illustrated, Sept/Oct 2009
- Heat the milk and salt over medium-high heat in a dutch oven or other really big pot (we're talking a whole gallon of milk here, people).
- When the temperature of the milk reaches 185 deg F, remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. (I improvised and used a meat thermometer to check the temperature, but it looked like it was just before boiling, if you don't have a thermometer on hand)
- Allow the liquid to stand undisturbed (seriously, don't touch it!) for about 5-10 minutes. The milk will separate into solid white curds and translucent white whey during this time, though it may be hard to tell from the surface.
- After the wait, dip a spoon in to see if there are curds. If the milk hasn't separated, stir (gently!!) another tablespoon or so of lemon juice and let sit again.
- Spoon the curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth and drain, without pressing, overnight in the fridge.
And that's it! Then you have ricotta! Amazing!
The homemade version is great for lasagna (hint hint...post to come), manicotti, cheesecake, etc...
Homemade ricotta may not be photogenic, but it is seriously good.