There’s probably not too many twisted kitchen geeks like me who will stare down the barrel of a three-day weekend and think awesome – finally I have time to make cheese! But there must be a few of you, right? Helloooo. . . .

Actually you don’t need a long weekend to make ricotta, a regular one will do. What you do need, though, is good milk that’s been pasteurized at a low temperature and is not homogenized. (Here’s a good milk list for my far-flung readers.)

Here by the dunes I buy the amazing milk from Shetler’s Dairy. Aren’t those glass bottles adorable?

In addition to a good source for milk you need scrupulously clean utensils and pans, cheese muslin and citric acid. Don’t be tempted to substitute cheesecloth, it’s way too coarse a weave. Cheese muslin, sometimes called butter muslin, is a much finer weave. I have cut mine to different sizes so it fits my different sizes of drainers.  Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need a lot of special equipment – especially in the case of fresh cheeses like ricotta.

Creamy Fresh Ricotta – Small Batch (Two finished cups of ricotta)

One 1/2 gal. whole milk, low-temp pasteurized and non-homogenized

One quart whipping cream, same as above

1 t. citric acid, dissolved in 1/4 c. water

Thermometer

Clean and sanitize the thermometer, muslin, a colander big enough to hold all the milk products, a large heavy pan and stainless steel slotted spoon. Set your colander over a large pan or sink to drain and line it with one layer of the muslin.

Pour the milk and the cream into the pan, slowly bring them to 190 degrees. Stir in the citric acid without breaking the surface of the milk. I draw the slotted spoon up and down beneath the surface.

Leave the pan on the heat for 10 minutes until you start to see curds forming. Pour the batch into the colander and set it aside to drain.

Here it is after two hours:

After four hours:

After spending the night draining in the refrigerator:

Once the ricotta is at the consistency you prefer, pack it into a clean and sanitized container. It is best to use it immediately – within a day or two at most, as it will continue to drain whey over time and there are no preservatives. Use it as you would any ricotta and store any leftover in the refrigerator.

Cheesemaking is strangely addictive. Once you get into the rhythm it’s easy to see how farm wives would have fit cheesemaking into their daily routine. It does take a while for the draining process, but the actual hands-on time is less than 20 minutes. In a future post I will be demonstrating how to make your own cheese draining baskets, in preparation for future posts on aged cheeses.

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