Last year I visited a dairy in Italy where hubby and I early one morning were invited to a small village "latteria" (dairy) to watch the whole fascinating process of cheese, butter and ricotta making and to taste it afterwards.
Literally the word ricotta means "re-cooked" as it is made with whey following what's left during the process of cheese making. It is formed by coagulating the proteins that remain after the casein has been used to make cheese. I will never forget that creamy, fresh and fantastic flavour of freshly made cheese.
It makes me wanna throw away that plasticky-fake stuff they sell in supermarkets which they seem to be allowed to label as "ricotta".
Mind you I have no choice. Unless you live in Italy where you have easy access to freshly made ricotta the only option you have is to buy industrial ones which are pretty much tasteless and can only be added as a bulking ingredient in cooking and baking.
After years of never even considering it, yesterday I finally gave it a go. There are a couple of rules you need to follow:
-Do not use micro-filtered milk or milk that has been treated to a very fine filtration process. This process gives milk a longer shelf life of up to 30 days and removes more bacteria than pasteurization does.
-Use full fat milk as skimmed milk does not have enough fat to allow it to separate into curds and whey.
-Do not use UHT milk as this process changes the structure of the protein of the milk preventing separation of the whey.
What you will need:
- a cheese cloth but I have used a gauze cloth instead
- a fine mesh strainer
- a bowl to drain the whey
- a pan to boil the milk.
- a slotted spoon
- a mixing spoon
I have used vinegar to allow the separation process but you can use lemon juice instead.
So, are you ready? Look at what I did.
- Prep Time : 20 minutes
- Cook Time : 15 minutes
In a saucepan heat up the milk and just before it starts to boil (about 80C or 170F) and the milk starts to steam remove it from the heat and add 2 tbsp of vinegar and salt (optional) and stir well for a minute.
Switch off the heat, put the top on and let it rest for 10 minutes.
After this time, the milk should have separated into clumps forming white curds with watery, yellow-colored whey. If you see that there is still milk that has not separated add one more tbsp of vinegar a wait a few more minutes.
Put a mesh strainer over a bowl and scoop the big curds out of the pot using a slotted spoon and put them on the strainer letting the ricotta drain for a couple of minutes.
Now cover a ramekin dish or a small bowl with a cheese cloth and let the ricotta drain for 15 minutes. Empty liquid from bowl if necessary to ensure proper draining.
What is it left from this process? The whey which you can use in your bakings and can replace water. Whey will add flavour to your pizzas and bread.
I have given this ricotta to my children for breakfast. They had it spread on toast with a little honey on top too. They loved it and I was so pleased.
A little achievement for me. I must admit I was proud of my ricotta! Yay!
Your ricotta will keep in the fridge for one week.