It's easy to make cheese at home. You need only simple equipment (a strainer, a pot) and ingredients you likely already have on hand (heavy cream, milk, vinegar, salt) and just a little bit of time. Lest I sound like a used car salesman, there are some caveats! We're talking about fresh cheese here, which doesn't require mold, time or fermentation to make it into its final product.
Ricotta is one such fresh cheese that takes no time at all. Follow along the cheese making process with the poorly composed photos below, and you'll be enjoying a delicious slice of ricotta toast in no time!
This recipe is from A Wilder Life by Celestine Maddy, a wonderful book for domestic DIY'ers.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
You will need:
4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 Tablespoon salt
3 Tablespoons white vinegar
A nice large pot
Cheesecloth* (I used a clean kitchen towel, but this was not ideal for reasons I'll explain later.)
About 30 minutes to cheese time
Choose your ingredients wisely!
Although you can make ricotta from any old milk or cream, I say go with the very best your buck can afford. Make it organic, local and pasture-raised if you can! Why? You're about to eat a whole heck of a lot of this stuff. It will be distilled to its very essence, with much of the watery whey discarded. You'll want the flavor to be at its most delicate and complex. So now's the time to splurge on that fancy dairy from the farmer's market - you'll thank yourself later!
1. Assemble your ingredients. Measure and combine your ingredients into your pot and bring to a simmer (don't boil or it may burn!). Check frequently to ensure little bubbles don't turn into a big froth.
2. Watch for separation of curds and whey. This always reminds me of that weird children's rhyme with a ton of old fashioned words that were probably invented just so they could rhyme with each other. Anywho Little Miss Muffet was allegedly a real person, whose name was Patience. And patience is what you will need (kind of) when watching for separation of curds and whey. You'll know they've separated because there will be little bits in the pot that look sort of clumped together and separate. Stir gently to see that they've formed throughout.
3. Line a strainer with cheesecloth (please do use cheesecloth if you can, the thickness of a kitchen rag really absorbs and sticks to a lot of the cheese and you have to sacrifice it to the drain) or a clean kitchen towel (IF YOU MUST) and pour the mixture into it. This should go without saying, but keep the strainer over the sink. After 15-20 minutes, wrap up what's left (the curds) and gently squeeze to release a bit more liquid. This is your cheese. Yes, you are done! Now you may enjoy your hot cheese. Or let it refrigerate and enjoy within a couple of days.
I hope you're inspired to make your own ricotta next time the craving strikes! If you're feeling cheesy, The Chopping Block's Cooking Lab: The Art of Fermentation class takes this a step further by showing you the way to homemade cream cheese, which is absolutely delicious. We are also offering Homemade Cheesemaking in April at Lincoln Square. This demonstration class will show you how to unlock the how-tos of fresh fromage from mozzarella to paneer to yogurt to ricotta.
Our Owner/Chef Shelley Young also describes the cheese making at home in her four part blog series. Read them all here!