Cheese Making 101 – Ricotta
I am a from "scratch" person. I have made my own bread (and my own yeast to make the bread), my own pasta, my own wine and beer and broke down venison into usable cuts. One thing I have wanted to make, but hadn’t attempted, was cheese. I can add that to my list of "from scratch" food items. After doing a little research I decided to give it a shot and you know what -it’s pretty darn easy. For my first attempt I chose Ricotta because it is probably the easiest cheese to produce. No gadget or intricate formulas. Just milk, a thermometer, something to curdle the milk and cheesecloth. With milk and cheesecloth in the house I did have to decide what to use to curdle the milk. There seemed to be 3 ways I could do this. The first was to add rennet to the milk. Rennet itself comes in a tablet form and is available near the puddings in the supermarket. The second was to add buttermilk. This seemed like an unnecessary expense. The third was to add white vinegar. Being unsure which was the best way to go I decided on a middle of the road approach. I used vinegar AND rennet. In the end this was really the way to go as it worked great. Now I had a recipe, 1 gallon of milk (whole) with the addition of 1/4 cup white vinegar and 1/4 tablet of rennet (I dissolved the rennet in the vinegar). I heated the milk up (while stirring constantly) until it reaches 200 degrees (this is where the thermometer comes in). When the milk approached 200 degrees I took it off the stove and stirred in the vinegar/rennet mixture. This would separate the cheese curds from the whey. I covered the pot and waited for the magic to happen. Now I had read recipes that said to leave the mix out overnight and I had read recipes that said that all you need is 15 minutes for it to curdle. In the end I decided to let it cool on the counter (about 4 hours) before attempting to strain off the cheese. After 4 hour I lined a colander with cheesecloth and scooped out the curds. I was amazed. After draining the cheese overnight (in the refrigerator) I got about 2 # out of the first batch. Not bad for a first attempt and it was good I tell you, very good. So good I don’t think I need to buy Ricotta in the store ever again.
What’s next? Why Mozzarella of course!