About a month ago, I saw on another blogger's site something about cheese-making. I was intrigued. I clicked, and followed, and clicked and followed, and found that there was this thing called Cheesepalooza. It was starting this year, and it was a world-wide cheese-making class that would take place over the internet. Each month a new cheese would be attempted by the participants. I told my mom right away. About four years ago she bought me a cheese-making book, but I was so daunted by the lengthy list of special ingredients, I never pursued it. I make buttermilk at home. That's about it. And sometimes my 2-year-old makes homemade cheese in his cup when he throws it under the hutch.
So, I had a few options up my sleeves. I finally got around to making it, after countless delays, and something wasn't right. It didn't separate, there were little baby curds floating in a milky substance. I called for help. Now, this is exactly why I wanted cheese-making friends. I thought I had done something wrong, but what, I had no idea.Turns out, it wasn't my fault. You can add a bit more citric acid, or even vinegar to help it along. If I had tried again I would have done the same thing again, which probably would have yielded the same results. I would have, more that likely, given up.
Instead, this story had a different ending. I called for help and my cheese-making friends encouraged me to try again, giving ideas for what went wrong. I tried again. What I have now is about two pounds of soft ricotta (I didn't let mine get too dry) that is just amazing. My husband and I tried it in a bowl with honey. Wow. So smooth and creamy, it is like cream cheese but not as tangy and much softer. As I was eating it, I thought about olives, a little bit of orange zest and some crostini. I couldn't wait to do some experiments.
My two older boys both wanted some, so I spread a bit of plain ricotta on a piece of whole wheat pita. The middle son took a little bite and said, "Wow, Mom, that's really good! It tastes like butter!" He ate more of it, and then today he was asking for more of that cheese that I made. It's a pretty good feeling. I have included two recipes for crostini, and I am sure I will make the baci di ricotta, if not tonight tomorrow night, because that's how we roll.
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid
1 gallon whole milk
2 teaspoons salt, divided
Heat heavy cream, citric acid, whole milk, and 1 teaspoon of salt over medium heat to 185 degrees in a large pot. Occasionally scrape the pot with a rubber spatula.
Ladle the curds into your muslin or cheesecloth. Once it has drained, tie it up and hang it over something to finish dripping. I hung it in the shower, but make sure you rinse that whey down because its pretty slippery. Store in a container.
- Appearance: tiny, grainy curds
- Nose (aroma): almost none, just milky
- Overall Taste: like rich cream cheese, but not as tangy
- Sweet to Salty: sweet
- Mild (mellow) to Robust to Pungent (stinky): very mild
- Mouth Feel: (gritty, sandy, chewy, greasy, gummy, etc.): smooth and creamy
These two uses for ricotta are very similar, and yet so different. They showcase the fresh cheese's texture and taste.