Ricotta takes one pot, three ingredients, and fifteen minutes. I haven’t looked at store-bought ricotta prices later (because, well, I’m making my own), but this recipe will make 1 3/4-2 pounds from a gallon of milk, which I think is still cheaper than what you can buy. Even if there’s not much money to be saved, I like knowing exactly what’s in my food (check out the ingredients in packaged ricotta cheese next time you’re at the store: it’s more than three). Plus it’s fun to make!
Easy Ricotta Cheese – Makes 1 3/4-2 pounds, and can easily be halved/quartered
1 gallon milk
1 tsp. citric acid (up to 2 tsp. if you are using very fresh milk and it doesn’t start curdling as it’s heated)
1 tsp. salt
Pour the milk into a large non-reactive pan, and stir in the citric acid and salt. Heat the milk over medium heat to 195°, stirring often to keep it from scorching. As it heats, you will begin to see small solid curds form, and then the liquid they are floating in will turn clear as more curds develop.
When the mixture reaches 195°, turn off the heat and let the mixture sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line a colander with butter muslin or cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl or pot. Once the 10 minutes is up, ladle the curds into the lined colander, allowing the whey to drain into the container underneath. Allow the curds to drain for up to an hour, until they are as dry as you want. I like mine after closer to 30 minutes, but it’s just personal preference.
Finished cheese can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week, or for much longer in the freezer.
I know it might feel like a waste of milk when you see how much whey drains off and the relatively small amount of cheese that this recipe makes. But the whey is still really useful in the kitchen, and it’s full of protein, so don’t throw it out. It will keep for a few weeks in the fridge, and can be added to bean soaking/cooking water, to replace some of the liquid in a bread recipe, or to give flavor to soup broth.
If you’re a real lover of cheese, I’ve got a recipe for homemade mozzarella coming up next week!