If you think making cheese is a long and complicated process, take a look at this recipe. It’s actually much easier than you would think and the results are completely worth the effort. My dad used to tell me stories from his childhood about how ricotta was made. I always thought there was some magic step that he was leaving out, but it really is as simple as he described it. I wish I tried this process years ago. He would have loved it.
- 1/2 gallon of whole milk
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- pinch of salt (optional) – we used it
Kitchen Tools (that you might not use every day)
- Kitchen twine or clean sturdy string
- Colander (fine mesh)
- Slotted spoon or large serving sppon
- Place a colander in your sink and line it with a dampened piece of cheese-cloth. You’ll need this ready after the next few steps.
- In a large pot heat milk over medium to high heat, stirring constantly and gently until it reaches 180 degrees on a kitchen thermometer. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot using a wooden spoon so that the milk doesn’t burn. Pay close attention to this and adjust the heat down if the milk begins to stick.
- Next remove the pot from the heat and then slowly add the white vinegar, stirring very gently. At this point the curds (coagulated chunks of milk) will separate from the whey (the liquid remaining)
- Stir very gently to mix in the vinegar, and you’ll see the curds form into little clusters and further separate from the whey as it becomes translucent yellow. Be very careful not to break up the newly formed curds as you stir.
- Continue stirring very gently, and after about a minute or so the whey will become clear. At this point stop stirring and let the curds and whey set in the pot for about 10 or 15 minutes. Do not cover.
- Next very carefully use the slotted spoon to gently remove the curds from the pot and place them onto the cheese cloth in the colander. It is helpful to keep them to one side as much as possible in order to make the next step easier.
- When you can no longer scoop out the remaining curds, pour the rest of the curds and whey into the colander slowly, allowing the cheesecloth to strain the remaining curds from the liquid as it pours through. Be careful to avoid soaking the curds already in the colander as the liquid will still be quite hot and can dissolve them.
- Close the cheese-cloth around the curds and tie with kitchen twine (or simply use the corners of the cheesecloth if it is large enough) and hang to let it drain. We just hung ours from the faucet right over the sink.
- For soft, creamy spreadable ricotta, drain for about 15 minutes(adjust this +/- to your taste)
- For drier, more crumbly ricotta texture, continue to drain until the texture is to your liking.
- After draining, open the cloth and turn into a medium sized bowl with a lid, or similar sealable container. Gently fluff the curds with a fork or a single chopstick to achieve the light slightly crumbled texture you see in the photos. You can add a bit of salt to your taste. Be mindful of how much you add if you intend to use the ricotta in a recipe that will have it’s own added salt (like lasagna or ravioli) so you don’t over do it.
- To store, cover well and refrigerate. It should last about a week. (Ours only lasted about 20 minutes, but that’s another story…)