It’s official. I made my own cheese.
It’s been on my to-do list for quite some time now, but other projects have continued to get in the way. Also, I have a reliable source of cheese each week at the farmers’ market that has made it easy to neglect this to-do item. But…he doesn’t sell cheeses like ricotta.
I also think it’s inherently valuable to learn these skills on our own — it helps to save money and to bring us closer to where our food comes from. It also helps in my quest to eliminate disposable food packaging from my life (what a waste and a huge hog of landfill space!). If you make your own ricotta, you don’t have to buy a plastic container of it!
Isn’t it amazing that in just a generation or two skills like this have been lost by so many people? There are a great number of us that no longer have words like curds and whey in our vocabulary yet continue to consume a lot of cheese (often from questionable sources!).
I intend to keep the skills of self-reliance and food intelligence alive!
Plus, it’s really easy!
All you need is milk + heat + an acid (vinegar or lemon juice) to make ricotta. To get into the harder cheeses, you need to start involving rennet in the equation (that will be next in my cheese-making endeavors).
To make 1.5 – 2 pounds of ricotta (which it turns out is a lot of ricotta and you might want to start with half of this recipe), you need:
- 1 gallon organic (preferably local!) whole milk
- 1/2 cup of an acid (I used white vinegar; can also use lemon juice)
Combine the ingredients and heat the milk slowly on the stove, stirring periodically, and work the milk’s temperature up toward 180*-190*. This should happen slowly — it might take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
While you’re stirring, you might want to say an incantation such as, “Let there be curds!” and they will begin to appear! (Ok, you might not have to use magic, but it feels very magical when they begin to appear!) When the curds begin to form, remove the mixture from the heat source.
Let the mixture cool down for 30 minutes and then strain the curds from the whey by lining a colander with cheesecloth or a tea towel and placing a bowl underneath. The longer you let the whey drain out, the drier your cheese will be. I actually put mine in the fridge and let it drain out overnight.
The next morning, I realized that so much whey had drained out that the bottom of the cheese was getting wet in a puddle of whey. I got a bit creative to let a little more whey drain out.
But I was left with some delicious ricotta!
And I’ve also learned that there are numerous uses for the whey, so I saved that as well. It’s useful as a stock, to cook pastas, to sprout grains, and more! It’s full of healthy enzymes.
Stay tuned to learn what became of this ricotta…