You may be thinking, homemade ricotta!? Why make it, when I can buy it at the grocery store? Yes, you could, but why, when you can make it at home? Last week I went to my local grocery store to buy ricotta cheese for a recipe I was making and due to COVID-19 and recent shortages of certain things at the store, I was unable to buy ricotta cheese. Now my mom has been making homemade ricotta for years and shared the recipe with me. I always love when she makes homemade ricotta for any of her pasta dishes...you can tell the difference and it's always a treat! So when there was none to buy I thought well, as long as I can buy milk and cream, I’m golden and my family will be overjoyed that I made the “real deal”.
Homemade ricotta cheese takes 4 simple ingredients! That’s it! Even better, it only takes about 30 minutes of active cooking time. And there is something quite satisfying in the process of slowly and gently stirring the curds, then carefully ladling them into the strainer. It’s almost therapeutic! Plus once you’re done gathering all the delicious creamy curds, you’ll get to see the fruit of your labor, if you can call it that. Really, it’s relaxing. And better still, it keeps for 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Okay, you’re thinking, maybe I could be fancy and try this! Alrighty then, let's get on with it. But before I do, I want to mention that because there are only 4 ingredients, it’s crucial to use good quality ingredients. For example, I am not a fan of “great value” cream...it’s not as rich and will not result in the beautiful curds we are aiming for, so buy a name brand. Also, freshly squeezed lemon juice is preferred over the bottled stuff, so again, few ingredients... make em’ good ones.
Okay, here we go! Have fun with this! Oh and at the end I will include a list of ways to use and enjoy this fabulous homemade cheese.
1 gallon whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Line a colander with 3-4 layers of dampened cheesecloth and set in a clean sink or large bowl.
Pour the milk and cream in the pot and slowly warm it over medium heat until 185 degrees, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally with a silicone spatula. (If you don’t have a thermometer, just look for bubbles to form along the side of the pot and for the milk to become a little foamy on the surface. Do not boil the milk mixture.)
Remove from the heat, stir in the salt, and then slowly pour the lemon juice over the surface of the milk.
Once the lemon juice has been added, stir gently for two to three minutes to encourage the curds to form.
Gently ladle the curds into the prepared colander. (do not pour the contents of the pot into the colander, this is the part to enjoy and relax while doing it)
Fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the curds to loosely cover.
Drain until it reaches your desired consistency...30 minutes for a soft ricotta and up to 2 hours for a firm, dry, dense ricotta. I personally enjoy it a little on the softer side, but completely personal preference.
Refrigerate drained ricotta in airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Ways to use homemade ricotta:
In stuffed shells
As a spread on bruschetta
And check out this link to Bon Appetit , 65 recipes for inspirational and creative ways to enjoy this fantastic, creamy, lovely cheese.