Our foray into the world of soft cheeses was inspired by my new favorite book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The book is a wonderful chronicle of her and her family's experiences during a year of eating locally at their home in Virginia, including an inspirational chapter on cheesemaking that makes it sound both easy and fulfilling.
Luckily, Naushon volunteers at the Edible Schoolyard here in north Berkeley and had actually made fresh ricotta once before with the kids. The Edible Schoolyard recipe below is both as simple and as delicious as Barbara Kingsolver led me to believe.
If you like soft cheeses, I suggest that you give this a shot. It's very straightforward and quick and the results are really yummy. I also suggest that you buy high-quality organic milk from a local dairy if you can. I used milk and cream from the Straus Family Creamery in Marshall, CA because it is DELICIOUS, locally-produced, organic, and also because Straus is such an incredibly cool company (do you know of another dairy that composts all its waste, uses recyclable glass bottles, and powers its operations with methane from its cows?)
I've included a little step-by-step pictorial of the process following the recipe to help you get started.
* 1 quart whole milk (organic)
* 1/2 cup heavy cream (organic)
* 4 Tbsps lemon juice
* Salt to taste
1. Bring milk and cream to a simmer very slowly in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Once simmering, turn off the heat.
2. Add the lemon juice a little bit at a time and stir. Add enough lemon juice to curdle the milk/cream mixture (you may need a bit more or less than the 4 tablespoons). The whey, the watery liquid that has separated from the solids (a.k.a. the curds), should be translucent.
3. Let stand for 5 minutes then gently ladle or pour into a fine sieve or colander lined with cheesecloth. Allow to drain for at least 1 hour or until the cheese reaches the desired thickness.
4. Transfer the curds to a bowl and season with salt to taste.
A Step-By-Step Pictorial Guide To Making Fresh Ricotta Cheese
The ingredients are extremely simple.
Squeeze a lemon for the 4 tbsps of juice.
Pour the milk and cream into the pot.
Gently bring the milk and cream to a simmer.
Add the lemon juice to curdle the milk and cream mixture and stir.
The mixture should curdle, separating into curds (solids) and whey (liquid).
Here's a close up look at some of those curds.
Pour the curdled mixture into a cheesecloth-lined colander to strain the whey from the curds.
Drain the whey. You may need to empty the liquid before you let the curds sit if the bowl you're using is not very deep.
The curds will need to rest for about an hour in their cozy cheesecloth-lined strainer.
When the cheese has reached the desired consistency, pour the drained cheese into a bowl and add salt to taste.
Try a spoonful of your delicious homemade ricotta -- fresh, creamy, lightly salty, and just a tiny bit sweet!
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