When fresh traditional ricotta disappeared from local Italian markets, it was time to consider making my own ricotta, well sort of… This basic, simple ricotta-style cheese recipe makes a wonderful alternative to store bought–lovely for a sweet treat or part of your favorite lasagna–fresh ricotta a favorite little kitchen gem.
I think Bijouxs is perhaps the only remaining food blog/website that has not yet featured a post about making fresh ‘ricotta’ cheese…well, because traditionally ricotta (which means re-cooked in Italian) cheese is made using the leftover whey by-product from making other cheeses, such as mozzarella. It takes a whole lot of whey to yield a substantial amount of ricotta. Of course when I mentioned to another Italian friend that I was making ricotta, I got “oh, you are making mozzarella”–case in point why I call this ricotta-style cheese. If you would like to try your hand at the real deal, Emiko Davies shares a recipe and explains the difference between real ricotta and the current crop of fresh ricotta-style cheeses.
One of my concerns with current ‘ricotta’ recipes was that many call for using lemon juice as the active agent. We know from cooking that every lemon varies in acid content, so lemons cannot provide a consistent measurable acid that is required to force the curdling process that creates the cheese. So, I thought I better call in a scientific cooking friend with some cheese making experience and have a go at some fresh ricotta-style cheese.
The ingredients and process for making a basic, fresh ricotta-style cheese are simple. Although this is not real-deal ricotta, it is a whole lot better tasting than the products in plastic tubs in the markets. Milk (I used whole, cream-top milk from Strauss Family Creamery), cream, critic acid powder (providing a stable, consistent standardized acidity) and salt complete the ingredient list. The process is also simple, but requires a couple additional supplies you may not have on hand, such as butter muslin (cheese draining cloth) and powdered citric acid. Key equipment includes a large non-reactive (stainless or porcelain lined) stockpot with a lid, a non-reactive strainer (stainless steel or plastic) and a long-handled mesh strainer.
This recipe is lightly adapted from Artisan Cheese Making at Home by Mary Karlin, an informative book and website, and really is quite simple to prepare. On the occasion that I need some fresh ricotta-style cheese this recipe does the trick. Ricotta is a delicate, creamy, mild, fresh cheese, that moves easily from savory (in your favorite lasagna or with additions such as freshly chopped herbs) to sweet (served with honey or here dressed up for Easter with a drizzle of rose syrup and pistachios, served with thin crackers for a little sweet treat.)
Fresh-ricotta style cheese made at home–a little gem for your kitchen.
As always, enjoy. B