Fresh Ricotta-style Cheese

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.

Slightly adapted from Artisan Cheese Making at Home by Mary Karlin, Ten Speed Press, 2011
Makes about 1 pound

1 gallon pasteurized whole cow's milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 teaspoons citric acid powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Gather, assemble and sterilize the equipment and supplies before you begin. You will need the following: kitchen thermometer; a non-reactive 6-quart stockpot; whisk; rubber spatula; non-reactive strainer; clean, damp butter muslin; and long-handled mesh skimmer.

In the non-reactive stockpot, combine the milk, cream, citric acid and 1 teaspoon of the salt, whisk to combine. Place over a medium-low heat to slowly heat the milk to 185-195 degrees. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes. To prevent scorching, stir frequently with rubber spatula.

When the milk begins to reach desired temperature, you will see small curds begin to form. When the curds and whey separate, the whey mixture will turn a light yellowish-green and become cloudy, at that point remove from the heat. Carefully run the rubber spatula around the edge of the pot, but do not stir to the bottom of the pan to avoid lifting any scorched milk from the bottom of the pan. Cover the pot and let stand for 10 minutes undisturbed.

Line the nonreactive strainer with damp, clean butter muslin and place over a large bowl or vessel large enough to capture the whey. Using a long handled mesh skimmer, ladle the curds into the strainer. Do not use any curds that may be stuck to the bottom of the pot, they may be scorched. Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon salt over the curds and gently toss using your hands. Use care not to break the curds.

Create a draining sack by tying the opposing corners of the butter muslin together, and repeat with the other two corners. Use the handle of a wooden spoon under the knots and suspend over the whey-catching vessel, or hang the bag over the kitchen sink to drain, using kitchen twine tied around the faucet.

Let the curds drain for 5 minutes, and check for desired consistency. For a moist ricotta style cheese, stop draining just as the whey stops dripping. For a drier cheese, let the curds drain for 10-15 minutes. Discard the whey mixture.

This is a fresh 'in-the-moment' ricotta-style cheese, best used the same day it is made or can stored for a couple of days.