Time for a chemistry experiment for big kids! This one involves heat, a liquid, and some acid. The result is money in your pocket and some great food in your belly.
1-2 Quarts organic Whole Milk
Acid (2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice or Vinegar, 1/2 Teaspoon Citric Acid)
Optional: Salt, Cream, Herbs
Tools needed are a large non-reactive pan ( I use a stainless steel lined copper one), a colander, and some cheesecloth. Pour the milk into the pan, and add the acid. Stir thoroughly once, and bring the milk up to 170-190 degrees. Ultra pasteurized milk works fine with citric acid, though I have not tried it with any other of the acids. The heat/acid combo causes the milk solids (curds) to separate from most of the liquid-instead of using a thermometer, you can just watch the transformation take place, as it reaches the maximum effect when the milk begins to boil right around the edges of the pan. At this point, turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let sit for at least five minutes.
Place the cheesecloth in the colander in the sink, or in a bowl, if you want to save the liquid portion, which is known as the whey. No whey? Yes whey. Pour the cheese mixture into the cheesecloth (a single layer of cheesecloth is sufficient). Let drain for a minute or two, tie up the cheesecloth and hang the ricotta to drain–I just hang it off the faucet on my kitchen sink. I leave it for an hour or more, and take it down to cook with it or store it. It should look like the above picture.
The manifold uses for ricotta are well documented, and it can be used for any meal–try some in scrambled eggs sometime. As a teaser, I’ll give notice that I will eventually post my favorite ricotta recipe, Penne alla Pastora, in the future. It’s so complicated that it has a total of five ingredients.