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Ricotta --- the bonus cheese

Homemade ricottaI'll admit that when my parents made lasagna with ricotta when I was a kid, I tried to pick around the grainy cheese. But I now that I'm experimenting with cheesemaking, I've learned the purpose of ricotta --- turning all that cultured whey into something useful. And, sure enough, two quarts of milk turned into 9.5 ounces of neufchatel, while leaving enough proteins in the whey to create another 2.9 ounces of ricotta. Thus, I've decided this subtly acidic cheese is hereafter to be referred to as "bonus cheese."

(Okay, not really. You can keep calling it ricotta. But doesn't "bonus cheese" sound good?)

Making ricotta

Ricotta is almost too simple to post about. You take your leftover whey and allow the liquid to sit, covered, at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Next, boil to separate the curds from the whey, then strain out the chemically altered (greenish) whey off your new cheese.

The boiling step is supposed to be a near-boil, using a double boiler to heat the cultured whey to 203 degrees Fahrenheit. However, after an hour in our double boiler, the whey was beginning to separate out little curds...but still hadn't surpassed 180 degrees. Only after decanting the whey into a pot to cook it the rest of the way directly on the stove, at which point it boiled at around 198 degrees Fahrenheit, did I realize that I really should have factored in changing boiling temperatures due to elevation. (Or, perhaps, the fact that my candy thermomter might not be accurate?) So, to cut a long story short --- you can make ricotta just fine by simply bringing the whey to a boil then removing it from the heat.

Straining ricotta

Anyway, after you boil your whey, you let it cool for a couple of hours, then pour the curds and whey into a clean cloth above a strainer. I used our new straining funnel for this step.

You'll also notice that I moved to a white cloth instead of the colored one I'd used for my previous cheeses. I learned the hard way that cheese picks up a little bit of lint from the cloth, which is unsightly if the fabric is colored. But if the cloth is white, no one ever knows....

I actually loved the flavor of this ricotta plain, but I'm thinking of trying it in a chocolate cheesecake with some of the neufchatel. Because everything tastes better with a little chocolate....



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Take the ricotta you make, add a bit of hazelnut syrup (or almond) a bit of sugar, mix well and you have the makings of the stuffing for cannoli. Or, if you're like me and can't stand to wait, just eat the ricotta like it's pudding. Yummy!
Comment by NaYan Wed May 20 10:06:04 2015
Anna, its fun reading these posts on cheese making. i really did not know that Ricotta was made from the leftover whey. Interesting stuff!
Comment by deb Wed May 20 18:15:45 2015

While I usually love getting bonus anything, I am allergic to ricotta cheese. Every time I eat it I throw up for 24 hours. I always feel like I've missed out on "real" Italian, and my husbands family never remembers, so when they have Lasagna, I get to bring Taco Bell.

Most manufacturers actually add other stuff to get the whey to curd up, and I've always wondered if that's what I'm allergic to, instead of the cheese. I wonder if I would be allergic to homemade ricotta? I would be afraid to find out!

Comment by Emily Thu May 21 09:49:20 2015

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime