Monday, May 7, 2012

Richer Ricotta

Way back in February, I made my first foray into the world of cheesemaking when I made Buttermilk Ricotta - something that was so surprisingly easy and was loved so much by my family (except my sister who doesn't like ricotta at all) that my mom won't stop talking about it! I knew making the Italian-esque cheese would become a common occurrence around here, but it's rare that we actually have buttermilk hanging around and really, who keeps it on hand at all times? I began to scout around for another recipe I could do with regular milk, since though I knew ricotta was just a combination of milk, salt and acid, I had no proportions to go by. I also had a small bottle of citric acid left over from a semi-failed jam attempt last year, and I wanted to see if I could use that instead of the more common lemon juice or vinegar.

The great thing about making ricotta, any ricotta, is that it's 100% customizable simply by changing up the milk and/or adding flavouring agents like spices, citrus zests and even cocoa or instant coffee. Other additions you can mix into the finished cheese could be fresh herbs or even edible flowers! Since I had a voucher for a free litre of half and half cream to use (thanks to buying one earlier in the year that was curdled beyond recognition), I went for that plus a few cups of the stepdad's favourite homogenized milk to pump up the decadence of the finished product. Thanks to the extra fat and the more precise acidity of the citric acid powder, the curd was super-fine, almost like I had pureed cottage cheese, and the taste was "cleaner" than when I made it with lemon juice at school (since vinegar and lemon juice can both taste bitter with cooking). I let it drain in a tea towel-lined colander and probably left it a bit too long, but luckily a splash of milk could loosen things to a more spreadable texture if you're not cooking with it.
 
Richer Ricotta
Makes 15 (dry) oz, about 1 3/4 cups packed (fourteen 2 tbsp servings)
4 cups 1/2 and 1/2 cream
2 cups whole milk
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup cold water
  1. Combine the cream, milk and salt in a saucepan.
  2. Mix the citric acid and cold water, then add half this mixture to the milk in the pot and place over medium heat.
  3. Bring the mixture up to 185F, stirring almost constantly to prevent scorching.
  4. If the milk does not curdle by this point, begin adding the reserved acid solution tablespoons at a time.
  5. Once it begins to curdle, remove from the heat and let it rest 30 minutes.
  6. Place a colander in a sink and line with a moistened double-layer cheesecloth or clean dishtowel.
  7. Slowly pour the cooked mixture into the colander, allowing the whey to run through while the curds collect in the cloth.
  8. Gather the corners of the cloth and tie them together, then either hang the ball of ricotta from the faucet or leave in the colander 15 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 110.3
Total Fat: 9.0 g
Cholesterol: 28.9 mg
Sodium: 166.1 mg
Total Carbs: 4.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.0 g
Protein: 3.2 g