Ok, I hear you out there; “you want me to make what?”! No, I don’t think making your own ricotta cheese is going too far. That’s because it is really so simple to make.
The economics of making your own is also a great reason. A nice ricotta, without a crazy array of additives, can be incredibly expensive. This becomes a big issue if you don’t use ricotta a lot. You only need a little bit, but have to buy a tub. Now you can just make what you like.
This recipe is for “modern ricotta” not traditional ricotta.
is an Italian whey cheese made from sheep, cow, goat, or Italian water buffalo milk whey left over from the production of cheese. Like other whey cheeses, it is made by coagulating the proteins that remain after the casein has been used to make cheese, notably albumin and globulin. Wikipedia
Modern ricotta is made using fresh whole or skimmed milk and an acid.
This is what we are making.
The pros about making this kind of ricotta (also known as farmer’s cheese):
- You can control how moist or dry the cheese is just by how long you drain it.
- You can make as much or as little as you like.
- You can press it to make other cheeses like paneer.
So, what is going on when we make this cheese. It really is quite simply adding an acid to milk. The acid forces the milk to separate into curds and whey. The curds are the cheese.
This cheese is great because it doesn’t melt like other cheeses. It makes it perfect for adding to lasagna, ravioli, dips, or just spreading on toast.
Type of Milk to Use
- Ricotta depends on the presence of fat so the best milks to use are 2% or Whole (3.25%) milk.
- There is a lot of debate over whether or not UHT milk (Ultra-High-Temperature) will work. I have heard yes, and no. My best advice is to give it a go if that is what you have. You can always try it with just a small amount.
Type of Acid to Use
- Some say buttermilk is the best, but it has been hit or miss for me.
- Distilled vinegar is a very popular for good reason. It has a very clean taste and curdles the milk well.
- Lemon juice is also popular, but be advised that it can infuse a lemony flavour. This is great for some applications, but may not be wanted in others.
This is another debated item around the web. Common thought is to heat the milk to 180 °F (82 °C). From various tests done, it looks like the temperature is fine anywhere between 165 °F (73 °C) to 185 °F (85 °C).
Heating the Milk
The milk can be heated on the stove top or in the microwave. If you use the stove, keep a very close eye on it and don’t try to heat it too quickly. The milk can easily burn on the bottom of the pan. Heat slowly on a low/medium heat and stir frequently. When stirring, scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure none is sticking to the bottom.
If you would rather use the microwave, pour the milk into a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for a couple of minutes. Depending on the power of your microwave, it should only take 2 – 4 minutes. Once it is at temperature, remove it from the microwave and add the vinegar or lemon juice.
Draining the Cheese
Ah cheesecloth, something you would assume is the right tool for the job. I don’t use cheesecloth to drain my cheese or yogurt. It can be awfully expensive for a one time use only tool.
I use an old, clean, cotton bed sheet instead. I cut it up into large square pieces and place it in a fine mesh strainer. It strains perfectly and can be washed and reused oven and over again. If you prefer to use cheesecloth, that works too.
So how much time do you need to drain your cheese. That really depends on what you want to use it for. Here is a very general guide:
5 Minutes or Less:
- Very moist and tender. Best for eating immediately in savoury dishes or with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. It can also be served warm with honey and fruit.
10 – 20 Minutes:
- Moist but not running. This will be more like cottage cheese and is perfect for lasagna, cannoli, ravioli, or using in dips.
30 – 60 Minutes or More:
- This will create a dry, crumbly texture. This is perfect for making pressed cheese like paneer. Simply put the cheese in a container, weight it down, and wait for up to an hour. The excess whey will come out. It can then be grilled, fried or used in curries.
Here is a video showing the process of pressing your ricotta into paneer.
The leftover whey can be used in place of water in many recipes.
Salt and Herbs
Some like to salt or herbs and spices to the cheese, others do not. It really depends on what you are using it for. You can add salt or herbs and spices to the milk prior to heating.
Whether you are making ricotta, or pressing it into a firmer cheese, the shelf-life is pretty short. Only up to 5 days. Be sure to store in the coldest part of the fridge in an airtight container.
Freezing is also an option. There may be some texture changes though. If you make a recipe that includes ricotta (lasagna, etc.) go ahead and freeze it. The texture will be fine.
Ok, let’s get to it!
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
|1/2 Cup||10 – 30 Minutes|
- You can use either vinegar or lemon juice.
- Fresh ricotta will last up to 5 days in the fridge in an airtight container.
- This recipe can easily be doubled or halved.
- If the milk is not curdling enough, feel free to add more vinegar or lemon juice.
- 500 millilitres (2 Cups) 2% or Whole (3.25%) Milk
- 2 Tablespoons Vinegar or Lemon Juice