Aloof to the store-bought ricotta? Ah, the homemade ricotta has made its way into your kitchen ::::
After reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle last year, I became obsessed with making cheese. Rather, obsessed about thinking about making cheese. I talked to my mom about trying it, we hemmed and hawed, concerned about space, time, efforts. It was certainly unchartered territory and we felt a little lost, even with a map. We dilly-dallied a bit more, Mum grabbing the compass first, buying some rennet and making some delicious cumin-flavored ricotta. It was light and lovely, spreadable on crackers for a fancy snack.
Then I spied Ina Garten’s version: no rennet needed. Vinegar. Cheesecloth. Sieve. Done in 30 minutes. How could I not make this? No excuses.
I made my ricotta more dense than what most people would expect. Even though difficult to spread, it was perfect with crostini, a drizzle of olive oil, and some coarse sea salt. I did not take photos; alas, we ate it too quickly. And I forgot. The harder consistency is also perfect for crumbling over a salad. Pressing with a weight, such as a book, overnight, will give you a sliceable cheese, also very salad worthy. My next cheese project might just be a ricotta salata.
Author: story of a kitchen (adapted from Ina Garten)
Recipe type: appetizer
- 6 cups half-and-half
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons good white or red wine vinegar
- Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth (or muslin) with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.
- Pour the half-and-half into a stainless steel or enameled pot. Stir in the salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).
- Pour the mixture into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 15 to 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. I drained my ricotta for 30 minutes and it was not easily spreadable. (Update: I did this another time and drained for 5 minutes for a much looser, spreadable cheese. You'll have to experiment depending on the fat content of the cream you are using.)
- Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days. Makes about 2 cups (480 ml).
Variations: Add finely chopped chives, green onions, or Italian parsley. Or strawberries. Or jam. Or chocolate! So many possibilities! NOTE: Do not use ultra-pasteurized cream here. It won't curdle.