Yesterday I decided to try making home made ricotta just because there are no Italian delis near me that make this. Growing up, it seemed like there was an Italian grocery store on every corner with the owner’s wife bustling around in the back making ricotta or mozzarella cheese, but those places are long gone and I longed for the real thing.
I had a recipe from several web sites – one called for whole milk and cream and the other for whole milk and buttermilk. I chose the one with cream, but by mistake I used the buttermilk directions, so at first, my milk/cream mixture did not curdle well and made very small almost non-existent ricotta curds. I did panic, but I recovered, and switched to the proper directions by reheating the milk/cream mixture and going from there. I also had to add vinegar because the lemon juice did not curdle the milk enough. Am I making you crazy? Well it all worked out splendidly.
2 quarts whole milk
1 cup of heavy cream
2 – 3 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar (I like a combo of both and a bit more if needed)
1/2 tsp salt
Cheese cloth or a thin tea towel that will allow liquid to drain thru it
a large heavy ceramic or stainless steel pot
a large strainer or colander
a small tea strainer or skimmer with holes
Pour the milk and cream into a heavy ceramic pot and place on medium high heat. Stir occasionally so that the milk does not scorch on the bottom. You might have to turn the heat down to medium. Ignore my candy thermometer in the picture.
The milk must be gently heated until it comes to a rolling boil. Then add the salt and the lemon juice and vinegar and continue to stir the milk mixture until it curdles and you can see the ricotta curds have formed. (About two more minutes.)
Turn off the heat and let the mixture rest for 5 – 10 minutes so that the curds form even more. If curds do not form or you have weak small almost non-existent curds, you did not add enough vinegar . To fix this, reheat the milk until boiling, add another tbsp or so of white vinegar and stir for two minutes until better size curds form.
Place the colander or large strainer over a large ceramic bowl. With the small tea strainer or skimmer, skim out the cheese curds into the tea towel and let it drain for a few minutes. or you can pour the whole thing into the tea towel or strainer. The liquid will drain thru and the curds will remain on top. After a few minutes of draining, the ricotta will remain in the tea towel.
It should last 2 days in the fridge. You can add it into a dish of pasta with light tomato sauce, use it in lasagna or make a ricotta cake or pie. I made a very nice appetizer before chilling it in the fridge.
I brushed slices of Italian bread with oil and toasted them.
Then I smeared the toasts with a large dollop of the ricotta, added some kalamata olives, shredded basil, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. So heavenly good. Tomorrow I am making this ricotta bruschetta again to take to my cousin’s to share as a before dinner appetizer. Doesn’t it look pretty?
PS: Two days later, I opened my refrigerated ricotta and it was very firm, so I added heavy cream (Like 1/8 to 1/4 cup) and stirred it in until the ricotta was creamy again. Then I made the bruschetta as seen in the picture and it tasted fresh as could be.