Curds and whey

ricotta

It's a good thing I am not lactose intolerant, because I have been on a dairy kick recently. First it was cultured butter, and now it's homemade ricotta cheese. It amazes me that something this simple can produce such fantastic results.

Two of my more recent cookbook purchases have been Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses by Ricki Carroll and Artisan Cheese Making at Home: Techniques & Recipes for Mastering World-Class Cheeses by Mary Karlin. Between these excellent books, and the techniques I found using the EYB "how to" filter, I cobbled together a recipe for homemade ricotta. (I can never seem to follow just one recipe, I like to grab bits and pieces from different recipes. Usually it's a successful strategy, but disaster always lurks in the shadows.)

curds

I added cream to up the richness factor, but you can make homemade ricotta with but three ingredients: milk, lemon juice, and salt. Just add heat to the mix and magic happens - cheese curds form. Once you drain the curds, the cheese is ready to use. (I made manicotti with this heavenly, creamy ricotta.) Besides taking bits and pieces of several different recipes, I also fiddled with the instructions. Since I put my cheesecloth away so well that I couldn't find it, I drained the cheese using an oversized coffee filter set in a wire mesh strainer. It was effective, if not pretty.

One question that always comes up when making cheese is what to do with the leftover whey. If you have a garden, you can pour it on your acid-loving plants (after it's cooled, of course). You can also use the liquid for bread making, and I found an especially good use for it this time around: I made pancakes with it, substituting the whey for the buttermilk in my usual pancake recipe.

What is your favorite simple yet magical kitchen discovery?

4 Comments

  • Jane  on  2/24/2014 at 1:52 PM

    I have only made my own ricotta once and I also was blown away by the results. I really must do it again as I have recently really got into having a small ramekin of ricotta, mixed with some fruit and sliced almonds as a sweet treat in the evening. Fresh ricotta would be so much better.

  • Cubangirl  on  2/24/2014 at 6:41 PM

    Darcie I have a ricotta recipe that uses the whey left over after you make mozzarella. I've not tried it, but now that I have new cooking toys, it's on my list.

  • debkellie  on  2/24/2014 at 9:57 PM

    A couple of years back I did a great cheesemaking course over a weekedn at Witches Chase in teh Brsibane hinterland; so easy, so excited .. came home with a bunch of cheeses (eat now or ripen styles).. bought the complete chessemaking kit and caboodle.. yes, you've guessed --- it has lain dormant ever since.. even though the camemberts and ricottas were tasty! Maybe its time to revisit!

  • boardingace  on  2/28/2014 at 10:13 AM

    I too was so surprised and pleased at how easy, delicious and cheap homemade ricotta cheese is! Especially when "the good stuff" (sans preservatives, per Cook's Illustrated's recommendations) at the store is expensive. I did not know that you could use the whey in place of buttermilk in pancakes; thank-you for the tip!

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