There have been many times I'll see a commercial for some restaurant advertising their new dish, and my first thought will be, "I can make that myself. And Better!". Is it because I'm a cocky bastard? Possibly. But I think the real reason is that it really is possible to make it. With the internet, even beer is something that can be done at home. But one thing that has always seemed impossible for me to do at home is cheese. Between that special ingredient they add which causes the cream to separate and the aging process, I never gave it a second thought. All that changed when watching an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
Mr. Fieri was at some little spot where a little old man was running the show. The old guy was going on and on about how everything was made from scratch. Then he said they even make their own ricotta. Now he had my interest.
In the show's fashion, they show him make the cheese in all of 20 seconds or so. The old guy was like "All you gotta do is heat the milk and salt, add some lemon juice, stir for a second, and your done!" In all honesty, I was shocked. I thought, "There's no fucking way it can be that easy!". I searched google for homemade ricotta recipes, and to my amazement, it really is that fucking easy.
I know when I hear someone say "It's that easy", I might think it's easy for them. But please believe me on this, it doesn't get much easier than this. Recipe after recipe I found, they all were basically saying the same thing the old man was saying. I found a few slight differences, like heating temperature and the addition or exclusion of heavy cream. But one thing I saw on all the recipes and reviews was how much better it is over store bought ricotta. They all commented that the texture is creamier and smoother.
After reading all that, I knew I wanted to try it. Then came the big question: What to do with it? I talked it over with the home-girl Aimee, one of my coworkers. We tossed around a few ideas on both the sweet and savory side. In the end, I was still a little unsure of which way to go with it. I'll explain how the top picture came to be a little later.
After finding the recipe I was going to use, I hit the store and got what I needed. On a blog I had read, the writer said they just ate it on toast as a light snack. That didn't sound bad, so to play it safe, I bought a loaf of sliced french bread. Here is the recipe that I used.
1 Quart Whole Milk
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1 1/2tbs Lemon Juice
Cheese Cloth (to strain)
And that's it folks. Some recipes didn't have heavy cream in it. Some used vinegar instead of lemon juice. Some recipes have you add the lemon juice at a higher temp. My advice is to read a few reviews of the recipe before choosing it. Sometimes people will talk about adjustments they made if the original recipe has a flaw to it.
I don't have too many pics for this one because...well...it's not the most exciting procedure. But I will explain as best I can.
Take your milk, cream, and salt and get those in your pot and set the fire to medium-high. The recipe I followed said to get the liquid to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir a few times here and there to keep it from burning on the bottom. When the liquid reaches the temp, stir in the lemon juice just enough to mix it in and turn the heat down to a low simmer. Do not keep stirring! Leave it alone for about 2-3 minutes. It should look like this.
After a few minutes, gently stir a few times back and forth to break it up some. At this point, the curds will be clearly visible. Turn the heat off and let it sit for another 3 to 4 minutes to make sure it is as separated as it's going to get. Line a strainer with 2 layers of cheese cloth and pour in your mix.
Here is another area in which the recipes varied. The amount of time you let it strain will determine how firm the cheese is going to be. With all the recipes I checked, none of them said to strain for more than 2 hours. I stopped somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour.
This recipe will not give you a ton of cheese. In fact, you will only get about 1 cup of ricotta. But if you are hesitant on trying this, it's the right size to get your feet wet.
Here is the finished product.
How did it come out? Incredible. Normally, I'm very modest about what I make. But this was special. This was just freaking incredible! It comes out 100 times smoother than anything you can find at the store. Creamy with a subtle taste that wonderfully lingers in your mouth. It was so good I didn't want to mix it with anything! I couldn't see myself making cheesecake or lasagna with this. Now I was glad I bought that french bread.
I toasted the bread and raided the fridge. I had some left over caramelized onions and tomatoes that needed to get used. A little salt, pepper, a few drops of olive oil, and I had found bliss.
As soon as I was done, I sent a text to Aimee and told her the cheese was crazy-good. She responded with "How'd you get my number?!?!?! Don't text me ever again!!!" That's just her way of saying she'll give it a try herself. I think....
Anyway, if you take anything away from this, know that it is possible to make cheese at home. You don't have to be some cow milking, sheep raping farmer from Wisconsin to make cheese.
Until next time my friends, take care!