After watching an entire season of Masterchef Australia where home cooks prepare amazing foods and seeing them make ricotta within a short time frame to use in ravioli and other dishes , I decided to give it a try and make the cheese myself. Now, considering that I try to stay away from dairy in my daily cooking, this is a pretty adventurous move for me.
The process is very simple and the cheese really makes itself. You boil milk and cream in a heavy pot together with a teaspoon of salt, then remove it from the heat and add the acid, which can be lemon juice or vinegar and watch the mixture curdles into a soft curd ricotta cheese. You pour this into a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl and within a few minutes you have ricotta. Quite fun. Discard the whey that drained from it.
When we were in Italy we stayed in an ancient palazzo at the foot of the Apenine range and next door to us lived a sheep farmer and his wife the cheesemaker operating Azienda Agricola Boschetti Giancarlo. Every day she made cheese from the milk he brought in and every morning locals came in to buy the daily cheese from her. Everything was gone before noon so you had to either order or come in early. Needless to say I bought a couple of different cheeses from her and I can tell you that the ricotta, spooned over grilled bread and drizzled with local olive oil was something so memorable that I will not soon forget. The entire stay at the Palazzo del Duca was a memorable experience and we still live off these memories now.
The ricotta I made today is destined to fill homemade ravioli with artichokes. If I get to photograph it I will post the recipe.
Makes about 2-3 cups cheese
1 quart full fat milk
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice or white wine vinegar
Line a 4 cup capacity sieve or strainer with 4 layers of cheesecloth and set over a bowl.
Place milk, cream and salt in a heavy pot (I use le Cresuet) and bring to a boil stirring now and then and watching so it does not boil over.
Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice or vinegar.
The milk should begin to curdle and separate right away.
Stir for a minute or two, then pour into the cheesecloth lined sieve set over a bowl. The curds will be trapped in the cheesecloth and the whey drain into the bowl.
Let the cheese drain for about 15 minutes draining the liquids from the bowl a couple of times. Watch the texture of the cheese: the longer you drain it, the dryer the cheese. If you like your ricotta creamy then stop the draining when it reaches the texture you like.
Refrigerate in an air tight container and use within a few days.