Did you know you can make fresh Ricotta, at home?

I use Ricotta all the time, mainly in pastas, but there are so many more things that you can do with it; tarts, desserts, baked with parmesan and olives, stuffings, the options are endless.  One thing I do bork at though is the price in the shops, and I tend to wait for big tubs of Ricotta to be on special and then buy a few at a time.  I have recently found that one of my favorite stores, Moore Wilson’s, sell a fresh one which is beautiful and cheaper than the named brands in the supermarkets.

While Ricotta isn’t technically a cheese, it is made from the byproducts left over from cheese making, and is often referred to and used like a cheese.

Today I made Ricotta for the first time.  I wonder how many of you freaked out just now.  Does the thought of playing cheese maker/thinking about all the complicated equipment one would need/stressed over the amount of time and effort involved in making cheese have you virtually running for the hills?  I suspect a great deal of you just about decided to click the back button and navigate away from this page.  But wait, it’s not as hard as it seems.

I was poking around on the internet, as I do, the other day, and spotted a few sites that showed how easy it was to make Ricotta from scratch.  They all seems to have the same sort of ingredients in them, milk (or milk and cream) and buttermilk (or some sort of acid – vinegar or lemon juice).  Essentially the milk and/or cream is heated, the acid is added,  then the milk solids are separated from the whey, and there you have it, fresh ricotta.

Almost every website boasted that being able to make fresh ricotta should be something that is in every chefs and home cook’s repertoire. Seeing these recipes, I just HAD to give them a go.  It looked far too easy to be true!  And once I gave it a go, I realised that one part of this statement was true; it WAS far too easy.

I made two, one with cream and one without.  I wanted to see how the two would work out, being that NZ Milk is so creamy anyway, I had my doubts about using the cream.  To be honest, I had a little bit of a fail with the cream one, I suspect I didn’t add enough lemon juice.  I figured this out once I made the second one.  It just didn’t seem to produce enough curds and ended up being too creamy and rich.  The second one that I made was just milk and white vinegar and turned out perfect, it separated as soon as I put the vinegar in and strained beautifully.

The trick to remember with Ricotta making is, the longer you strain the curds, the drier and firmer it will be when finished.  The curds will firm up more as they chill, so what you have in your strainer is not what you will end up with at the finish.

The recipe using cream was very rich and would suit being spread on toast as bruschetta.  The one without the cream would lend itself to being added to pastas and other dishes, it was more like Ricotta that you would buy in the shops.  I will most definitely be making the recipe without cream often.

It is at this point that  I have to admit that I’m pretty excited, I have found out that I can make fresh Ricotta when I need it, having young kids and a coffee addiction, we always have milk in the fridge (except for on the odd occasion we borrow a cup from the neighbors 😉  )

Thanks for reading!

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