Ricotta means ‘twice-cooked’ in Italian. It’s a simple cheese, and the first I ever succeeded at. I had lots of whey leftover from when I strained it off the yogurt I made the other day to make the yogurt very thick.
Leave the whey out at room temperature overnight. (Make sure every jar and tool you’re using is sterile. Good idea.) A whole day is perfect. This acidifies the whey, gives the ricotta a wonderful flavour, and allows the curds to separate from the whey when heated. Alternatively, you can mix in a small amount of citric acid to achieve the same effect, and skip the overnight wait. I imagine slower is better, it usually is, and sometimes it gives me time to prepare!
Warm the whey slowly, stopping it just before it boils. It should separate into curds pretty quickly, and begin to foam. Mine didn’t this time! Possibly it wasn’t acidic enough; I’m going to try again when I’ve made a new batch of yogurt, to see what was up. Let it rest, without stirring, til it is cool enough to handle, then pour into cheesecloth to drain. I use my fancy mesh bag. Let it drain for a few hours, until it is the consistency you like, then chill, freeze, or use right away.
I had a lot of whey left after this attempt, but it made a gorgeously scented sourdough sponge. Just substitute whey for same amount of water in the bread recipe. I’ll let you know how the next batch of ricotta goes – this time using a gallon of milk.