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.
You can see I didn’t get much from this batch! Yet the flavour is amazing. I love ricotta as a layer in lasagna, it complements the homemade mozzarella beautifully.
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.
With great eagerness we received cheese-making supplies in the post this autumn. Inspired as much by the likes of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle as by the high price of cheese, and by the overwhelming desire to know how to make cheese ourselves, we attempted to make mozzarella.
It all seemed to be going along well enough, as far as we could tell, without any experience…
Then never developed in response to the rennet. We recovered from the disappointment by making ricotta cheese and using the whey to soak porridge oats overnight.
Another day we tried again, this time following a more detailed recipe. Failure again! Oh! Well. We blame the over-pasteurised store-bought milk.
Now that we are getting raw milk from the farm, we decided to have another go. Astonishing! The transformations occurred so rapidly, there wasn’t a moment to take photographs! I needed my tall child to read the directions repeatedly, as I do get confused. The little one helped with the colander and watched carefully as I tossed the cheese back into the hot whey, plucked it out, kneaded it, pulled it, repeat. I made a few mistakes, but in the end (just a few minutes later) we had a tremendous result. Mozzarella!
My sweetheart’s leftover bolognese sauce was waiting, and the children built layers of sauce, parmesan and spelt noodles, and finished with the mozzarella we had made. Family lasagna. Gorgeous.
Have a look at my illustrated guide to making mozzarella.