No matter how many times I make this stuff, and I make it all the time, somebody in the crowd always winds up gazing at me dreamily as though I were a wizard. Or a pork chop.
"You made it?" they'll ask breathlessly. "Really? You made your own ricotta?"
Which is often the time that I find myself being offered a wide variety of interesting courtesies should I arrive at their doorstep some evening to deliver a private lesson, presumably in cheese making.
All well and good, flattering surely. But let's get real here, people, okay.
I ain't no wizard.
Making ricotta is stupid simple. All you need is milk, a little vinegar and a pot. Oh, and a spoon.
So much for that interesting courtesy you might have considered offering, yes?
Here is the milk that I used to make fresh ricotta last week. There's a gallon of it. This particular gallon of unpasteurized milk came from a nearby farm, but any old whole milk will do just fine.
The milk goes into a non-reactive pot (I always use enamel-lined). For a full gallon you need to add in six tablespoons of distilled white vinegar. Now turn on the heat, but at a very low setting. It will take some time for things to come up to temperature, but it's better that it happens gradually.
I like a fairly loose ricotta and so when the temperature gets to around 185 degrees F or so I'm figuring we're pretty much done. If you prefer your ricotta a bit stiffer then just allow the temperature to rise to around 200 degrees F.
This is how things are going to look at the 185 degree point. Now is when you take a slotted spoon and start to scoop out what's now your very own homemade ricotta cheese.
Transferring into a colander lined with cheesecloth allows for further draining. As the ricotta is warm, now is a good time to add salt to taste. And that, my friends, is pretty much that.
Last week's batch had initially been allocated to making fresh ravioli, but plans abruptly changed and so I got to use the ricotta for one of my favorite appetizers. Basically you stir in a little milk to the ricotta so that it gets nice and loose. Add herbs, a little sea salt and cracked pepper, and then drizzle in a nice extra virgin olive oil.
It's a great spread on top of some toasted crusty bread. And, like making your own ricotta, stupid simple.