Creamy Ricotta CheeseI just joined Daring Cooks, a website that posts a monthly challenge for cooks to attempt.  March is my first challenge and I’m already running late getting it posted since I had a slight misunderstanding of when it should be posted.

Sawsan from chef in disguise was our March 2013 Daring Cooks hostess! Sawsan challenges us to make our own homemade cheeses! She gave us a variety of choices to make, all of them easily accomplished and delicious!

Ingredients for Ricotta CheeseI was so excited because I’ve never made homemade cheese but always wanted to.  My husband laughed at me because I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to make and was considering making more than one.  Well time got away from me and I only got around to making one.  For now!

Lines Strainer in Large BowlI decided to make ricotta because I kept reading about how easy it is to make at home and once you’ve had homemade ricotta you’ll never go back to store-bought.  I have to admit they are right on both counts.  It was extremely easy and so much better tasting than store-bought.  There’s no graininess and it’s just so creamy.

Curds Starting to SeparateWhile Sawsan had suggested several sites to use, I actually ended up using a recipe from The Italian Dish.  I liked her instructions because they were very simple and simple is always good when learning something new in cooking.

Liquids catching in bowlMost of the ricotta recipes call for using a thermometer and bringing the milk up to a certain temperature before adding the acid.  The recipe I followed brought the cheese up to a slow boil and then it’s turned down to a simmer to form the curds for a couple of minutes.  While I do believe in using a thermometer when needed, I found this method much simpler for me but if you are a complete novice at cooking I would recommend that you stick to using one while making this because it is easy to scorch milk.

Ricotta is getting solidDo try it warm, while it’s still draining.  The flavor just melts in your mouth.  I had to stop myself from eating more so that I could allow it time to set up and get the full ricotta effect.

Squeezing out the water and forming the ricotta ballYou will need to use organic products and try to find ones that haven’t been ultra-homogenized because it interferes with the curd setting (or use raw milk for best results).  I got lucky and mine set on the first try but I read a few blogs about making the cheese before giving it a try.  Basically I learned from others mistakes what not to do.

Ricotta ballAlso use a good sea salt and avoid using iodized table salts.   I also had to add more lemon juice than the recipe called for because my lemons weren’t as acidic as some.  The more acid, the less you’ll need.  If you add the recommended 2 tablespoons and your milk and cream doesn’t start forming curds in a couple of minutes, then try adding another tablespoon to see if it helps.  If nothing happens at all then your milk was probably ultra-homogenized and it won’t set.

Ricotta CheeseMy ricotta came out so wonderfully yummy and it was so easy that I’ll be making it much more often, especially for my homemade lasagna, ravioli, tortellini and cannoli.  I just can’t wait to try it in one of them, because I’m expecting it to make my dishes taste so much better.  I’m so proud of my first attempt to make homemade cheese.  It’s another thing I can mark off my bucket list of things to make.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

1/2 gallon organic whole milk

1 cup organic heavy cream

3/4 tsp sea salt

2 to 4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Slowly bring milk, cream and salt to a slow boil in a large pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.

While your milk is heating, prepare your strainer by lining it with a layer or two of cheesecloth and place the strainer in a large bowl.

Pour in the lemon juice and reduce the heat to low, simmering the milk while stirring constantly until curds start to form in the milk.  About 3 to 5 minutes.  (You’ll notice the milk starting to separate and grains starting to form).

Pour the mix into the lined strainer and allow to drain for one to two hours.  Do not drain to long or your ricotta will be too dry.  Discard the strained liquid in the bowl and chill your ricotta, covered.  Keep in fridge.  Best used in 2 to 3 days but will last up to two weeks.

Makes about 2 cups.

Recipes using Ricotta:

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