How to make basic ricotta
The fundamental basis for this recipe is heating milk and acidifying it. It is based on 4.5 litres, or 1 gallon of milk, but this really does give a really large amount of cheese.
If you decide to use less milk, don’t do away with the same proportion of vinegar. Perhaps the most convenient volume of milk in the UK is one of those 2.2 litre bottles. With this reduced volume of milk, add about 80 ml of cream and 80 ml vinegar.
Which milk can you use for making this cheese?
Many people ask if they can make cheese from coconut milk, or soya or any of the other milks. The truth is you can only make cheese from animal milk. Full fat is best for flavour, but you can use skimmed if you wish. UHT or any other heat treated milk does work, but not so well.
This is the most important consideration in cheese making. One of the values of making cheese the ricotta way is that the milk is all but boiled, and that does kill off most of the germs, but as the cheese is matured, unfriendly microbes can enter the cheese at all times. Consequently, all the equipment you need has to be sterile, either by boiling or sterilising solution.
The work surfaces should be sterile, and you should wear some form of protective clothing – at least an apron. Your hands should be clean, and if possible, wear plastic gloves.
You will need a large pan, and cooker to heat the milk.
You will need either a colander, a ricotta mould or a slotted strainer of some kind.
You will need a spoon – preferably two spoons, a wooden one for stirring and a slotted one for collecting the curds.
4.5 litres of full fat milk
120 ml double cream
120 ml white vinegar
Heat the milk to 93C
This doesn’t have to be accurate. Obviously the milk is really hot, and as you stir it, and as it nears boiling, the back of the spoon will get a coating on it, and the milk looks as though it was just ready to boil.
Add the cream
Actually, you can add the cream at any time, or you can omit it altogether. If you do omit the cream, the cheese will be a little harder, and will resemble panneer. This is good for making into a haloumi type of cheese.
Stir for a couple of minutes then add the vinegar stirring all the time. You will see curds forming all the time. Turn off the heat and keep stirring for a while and then, after a couple of minutes, stop. Put a lid on the pan and simply leave to cool.
When cool ladle into a mould or cheesecloth to drain.
Leave overnight and then you have ricotta.
You can either salt or sweeten the cheese. Sweetened, it makes a brilliant cheesecake. You can add all kinds of flavours to the sweetened cheese, from fruit to chocolate. From 4.5 litres of milk you will get over a kilo of cheese – it will be fairly moist cheese, ideal if you are using it as ricotta.
You can swap the vinegar for about 40 ml lemon juice and 40 ml white wine vinegar, it is less vinegar flavoured.
You will find the vinegary flavour goes very quickly anyway, but you can also wash it like cottage cheese – but this time only once.
Making a crumbly cheese and cottage cheese
You will need:
4.5 litres of milk
1 ice cube of mesophillic starter OR a tub of rich creamy yoghurt, the creamier the better
6 drops rennett in a little cooled boiled water
Warm the milk to 30C and add the creme fraiche or starter. Turn the heat off and leave for 30 minutes. (Or as long as it takes to make and drink a cup of tea.)
Add the rennet and leave for another hour.
Cut the curds into 1cm cubes. And pour into a cheesecloth lines colander.
Salt to 0.5% by weight and mix well with a cutting motion of a knife.
Squeeze out the rest of the whey and transfer the cheese to a mould in the muslin.
Press gradually increasing to medium weight for the rest of the day.
Fall the cheese out onto a plate leave for a few days in a sterile container with the lid off so it can dry a little more and eat!
So you have the basic form of making a cheese. So we can no extend that method by using different ingredients and modifying techniques, but still have a basic cheese making method which will not require any specialist equipment.
This is a really easy recipe, and you won’t go back.
1 pint of double cream
Juice of 1 – 2 lemons
Warm the cream until it reaches 80C and then stir in the lemon juice.
Keep stirring and it will thicken. Keep stirring.
When it is really thick, spoon into a sterile cheesecloth and allow the whey to drain.
The following day you have mascarpone cheese.
You can also use tartaric acid, which often comes in powdered for. You have to dissolve two teaspoons of powder in about 3 tablespoons of water, and use that instead of the lemon juice. You can do the same with citric acid, which is essentially just the same as lemon juice, but doesn’t taste the same, giving a more neutral creamy flavour.