Ricotta Cheese

Summary

 

Ricotta cheese is a soft, slightly sweet, mild fresh cheese. Ricotta is similar in appearance to cottage cheese, but has a much smaller, grainier curd and slightly sweeter taste. Ricotta in Italian means “cooked again,” a reference to the fact that it is traditionally made from whey produced from making other cheeses, like mozzarella, feta or provolone. Modern ricotta, on the other hand, is generally made with fresh whole or skimmed milk to which acid is added directly. As a result, most packaged ricottas are a bit fattier and creamier than ricotta made by the traditional method.

 

The original cheese-making process removes the majority of the casein protein from the goat milk (the cheese) leaving behind the liquid whey portion. When left at room temperature, the original inoculating bacteria continue to act upon the remaining lactose in the whey, converting it to lactic acid, and further lowering the pH of the liquid. The lower pH reduces the solubility of the small amount of remaining protein in the whey. Heating the whey then causes the protein to precipitate out as a very fine-grained curd.

 

Each time when you make cheese, you end up with a lot of whey i.e., The nutritious liquid left over from curdled milk when the curds are removed. Whey contains the water-soluble proteins, vitamins, and minerals in the milk. And there are many things you can do with this leftover whey. You can use it in bread baking and soup stock, and even to cook pasta. You can even drink whey plain or sweetened. And in a pinch it can be used to ripen your cheese if you are out of culture.

 

Ricotta is made by using heat to precipitate – separate out the remaining albumin protein from the whey left over from making lactic acid/rennet precipitated cheeses. Usually recipes call for the use of an acid, such as vinegar in precipitating the curds. I have found, that in most cases, due to the fact that you ripen the milk as you make your hard cheese, the whey has enough acid on it’s own and does not need the extra vinegar. I also find that leaving the vinegar out creates a smoother cheese. If you use the vinegar, the cheese will tend to be slightly grainy. Ricotta is not a high yield cheese, but it is worth the effort.

 

 

Traditional Ricotta Recipe.

 

  • Making Ricotta is very simple. Over direct heat, heat the hard cheese whey to 200°. By the time it has reached this temperature you will see very tiny white particles – the albumin protein,  floating in the whey. The heat and acid from the ripe whey has precipitated the protein. You can add a little vinegar at this point if you really think it necessary ( 1/4 Cup. per 2 gallons of whey), it is up to you as it would not affect the Ricotta.
  • Line a colander with very fine cheesecloth, called “butter muslin”. You must use a very fine cloth here, or your cheese will pass through the regular cloth. If you do not have fine cheesecloth, use a clean cotton cloth. Place the colander over a big pot so you can save the whey and carefully pour the whey into the colander. Be very careful because the liquid is hot. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together and hang the ricotta to drain for a couple hours.
  • When it has drained, place the ricotta in a bowl and add salt to taste. You will find that the Ricotta made from the whey of different cheeses has different tastes and textures.

 

In my opinion, Feta makes the strongest taste as the taste increases as it ages in the fridge. Whereas, Mozzarella makes the best. Your Ricotta will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge. Enjoy!

 

* Note: You cannot make Ricotta from the whey left over from making an acid precipitated cheese such as Paneer/ Queso Blanco or whole milk Ricotta. Reason being, you have already precipitated out all the albumin protein the milk has to give using acid and heat and there is nothing left over in the remaining whey to make whey Ricotta.

 

Modern Ricotta Recipe.

 

Though it is not traditional but,  it is nice to be able to make ricotta out of plain whole goat milk you can buy at the store. This Ricotta cheese  will be drier and not as smooth and creamy as the traditional  Ricotta cheese. Anyway, it tastes great and can be used as a ricotta substitute in most recipes.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts whole goat milk
  • 3 Tablespoons white vinegar or ¼ Cup fresh, lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp – ½ tsp salt to taste

 

Directions:

  • In a heavy pot, over direct heat, heat 2 quarts of whole goat milk to 200°. Add 3 Tablespoons of white vinegar or 1/4 Cup of fresh, strained lemon juice. Make sure to bring the temperature back up to 200°. You will realize that very tiny white particles called albumin protein, floating in the whey. The heat and acid from the ripe whey has precipitated the protein.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and set it, covered, to rest undisturbed for about 15 minutes.
  • Line a colander with very fine cheesecloth, called “butter muslin”. You must use a very fine cloth here, or your cheese will pass through the regular cloth. If you do not have fine cheesecloth, use a clean cotton cloth. Place the colander over a big pot so you can save the whey and carefully pour the whey into the colander. Be very careful because the liquid is hot. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together and hang the ricotta to drain for an hour or so because the longer you hang it, the drier your finished cheese will be.
  • When it has drained, place the ricotta cheese  in a bowl, break up, stir and add salt to taste.

 

This Ricotta cheese will keep for about a week in the fridge.

 

You can use your homemade Ricotta in almost any recipe that calls for cottage cheese. It can be used instead of cream cheese to make cheesecake. You can also stir in some herbs and eat it on crackers.

 

 

 

 


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