Making your own ricotta couldn't be easier! Last Sunday I read a lovely post from Sarah at Food and Paper about her memories of growing up with goats and of a special family friend who loved to exaggerate. She provided a recipe for homemade ricotta that looked super-simple and delicious; perfect for a beginning cheesemaker like me.
You don't need much: a non-reactive pot (stainless steel or enamel), a candy thermometer, a colander, some fine-mesh dampened cheesecloth (enough to fold over three or four times) and another pot to catch the whey, if you're saving it.
Some recipes call for a gallon of milk and a quart of buttermilk. Since Cutie's milking last night and this morning produced just two quarts and three cups, I stuck with Sarah's proportions of two quarts milk and two cups buttermilk.
You heat the milk, stirring it, until it begins to steam, then stop stirring. Curds will form on the surface at about 175 degrees. Remove the pot from the heat and pour the mixture through the cheesecloth.
Well, I kind of messed up, because I forgot to stop stirring! I was using a cheap pot, and I was worried about the milk burning on the bottom, and next thing I knew, the temperature was closer to 185, the liquid was bubbling, and there was no raft of curds to be seen. You can understand why I do not have a photo of this moment.
Would this be like my homemade mayonnaise fiasco? "It's so easy!" Yeah, right. I messed that one up so badly I didn't even post about it.
Well, I went ahead and poured the liquid into the cheesecloth and found there were some chunkier bits in there along with a lot of finer particles (another reason to use fine-mesh cheesecloth). I let it drip for five minutes, then gathered the edges of the cloth (resisting the urge to squeeze the curds). You could hang the bundle from your kitchen tap, but mine's too curved, so I improvised. with a rubberband and chopstick on the cabinet handles, with a piece of plastic behind to protect the wood.
After about 15 minutes, the cheese was dry and pulled away easily from the cloth in a nice rounded lump. OK, so it's micro-curd ricotta, but it's ricotta nonetheless!
And it tastes great! I mean really great. I didn't add salt or anything to it, and I'm sorely tempted to just eat the whole thing with a spoon.
I could, too. This is only about two cups of cheese, if that. About the size of a large fist. So if you have a lot of milk, this is a great way to turn it into something more compact. It should keep for up to a week, but this batch won't last that long.
I will try another batch using lemon juice or vinegar instead of buttermilk, once I use up the quart I bought. That will be more economical. The whey can be used instead of water in bread-making or pasta-boiling, in making rice or soups or beans, and it makes a good plant food. You can even use it to make sauerkaraut! I found an excellent recipe here, and it just so happens I have a cabbage and carrots.
I'm thinking I will use the ricotta in stuffed kabocha squash, mixed with chard and maybe some ground meat. Off to Google some recipes!
Other recently tested goat-milk recipes:
honey vanilla ice cream
Raspberry ice cream
Mexican chocolate pudding
And a great use for this ricotta:
Ricotta torte with squash, corn and dill
Note: If you live in Denver, particularly the south side, the goat dairy still has some shares available. Email me at the address on my profile and I'll send you the particulars.