18 February 2012

Sexy Cheese and Homemade Ricotta

My husband gave me Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll for Christmas the year before we moved to the farm.  In our family that’s the equivalent of giving lingerie:  It’s more appreciated by the giver than receiver.  It's possible that he finds the cheese-making book sexier than lingerie.  His love for cheese may rival his love for boobs. 

Dairy has never been my favorite food group.  I've gone years without any dairy save the cream in my morning coffee, but marriage greatly influences diet.  I long ago said goodbye to onions and mushrooms.  My breadcrumb panacea worked on most vegetables, but onions and mushrooms are his last bastion of vegetable hatred.  I also added more cheese and cream to my dishes in order to satisfy his dairy lust.   We come to an easy agreement on ricotta because of its importance in Italian-American cuisine.

Ricotta is is essential for lasagna, baked shells and manicotti, and eggplant parmesan, but is also used in baked goods and desserts.  I will soon be trying ricotta cheesecake and I've come across some interesting recipes for ricotta ice cream. I like making it myself because the flavor is fresher than store-bought.  Also, I can ensure there are no preservatives or additives and the milk is of best quality. Whenever we have extra milk from our local cow, it goes into a batch of homemade ricotta. 

Homemade ricotta:

Pour 1 gallon of whole milk (the least processed milk possible--avoid ultra pasteurization like the plague) into a stockpot.  Slowly bring to 185 degrees.  Spend the $10 on a candy thermometer.  It's worth it for this and all the other recipes you've avoided because you didn't have one.  If the ricotta doesn't convince you, then let me say caramel.

milk warming

As soon as the milk is 185 degrees, turn off the heat and add your acid.  Many recipes suggest ordering rennet, but I've always used 1/2 cup vinegar because I always have it on hand.  I'm sure white distilled vinegar is best, but I've used cider vinegar too.  Stir slowly until curds form.  I swear the amount and rapidity of stirring affects the texture, but I could be crazy.  Don't quote me on it.  Unless I'm right.

curds separated from whey

Cover with a cheesecloth or clean towel and leave to cool.  Once cool, remove curds with a slotted spoon to strainer.  Strain until cheese is desired dryness.

curds draining
For a creamier ricotta, substitute a cup or two of heavy whipping cream for some of the milk.  Or in a pinch, put ricotta in your mixer and slowly add milk until desired consistency.  Store in a glass container.   I bet it will last at least a week, but always do a smell test after several days. 

creamy ricotta

I like ricotta because of its freshness and firm texture.  I don't belong to the gooey cheese camp.  My husband, on the other hand, belongs to the any cheese camp.  One of his favorite ways to enjoy ricotta is on pizza with Italian sausage and crushed pepper.  Now that's sexy.

sexy pizza

1 comment:

  1. I like the part about the guy that buys you a cheese book. What a card!