Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Making Cheese at Home

I'd been wanting to make my own cheese for quite awhile now, and finally jumped in with a recipe for homemade ricotta. It was so easy! I'm definitely hooked and want to try some harder cheeses (ha ha!). The soft cheeses are the easiest for beginners, as they don't require any special ingredients. I sprinkled on some dried basil and served the ricotta with some roasted peppers. I used the leftover cheese in lasagna and was pleased with the results.

Here's what you need:
2 quarts whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons lemon juice (or more)

Heat milk, salt and lemon juice in large pot to 170 degrees. Slowly increase the heat to about 190 degrees until you see curds developing. If the curds are not developing, add a little more lemon juice. Stir occasionaly so the milk doesn't scald, but try to avoid breaking up the large curds. They should look like scrambled eggs. When most of the curds and whey have separated, turn the stove off but let the pot sit on the burner for 10 minutes. You will know it is time to turn the stove off when the whey (liquid) starts to look more like water and not milky.

After the 10 minutes are up, pour the contents of the pot into a colander lined with cheesecloth or a muslin dishtowel that will allow the liquid to seep through. Allow the curds to drain for 10 minutes in the colander, or tie the ends of the cloth and hang the cheese up for 15-20 minutes. For creamy ricotta, drain for a shorter amount of time. I hung the cheese in a cloth for 20 minutes, and will probably drain it for a shorter time the next time I try it. You can mix in garlic, herbs, or sun-dried tomatoes to add flavor, or serve the ricotta for dessert with fresh fruit and honey. Have fun!

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