I MADE CHEESE. Who knew that the act of separating curds from whey could elicit such a flurry of emotions: joy, pride, satisfaction....disbelief. Although I have been reading for some time about the simplicity of ricotta making, I hadn't gotten around to trying it because I don't keep milk in the house. Dan and I do the soy and almond milk thing. But after buying ricotta for a recipe recently, I realized that it's quite senseless to go out and buy ricotta when I want it, and not milk to make the ricotta that I want. So I bought the ricotta, and I picked up the milk, too. To give it a whirl. And....success! Now here's the thing. This really isn't all that much to be proud of. I mean a mouse could do it. Well, okay...a very tall mouse with opposable thumbs and access to some cheesecloth, whole milk, a lemon and a heat source.
It's really that easy. After reading several recipes from my favorite food sites, I decided on going the simple lemon route. There are basically two ways to make ricotta - heating whole milk with lemon juice, and heating heating whole milk with buttermilk. After the milk curdles, you turn off the heat and watch the show. (Applause!)
2 quarts whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
3 tbsp. lemon juice
Line a wide mesh colander with some cheesecloth folded into at least four layers and place it in the sink.
Bring the milk and salt to a simmer over high heat in a medium heavy saucepan. Stir a few times while the milk is heating to keep it from scorching. Once the milk simmers, add the lemon juice. The mixture will curdle immediately. Turn off the heat, and let sit for several minutes. You will see that the curds will have separated from the whey, forming a thick layer over the top of the liquid. Then pour into the strainer. The whey will quickly run through. Let cool for a bit, then form the cheesecloth into a ball and hang from the kitchen faucet. You might really want to squeeze it. Don't. Let it drain for about an hour, then refrigerate. The ricotta will keep in the fridge for several days and can also be frozen.
Makes about a cup and a half.