There is just nothing like it. Homemade ricotta. It takes hardly any time and there is never a doubt that your family and friends will be stopped in their tracks with this simple yet satisfying recipe. It is really a versatile cheese – for breakfast it can be served with a fresh jelly or honey and nuts, for dessert with fresh berries or a with a sprinkle of cocoa and vanilla mixed in, and as an appetizer the possibilities are seemingly endless.
4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp kosher salt
3 TBS high quality white wine vinegar
Place a large colander over a deep bowl (colander should not rest on bottom of bowl as this will not allow the cheese to drain properly; if needed a conical sieve can also be used). Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the colander with the cheesecloth.
Pour the milk and cream into a stainless-steel or enameled pot (i.e. Le Creuset). Stir in the salt and bring mixture to a full boil over medium heat. Stir occasionally, ensuring that the milk does not burn on the bottom of the pot or create a firm skin on the top of the milk mixture. Once boiling, turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. During the first 2 minutes it will curdle and separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey). The mixture should rest for 15 minutes before transferring it into the cheesecloth-lined colander. Allow the whey to drain through the cheesecloth, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl.
(If you are like me and hate to throw anything out you can save the whey (liquid) for your pet).
The longer the mixture drains, the thicker the ricotta. For a moist ricotta allow 20-25 minutes; for a thicker ricotta allow to drain for 2 hours. Transfer the ricotta to a plate, discarding the cheesecloth and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.
There are so many ways to deviate from the basic recipe….
– lemon ricotta: using the above recipe, add four lemons zested and juiced when mixing in milk, cream and 1 tsp sugar
– herb ricotta: one the cheese has been prepared as directed above, add in 3 TBS minced scallions, white and green parts (approx 2 scallions), 2 TBS minced fresh dill, and 1 TBS minced fresh chives