We don’t really drink milk in our house.
We put almond milk in our cereal and smoothies because honestly, I’d rather save my daily allowance of saturated fat and calories for that perfect, heavenly food known as cheese. And to me, there’s nothing worse than bad cheese.
Poor ricotta. It’s one of those foodstuffs that people either love or hate. Like cilantro or mushrooms. But I really feel like if people tried fresh, whole-milk ricotta—instead of that mealy, dried out, part-skim ricotta with the yellowy whey floating on top (BARF)— it would convert like, everyone on the planet. Especially if it’s made with local milk that’s only hours old.
And if you happen to like ricotta? You’ll want to put this on everything. On toast drizzled with honey and sprinkled with sea salt. In pasta with garden-fresh peas. (LINK) And of course, in lasagna, where it’ll be so creamy, there’s no egg required.
A few notes…
Not sure where to get local milk? Check the Googles. Many of them distribute to your local grocer.
Don’t use Ultra High Temperature (UHT) pasteurized milk. This is milk that has been heated beyond 170°F for an extended period of time to kill all possible bacteria. Doing this allows the milk to have a longer shelf life, but it also makes it impossible to curdle, which is what you want when making cheese.
You don’t have to add salt. I like my ricotta a little on the salty side, so I do. But if you’re using it in a dessert, you might want to leave it out.
No lemons? No problem. You can also use vinegar or citric acid. I just prefer the taste and natural source when using fresh lemon juice.
Local Milk Ricotta
1/2 gallon whole milk from a local dairy
1/2 C heavy cream (also local, if you can find it)
3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (or vinegar, or 1/2 t citric acid)
1 t salt (optional)
Non-reactive pot (Stainless steel or non-stick works great)
Cheese cloth or fine-mesh strainer
Pour milk and cream into a large, non-reactive pot. Warm over medium heat until simmering, stirring frequently. The milk will probably start to foam, which is totally fine. But if it starts to boil, move it to a cold burner.
Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice (or vinegar/citric acid), and salt if desired. The milk will start to curdle immediately.* Let the milk sit for 10 minutes. Don’t stir it. Don’t even look at it. (Okay, you can look at it. But don’t mess with it.)
While it sits, drape the cheese cloth over a large bowl. Tuck the ends of the cloth under the bowl to keep the cloth from getting weighed down with curd and falling into the whey. If using a mesh strainer, set it over the bowl.
After 10 minutes, you’ll see that the white curds have separated from the pale yellow whey. Slowly and carefully pour the curds and whey over the cheesecloth or into the strainer. Allow the curds to drain. No need to press the whey out—gravity will take care of it. I only drain mine for about 10 minutes, because I like mine creamy. Drain yours longer if you like a more dry ricotta.
Once cooled, pack the ricotta into a container or jar and use within one week.
Need ideas for how to use this deliciousness? I found you some.
Also, planning on letting that yellowy liquid go to waste? No whey! (Sorry not sorry.) It’s full of protein, vitamins and minerals—just like milk. You can it in place of water in baking recipes and smoothies, in place of buttermilk for things like biscuits and pancakes, instead of milk in cheese sauce, and more!
I’ve read that you can also freeze it in cubes and use it to feed calcium-loving plants like tomatoes in the summer to help prevent blossom end rot. I’ve got a batch frozen now, and am planning to give it a try. I’ll let you know how it goes!
*Every once in a while, when I add the acid, I notice it doesn’t curdle up as much/as fast. In these instances, I just add a little more acid, like another 1/4 t citric acid or another teaspoon or so of lemon juice/vinegar. Doesn’t affect the taste in my experience, and you notice a difference in the formation of curds right away. Just tips the scales in their favor.
Have more ideas for using ricotta OR whey? I’m all ears. And stomach. Share in the comments.