Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Homemade Ricotta

To begin with, I bought clearance Christmas ornaments on January 1st and I was so excited to put them up outside! I love the look of oversized multicolored spheres hanging in the trees - it sort of brings back life into the sad dormant trees.
Adorable right? You can't see very well, but each ornament has a picture and the name of a different reindeer (Dancer, Rudolph, etc.)
For dinner one day, I decided to make ricotta. Because (1) I've read that it tastes much better (2) ricotta from the store contains stabilizers and preservatives (3) it's a lot cheaper (< $3 for a gallon of whole milk) and (4) it was Saturday and I felt like it. One of those is the primary reason, but I won't tell you which. When choosing recipes, I couldn't decide whether I should use lemon juice or vinegar as the acid catalyst. Luckily, I found an article on Serious Eats that studied most of the variables I was tempted to worry about (temperature, acid source, straining time, etc.).

I heated the milk to about 170 degrees Fahrenheit. I was very thankful for my digital thermometer in this step, but according to Serious Eats you don't have to be that particular. I think I can't help it because I'm a chemist, but also because I really wanted it to work.
A watched pot of milk does boil?
Then I added vinegar. Acetic acid diluted with a bunch of water, sigh. I bet the stuff in my lab could really pull some curds out of that milk! I'm just kidding, that's probably really dangerous. The article explored the different theories about which acid source is better, and actually found that buttermilk is very finicky, lemon juice works well but adds a citrus flavor, and plain vinegar was consistent and mild tasting. Good thing I keep a big bottle around for all of my hippie cleaning uses (more on that in a later post). You can see below how the milk separated into the solid (curds) and liquid (whey) phases.

I also don't have a fine sieve strainer (and J. Kenji from Serious Eats pointed out that cleaning the sieve after making ricotta is messy). They found that paper towels lining a normal colander is easier to clean up and gives decent results. The ultimate purpose of the ricotta was for making lasagna - so it didn't need to be especially dry and the latter method would work fine. You can see below in the pictures how the whey drained out very slowly, leaving behind the thicker cheese. Important note: I chose to very carefully ladle out the solids (collecting on the top of the pot) to make draining easier. I also found it necessary to use my spatula to gently stir the cheese that was in contact with the paper towel, because it would clog and stop draining. Maybe I need thinner paper towels? I also wanted to keep the whey (leftover in the liquid) to do something productive with it, but after searching for quite a while I couldn't find anything :(. Any ideas?




That's the ricotta! It was simple and fast, especially considering that I was doing other things at the time and barely had to pay it any attention.

3 comments:

Edie said...

Oh very nice! I didn't realize it was only curdled whole milk?! So easy

Benjamin Leipzig said...

It was very tasty and super healthy. Im guessing that reason #2 was the main culprit behind this adventure. Im pretty sure that the Carolyn doesnt like unneeded stabilizers and icky chemicals.

Ben

Benjamin Leipzig said...

It was very tasty and super healthy. Im guessing that reason #2 was the main culprit behind this adventure. Im pretty sure that the Carolyn doesnt like unneeded stabilizers and icky chemicals.

Ben