Saturday, May 2, 2009
For a very long time I have wanted to make cheese. Specifically, mozzarella cheese. About 7 years ago we went to Cooperstown, NY for a baseball tourney and on the historic main street was a charming deli that I ventured to every day. The story was that the owner, a young woman in her 30's came to Cooperstown to live her deli dream, and her father came along and he was in charge of the fresh mozzarella that they made right there. That mozzarella haunted me, it was so wonderful. I went on a fact finding mission and found a few possibilities when it came to making my own. The first is a sort of mozzarella curd you start with and basically heat it up and without too much effort you have cheese. No one that I have found in town sells this starter. The more authentic way, which of course is what I want to do, involves rennet and is much more labor intensive. But I have yet to embark on that journey.
Today, as the rain seems to never end, I decided to make ricotta cheese. Yes, I am aware you can buy this stuff in the supermarket. However, from everything I have read, nothing compares to home made, and it is so easy it's almost embarrassing. The recipe from Epicurious, my home away from home, is easy and straight forward. Their recipe calls for whole milk and heavy cream, and because I don't generally follow recipes well, I used skim milk and fat free half and half with great results.
I did have a few issues. The first batch I put the lemon juice in with the milk and cream up front. I held on, and once it came to a boil it curdled as it was supposed to. Also, when it came time to drain, I was out of cheesecloth. I first drained the cheese through a sieve and then drained again using a paper coffee filter inside the sieve. For the recipe I intend to use the ricotta for, it is important to get it as dry as possible.
2 quarts milk (8 cups)
1 cup cream
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
Heat milk, cream and salt in large pot and bring slowly to a boil. Add lemon juice and reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and strain through a sieve into a large bowl. Let the cheese strain for about an hour before chilling. If desired, you can keep the cheese in the sieve in the fridge longer to drain it properly.
It is delicious on its own, but I suspect it will make the very best cannoli filling ever, a great lasagna, but also terrific on a toasted bagel. I vow to never buy the supermarket stuff again!