Ricotta was originally a way to capture the last fragments of milk solids from whey leftover from making other kinds of cheese, but you only get a few spoonfuls of ricotta from that method.
This recipe starts out with whole milk and yields a significant amount of creamy, delicious ricotta that will last up to two weeks in your refrigerator. And you get to skip the thickeners and stabilizers most commercial brands include.
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 3/4 teaspoon citric acid dissolved in 2 tablespoons cool water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
- 1 tablespoon cream (optional)
- Put the milk into a medium sized pot over low heat. In a separate bowl or container, dissolve the citric acid in the two tablespoons of water and then add that mixture to the milk. Add the salt to the other ingredients (the salt is a matter of flavor here, not something that is preserving the cheese, so up to you whether or not to include it). Add the cream, if using. Whisk to combine the ingredients well.
- You will need a meat or cheese thermometer to get an accurate read on the temperature. Stir the milk mixture as it warms to prevent it from scorching on the bottom of the pot. At between 165F to 190F the milk will separate into curds and whey (whey is the liquid that separates from the curds, which are the dairy solids).
- Once the curds have separated from the whey, turn off the heat and let the ingredients sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
- Line a colander with butter muslin or several layers of cheesecloth and place the lined colander in a large bowl. Pour the ricotta into the colander. Tie up the ends of the butter muslin or cheesecloth and then tie the bundle somewhere it can hang and drain for 30 minutes (Tip: Tie to your kitchen faucet). Don't throw out the whey - you can refrigerate it and use it to make lacto-fermented recipes such as apple chutney.
- After half an hour, untie the butter muslin or cheesecloth bundle and transfer the ricotta to a food storage container. Cover and store in the refrigerator. Homemade ricotta will keep, refrigerated, for up to two weeks.
Note: Decrease the draining time to 20 minutes if you want a softer ricotta, or increase it to as much as an hour for a more solid version that is good for things such as stuffing ravioli.