Homemade Ricotta Cheese is easy. A few minutes on the stove-top, some milk and lemon juice and a bit of time and voila…you’ve got a wonderful accompaniment to your pasta and breads.
I was recently asked if I would consider reviewing a new cookbook, ‘One Hour Cheese,’ by Claudia Lucero. I get asked to review a lot of books but I’m pretty selective about which ones I want to take a peek at; building a library of books I’ll never read is not on my bucket list.
After making goat cheese with my daughter last year and being enlightened by how simple that process was, I was excited about a book that not only would increase my knowledge of cheese making but it’s title suggested that it could be done in an hour.
The book arrived and the first word under the title said Ricotta and I needed to look no further; I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making homemade ricotta and it seems that time had finally come.
Though Ricotta intrigued me from the start I did spend some time peeking through the book at other cheeses but decided to stick with my first reaction for a couple of reasons. First? I love ricotta. That should be enough right? But the truth is that it was one cheese that didn’t require anything extraordinary to turn milk into cheese.
There are naysayers who would say this is not Ricotta Cheese, that in order to make real Ricotta you need to start with the leftover whey from a batch of cultured cheese. Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. It is a byproduct of the manufacturing of cheese. To make ricotta, the whey is heated with fresh milk and citric acid. Then the curds are harvested.
This method ignores the whey and uses all whole milk but adds citric acid via the addition of lemon juice. While I suppose a purist would call it ‘faux ricotta,’ the fact is that most recipes for Homemade Ricotta Cheese follow this same method as few home cooks are going to find a ready source of the required whey ingredient.
Make it, try it, and tell me you feel it HAS to have whey…because I doubt you will miss it. We loved both the ease and results of this method.
You don’t even have to add rennet, a type of enzyme that acts on other milk proteins to help them stick together so that liquid milk can turn into solid cheese. There are no special ingredients either, simply milk, cream, lemon and salt.
The steps are simple; simmer, drain, squeeze, salt. Perfect. I thought the Meyer Lemon Ricotta sounded amazing until I couldn’t find any Meyer Lemons. I have a little tree but in Denver I doubt it will ever grow big enough to actually produce anything indoors. I get some flowers and that’s about it.
I punted and went with standard lemons and I don’t think we could have been any happier. That moment when I tasted the results of my labors and could not stop? When I knew I could have eaten the entire bowlful with a spoon? That was me…but I didn’t, I promised samples for friends so I behaved. Sort of.
A lot of recipes for this process might call for vinegar but trust me on this; go with the lemon. It does add the slightest flavor and it’s why I always use lemon when I’m making faux buttermilk too. If I’m adding something acidic for results, I much prefer lemon over vinegar.
My original intent had been to use the ricotta for a recipe in the book called ‘Holy Cannoli Dip’ with chocolate and pistachios but my impatience got the best of me.
I couldn’t wait for that first bite so I simply topped some buttered and toasted pretzel rolls with MY ricotta, topped it with basil and paprika and found myself in cheese Heaven. I would still love to try that dip, but this preparation really hit the spot.
Sadly, these rolls were gone in a flash and while my intent had been to get some more, I went an easier route and mimicked the same thing on Townhouse crackers with the addition of some lemon zest. I loved how this simple cheese had become an even simpler appetizer.
Yes, I might have had a plate of these crackers for lunch. OK, OK, I confess, I did. When the cheese is so fresh and flavorful it’s almost addictive. You have simply got to try this. Ricotta. One HOUR…seriously!!
Also, if you get the book, don’t miss the sections on snacks to serve with your cheese and on serving up accompanying cocktails using the herbs from your cheese-making (you know I LOVED that part right?).
The author of this book, Claudia Lucero, is the maven behind Urbancheesecraft.com and their DIY Cheese Kits are sold at Williams Sonoma and on Etsy. All 16 of the cheeses in this book have endless variations, no complex or hard-to-find ingredients and no excessive prep times.
We’re all busy; sometimes our wanting to try our hand at something new is stymied by the complexity and timeliness of the effort; this won’t do that to you. Buy some milk this morning; have homemade ricotta cheese TONIGHT!
It’s an added bonus that Claudia has included recipes for using the cheeses. No Bake Cheese Tarts, Cheesecake, Grilled Sandwiches, Pasta and Pizza…they all sound wonderful and I just want to become a cheese-making fiend so that my friends and family can enjoy them all!!
I’ve been part of a virtual cheese tour with this book as several bloggers have celebrated with their own cheese-making adventures. Next up is Host the Toast; be sure to check out their blog and look for the upcoming treat they’ll be making from this absolutely wonderful book.
PIN IT! ‘Homemade Ricotta Cheese’
Homemade Ricotta Cheese (with Lemon)
- ¼ cup lemon juice Approximately 2 lemons
- 1 quart whole milk not ultra-pasteurized
- 1 pint heavy cream
- ¼ tsp flake salt I used Maldon's or to taste (if using 'regular' salt, use Kosher, not table salt)
- Measure out 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Strain the juice to remove any pulp.
- Pour the milk and cream into the pot.
- Pour the lemon juice into the pot and stir thoroughly. Set to medium heat.
- You may already see some curds forming within seconds. Stay close and monitor the heat, stirring every few minutes to prevent a skin from forming on the milk’s surface and to check for sticking milk at the bottom. (Reduce the heat if needed.)
- Check the temperature once you see steam rising from the pot as well as little foam bubbles forming around the edge. Curds will form rapidly as the milk approaches the target temperature of 190°F, and it will look more like thin oatmeal.
- This is coagulation! Keep checking the temperature, and continue to stir, very gently this time, so that the newly formed curds are not broken up. Turn off the heat when it reaches 190°F.
- Take the pot off the burner and allow the curds and whey to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. The curds will release more whey during this time.
- While you wait, line the colander with cheesecloth. Place the lined colander in the sink.
- Pour the curds and whey through the cloth.
- Allow the whey to drain for about 10 minutes or until you get the creamy texture of smooth mashed potatoes.
- Gather the cloth into a bundle and give it a gentle squeeze to strain out that last bit of whey. The whey from this creamy cheese is somewhat milky in appearance. (Compare that to whey for mozzarella, which will be more clear.)
- Place the cloth full of drained cheese back in the colander, and add the salt.
- Stir just until the salt is mixed in thoroughly. Salt helps release more whey, and air dries out cheese, so if you stir longer than necessary, the cheese will be crumbly instead of creamy.
- Stir minimally for the creamiest ricotta! While warm, the consistency will be loose and creamy.
- It’s ready to eat! Scoop it into a bowl for eating right away or chill it for a firmer texture.
I was provided with a copy of the book ‘One Hour Cheese’ for the purpose of this review however all commentary is my own.