homemade ricotta

I have come to realize that a lot of people don't like ricotta cheese.  Usually, the common complaint is that it's grainy or that it solidifies into a solid rubbery mass.  I'm kind of a cheese slut so none of that applies to me.  But after making my own ricotta, I can guarantee that it bears no resemblance to the stuff we buy in tubs at the grocery store.  It's creamy, luscious, and silky.  I make it whenever I have leftover 2% or whole milk.  

All you need to add to the milk is some lemon juice.  I constantly have a bunch of naked lemons around because I am addicted to their zest, and strip them of their peels quicker than I can use their juice.  I had about 4 cups of milk and used the juice of half a lemon.

I should note that real legit ricotta-makers use whey, the byproduct of cheese instead of milk.  But since most of us do not have whey sitting around, here we are.  Also, there are apparently a billion ways to do this.  Some people combine cream with milk, some people use white vinegar instead of lemon juice, some even throw some yogurt into the mix.  Generally, it seems that any milk other than 1% or skin + acid will do the trick.

Boil the milk until it does something that you never want to otherwise happen on your stove - bubble up and foam over (unless you are more vigilant than I am and turn off the heat before disaster).  Do not panic...just add in the lemon juice and stir.  

Be forewarned - what ensues will look as disgusting as it does magical.  It'll be cloudy and lumpy and all kinds of weird.  Keep calm and carry on.

Quickly ladle the liquid into a sieve to start the draining process.

There we go - it looks good again, right?  This has only been draining for about 10 minutes, which is around when I like to use it in, on, or around anything.  It'll be soft, warm, and spreadable - one of my favorite things to do is immediately spoon it on toasted slices of baguettes.  Maybe top that with some roasted beets or sauteed greens.  Or, fold a couple of tablespoons into some whipped cream and lemon zest for dollops of ricotta cream on top of your waiting blackberry crisp.  Or, ff you let it drain longer, it will obviously be firmer, which would be perfect for lasagna, stuffed pastas, or even for baking (lemon ricotta cake is out of control - I'll have to do a post on that soon).  

You think I'm getting carried away, but I'm not.  The possibilities are endless. 

I  can't pretend like this isn't sitting in my sink while I'm munching on bruschetta. But for the satisfaction of having made your own cheese?  Worth it.  

Makes about 3/4 of a cup
4 cups 2% or whole milk, or a combination of milk and cream
1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice

Prepare a sieve over a large bowl, or a colander lined with cheese cloth.  Bring milk to boil in a large pot.  Add lemon juice and stir.  When curds start to form, turn off heat and ladle the liquid gently to the sieve.  Drain for as much time as you'd like; shorter for a looser, softer cheese, and longer for a firmer cheese.  Also, feel free to salt the cheese for additional flavor if you're using it for savory things.  It will happily store in an airtight container for a couple of days.  

If you need inspiration for how to use this stuff, let me know.  I won't shut up about it.  Like the zucchini pappardelle with ricotta and basil I made the next day...