Ok, don’t be alarmed: it’s not full-scale, time-consuming cheesemaking.
However, you can easily, quickly and conveniently make your own ricotta and add flavourings yourself.
More often than not I just buy ricotta, but sometimes I make it myself if I’ve run out, I’ve got some full fat milk to use up or I just want my ricotta to be as nice as possible or flavoured a certain way for a particular recipe. (I’m not sure if I’m not just biased, but I think homemade is at least a little nicer than shop bought).
I’ve been using this method of half lemon juice and half vinegar to start the curdling process off for some years. I’ve only ever seen ricotta recipes that use either all rennet (not many normal kitchens have this to hand), all vinegar or all lemon juice only – this came about when I once ran out of lemon juice and had to improvise. I liked the result and I’ve stuck to it ever since. Perhaps I should do a comparable, side-by-side taste test to see if what you use really makes a difference.
What is also different about my recipe is that I worked it out to be highly convenient for that pint or two-pint carton of full fat milk I might have in the fridge. It’s then much, much easier just to open a bottle or carton and tip it in your saucepan rather than other recipes which have a specific end amount in mind.
I’ve found that using 1 pint (568ml) of milk makes enough for two people for either a pasta filling, such as spinach and ricotta ravioli, or a light salad etc. A two pint recipe therefore is enough to serve four within a main dish or great for pastries or cakes calling for ricotta. Recipes on my blog which include ricotta are:
Flavouring and enriching
See underneath the recipe for my ideas on how to flavour the ricotta or to make a richer, creamier version.
This takes time – but it’s pretty much all left to work on its own devices. There is only about 15 minutes tops of hands-on effort involved.
- Medium saucepan
- Large bowl for draining
- Colander or large sieve (choose a sieve/bowl combination that leaves a big gap between the bottom of the bowl and the bottom of the colander, so that the ricotta doesn’t sit in its own liquid and drains properly)
- Muslin square (this is one place where it really has to be muslin – other cloths will have weaves that are too large or too tight for it to drain correctly)
- Tea towel (a very clean one)
Ingredients – based on 568ml / 1 pint of milk
Ingredients – based on 1.36 l / 2 pints of milk
- Pour the milk into the saucepan and add the salt
- Have the lemon juice and vinegar measured out
- Bring up to just under boiling – you must watch the milk as you need to catch it when bubbles start to come to the surface and the milk begins to let off steam, but has NOT yet started boiling properly (if you want to use a thermometer this will be 82C-84C). This takes around 5 minutes and remember to stir occasionally so the milk doesn’t catch on the pan
- Take the saucepan off the heat and immediately add the vinegar and lemon juice
- Stir the milk and continue to keep stirring while the curds and the whey begin to separate – about a minute or so of constant, gentle stirring
- Place the muslin cloth inside the colander, then the colander over the bowl
- Tip the curds and whey over the muslin-strewn colander, so that the curds get caught in the muslin and the whey drains into the bowl
- Cover it all with the clean tea towel (this keeps it clean and dirt-free. If you used a lid or hard surface you’d get unwanted condensation)
- Leave this to drain for a couple of hours at least (depending how your colander fits in your bowl you may occasionally need to tip out the whey if the bottom of the colander is sitting in the liquid)
- Squeeze the last of the whey out of the curds by twisting the muslin cloth together around the curds
- Dispose of the whey as you don’t need it (I’m told if you have pigs they love the stuff – I don’t think my cat would be interested…)
- Keep the ricotta in an air tight container in the fridge for up to three days or use immediately in a recipe
Once you’ve attempted ricotta, you may want to start adding to it. There are two ways to do this: either add the ingredients after the ricotta has been prepared (basically just stirring them in) or by infusing the flavours at the early stage. As ricotta is quite bland but can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes it nicely lends itself to being flavoured.
Flavourings – adding to the finished ricotta
After it’s drained, you can add some additional flavourings. These are some of my suggestions or create your own:
- Ham and pineapple (in place of ham and pineapple cottage cheese)
- Nutmeg or ground cinnamon
- Lemon and basil
- Any fresh leafy herbs – thyme, hyssop, sorrel, tarragon, marjoram, lemon balm or verbena, fennel fronds 🌱
- For sweet recipes:
- Hazelnuts chopped in,
- Crushed soft fruits like strawberries or raspberries,
- A swirl of your favourite soft set jam
- Honey and crushed figs
Flavourings – infusing the milk
Alternatively, you can add some ingredients (including some off the list above) into the milk as it warms as an infusion. In this instance you MUST sieve the milk into a separate bowl to fully remove the flavouring ingredient before you add the lemon juice and vinegar. Some suggestions are:
- Peppercorn (less intense with no crunchy bits if you infuse!)
- Cinnamon or cassia bark
- Any of the leafy herbs mentioned above
- Star anise, cardamom pods or fennel seeds
Enriching the ricotta
To make an even creamier ricotta I substitute up to 50% of the milk for double or clotted cream.