Homemade ricotta – and ways to enrich, flavour or infuse it

ricottaGreenPlateOk, 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:

mangoCheesecakeNamed_2
Mango Cheesecake recipe – uses ricotta
Flavouring and enriching

See underneath the recipe for my ideas on how to flavour the ricotta or to make a richer, creamier version.

Notes

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.

Equipment
  • 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)
  • Spatula
  • Tea towel (a very clean one)
Ingredients – based on 568ml / 1 pint of milk
  • Full fat milk – 568ml / 1 pint
  • Lemon juice – 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Clear distilled vinegar – 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Salt – 1/2 teaspoon
Ingredients – based on 1.36 l / 2 pints of milk
  • Full fat milk – 1.36 litres / 2 pints
  • Lemon juice – 3 teaspoons
  • Clear distilled vinegar – 3 teaspoons
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon
Method
  1. Pour the milk into the saucepan and add the salt
  2. Have the lemon juice and vinegar measured out
  3. 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

    WarmingMilk
    This is the point when you need to take this milk off the heat and add the acid
  4. Take the saucepan off the heat and immediately add the vinegar and lemon juice
  5. 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

    curdsAndWhey
    What the milk looks like, just after the acid is added and the whey and curds are separating
  6. Place the muslin cloth inside the colander, then the colander over the bowl
  7. 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

    draining
    The ricotta draining, through the muslin over the colander, into a bowl. Almost fully drained and just waiting to be given a squeeze and then it will be ready
  8. 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)
  9. 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)
  10. Squeeze the last of the whey out of the curds by twisting the muslin cloth together around the curds
  11. 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…)
  12. Keep the ricotta in an air tight container in the fridge for up to three days or use immediately in a recipe

Flavourings

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:

  • Peppercorn
  • Chilli
  • 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!)
  • Garlic
  • Rosemary
  • 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.

limoncelloLemonCurdCheesecakeWP
My Limoncello Baked Cheesecake – the recipe uses ricotta and is on my blog

Ricotta scones

scones2-SQUARED_2018

The addition of ricotta in these scones makes them that little bit richer in texture without being as heavy as traditional double cream scones can be. It also gives a nice subtle creamy ‘tang’.

Added note: this is the first of some re-baked and re-photographed early recipes. I’ve refreshed and updated the photos for this recipe [August 2018], but the recipe is so good I’ve not tinkered with it at all: it’s one of my consistently most popular recipes. I’m currently on a (slow) mission to update the appalling photography of my early posts, well at least where the images don’t do the recipes enough justice.

Plus, if you want to go completely self-sufficient making these scones, follow the link below to my recipe for making your own ricotta to use in it!

Notes

You can leave them plain or add in about 100g of additional ingredients

You can even make your own ricotta! I have a blog post on doing just that – it’s surprisingly easy and very rewarding.

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Plain circular cutter (your choice of size, but I use 5cm as I prefer a smaller scone)
  • Rolling pin
  • Pastry brush
  • Baking tray, lined with parchment or baking paper or just dusted with flour

Ingredients

  • Plain flour – 300g
  • Butter, unsalted and cubed – 50g
  • Salt, fine – a pinch
  • Baking powder – 2 teaspoons
  • Egg, whole – 1 medium egg, lightly beaten
  • Ricotta – 2 tablespoons [See my post on making Homemade ricotta – and ways to enrich, flavour or infuse it]
  • Milk – up to 40ml may need to be added (this will vary depending on dryness of flour and how rich the ricotta is)

Additional ingredients

  • You can add in 80g – 100g of additional ingredients such as chocolate chips, glacé cherries, blueberries, raspberries, dried soft apricots etc if you don’t want plain scones

Method

  1. Put the oven on to 200ºC fan / 220ºC conventional and line or flour your baking tray
  2. Measure out the flour, salt and baking powder into the bowl and rub in the butter until it all resembles fine breadcrumbs
  3. Add the egg and the ricotta and mix together
  4. Add the milk (a little bit at a time as you may not need quite all the 40ml) to bring the mix together. It should be a heavy but pliable dough
  5. Add in any extra ingredients now, such as chocolate chips or glacé cherries
  6. Sprinkle a little extra flour on a worktop and roll the dough out to about 3.5cm (1 1/2 inch) thickness/depth
  7. Press out the scones with your cutter. Remember not to twist the cutter, but press straight down. Twisting while cutting will mean you’ll get wonky scones once cooked
  8. Re-roll the scone dough and continue cutting until you have use it all
  9. Place all the scones on the prepared baking tray and brush the tops with a little milk
  10. Bake for 15 minutes
  11. Leave to cool
  12. Fill liberally with jam and clotted cream (my fave is Rodda’s – and remember it’s always jam first then cream for a Cornish cream tea – but cream then jam for a Devonian cream tea) or you could go simple and just use a good quality butter
scones3_2018