Making your own cheese seems so horribly insurmountable that most people don't even think to try doing it themselves. It always seems like you need a ton of equipment, weird ingredients or a lot of patience to wait for your cheese to cure.
There are a number of cheeses you can make easily at home, mostly the soft style ones, with little skill and effort. I'm doing a series of cheese making posts to get you all started and to get me inspired to make them myself.
I'll be starting with some of the easier ones and working my way up to the more complicated ones. But, rest assured, I won't be telling you about cheeses that you can't easily make yourself, since I have little interest in spending all my time making cheese.
This first recipe is for making ricotta. There is a huge difference between freshly made ricotta and that dry lumpy stuff packaged in plastic that you get from the store. There's just no comparison since you are using so little in the way of ingredients and you don't having to worry about long shelf life dates.
So, here goes!
Whole Milk Ricotta
1 gallon whole milk
1/4 cup white vinegar (or lemon juice)
2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
If you like your ricotta extra creamy, add the heavy cream to the whole milk and heat on medium-low to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring often to make sure it doesn't boil or scald. This is a slow process that should take about 25 minutes, you don't want to rush this step.
Once the milk has reached temperature, gently stir in the vinegar (or lemon juice), being careful not to over stir. Take the milk mixture off the heat and let sit for about 10 minutes. You should see the ricotta curd separating from the whey.
Using a slotted spoon, ladle the curds into a lined colander (thin weave cloth like a cotton kitchen towel or double cheesecloth works well) being careful not to break up the curds. Let your ricotta drain in the colander for about 45 minutes or until desired consistency is reached (some people prefer a drier ricotta in which case let it drain longer or even overnight in the refrigerator).
Store refrigerated for up to a week.
1.5 - 2 pounds
There are so many great recipes for using ricotta cheese, ranging from sweet to savory, that you'll probably never get bored of making this cheese.