The first challenge was whole milk ricotta which was nice and easy for us cheese newbies. Ricotta has never been a cheese that I've really snacked on before - I buy it to add to pastas or desserts but I usually leave snacking to cheeses like cheddars or brie. But this fluffy, creamy, sweet and ever-so-slightly salty cheese is so good on it's own that I already have plans to make another batch and double it so that I'll have some to give away.
Since the ricotta is made out of just milk, cream, citric acid (or lemon juice), and salt it was important to get really good quality milk for the challenge. We picked up some non-homogenized organic whole milk that put my regular milk's flavor to shame. Before we started on the recipe we took the milk and cream out of the fridge to get some of the chill off of it and bring it closer to room temp.
Then we gathered our cheese making gear and washed and sanitized it with diluted bleach. Since we aren't aging the cheese bacteria isn't as big of a threat to the end result of the recipe, but we both agreed that it was good to get into the habit of creating a very sanitized work space so that by the time making cheddar and Parmesan rolls around it will be like a second nature (hopefully..)
Once the gear was dry we added the milk, cream, salt, and a teaspoon of citric acid to the pot. The recipe states that lemon juice can be added as a substitute which is great because this is an easy enough recipe to pass along to friends who probably don't have citric acid laying around the house.
Then we heated the milk slowly.. very ..very VERY slowly. Since this was our first time (and we only had milk on hand for one batch) we didn't want to scorch the milk and ruin it. The book (we're working out of Artisan Cheese Making at Home) said it should take around 20 minutes to get the mixture up to 185-195F and it took us around 40-45 minutes.
Overly cautious? Probably. Luckily we both found staring at the slowly curdling milk interesting enough to pass the time.
Then we moved the draining cheese over to this contraption of elegant beauty. I noticed that many people just tied the cheese cloth to their tap over their sink to let it drain. We decided to go hardware store chic with a neon orange bucket and half a broom stick.
After half an hour of draining we untied the cloth to reveal some very promising looking ricotta...
The curds were fluffy, creamy, and sweet with hints of salt. It was so much better than any ricotta I've ever tried before. I have read on a few other posts that whey ricotta (ricotta made with the by-product of other cheeses) is tastier than whole milk ricotta. If that's true then I am really looking forward to trying it because this version is already so freaking delicious.
My parents enjoyed their ricotta on top of slices of fresh summer tomatoes. I ate some plain, added some to my pasta, and then saved the rest to have tomorrow on toast with a drizzle of olive oil.
I can't believe it's already gone! Looks like we're just going to have to make another batch.
Tasting Notes for Whole Milk Ricotta:
- Appearance: Large curds made out of smaller grains
- Nose (aroma): Not very much, mostly a cream scent
- Overall Taste: Cream flavored with bits of salt and sweet combined
- Sweet to Salty: sweet
- Mild (mellow) to Robust to Pungent (stinky): Mild!!
- Mouth Feel: (gritty, sandy, chewy, greasy, gummy, etc.): Extremely soft and creamy
For the challenges we will not be posting the recipes from the Artisian Cheese Making at Home (go out and grab a copy if you are interested in making cheese, there is a lot of great information in there along with the recipes). However you can easily find many a version of whole milk ricotta online if you can't wait to give cheese making a try!