Saturday, May 31, 2014

Curds and Whey (aka My New Band Name)

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey…ummmm…yeah. That's very descriptive but not especially appealing. However, in the midst of my first attempt at making homemade ricotta, I immediately thought of little Miss Muffet. The thing is, to make ricotta (which is totes easy!) you are intentionally making curds and whey by heating milk, adding lemon juice to curdle it, then straining. Whey is the liquid that remains after you strain the curdled milk. Sounds delicious, Miss Muffet! 

Actually, homemade ricotta is super delish. I've already eaten more than half of the batch that I made because it's at least 17 billion times better than almost any other ricotta you'll buy in a little plastic tub! I'm guessing that little Miss was just eating a cottage cheese type of snack, but she for sure would have preferred this ricotta. Trust.

Fresh Ricotta

3 cups whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Pour the milk, cream and salt into a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan. Attach a candy or deep-fry thermometer. Heat the milk to 190°F, stirring it occasionally to keep from scorching on the bottom. (You could also eyeball the temperature by waiting until the mixture begins to simmer, but hasn't yet come to a full boil.) Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Stir once, gently and slowly, then let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes to allow the curds to form.

2. Meanwhile line a colander with two layers of cheesecloth and place over a large bowl. Pour the milk mixture (curds and whey) into the colander and let the curds strain for at least 30 minutes, discarding the whey as necessary. At this point you'll have a soft, spreadable ricotta. If you continue to strain for up two hours, it will still be spreadable but a bit firmer. It will continue to firm as it cools. 

3. Discard the whey (unless you want to save it for other purposes). Use the ricotta right away or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate (up to 4 days) until ready to use. Serve with pasta or with toasted baguette drizzled with honey or olive oil or both. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.