Making ricotta cheese at home is usually the first step with newbie cheese makers. It’s the training wheels of cheese making. It really doesn’t get much simpler. There are tons of blogs and cooking websites that really try to complicate it. You must bring the water up to 165-185 degrees or slowly steep it or use this amount of citric acid or lemon juice. Ugh. It’s like they all read the same original post from someone out there and put their own spin on it. No wonder people are intimidated by cooking or even trying something new like a simple process of making homemade ricotta cheese.
The better quality milk, the better quality cheese.
It’s just so easy.
1. Bring the milk to a boil in a nonreactive pot, while stirring it at times, to keep the milk from sticking to the pot to much.
2. Take off the heat and add in white vinegar.
3. Let sit for 2-3 minutes and place in a cheese cloth lined sieve over a bowl for 20-25 minutes.
4. The longer it drains, the thicker and firmer it gets.
Wuut? That’s it? Essentially. There are just a couple things I tried that home chefs might do to see if it changed the flavor, texture and consistency.
Mistake 1: Do not add in the acid before it comes to a boil. It is not a short cut. The milk will not curdle.
Mistake 2: Do not bring to a scorching boil. It tastes scorched.
Mistake 3: Don’t add in “just a bit more” acid. It reminds me of tofu.
There are some general guidelines that I like to follow when it comes to acid of choice, milk of choice, pot of choice.
There are recipes that call for citric acid, lemon juice and distilled white vinegar. Why 3 different choices? Who knows the history but here’s the thing, whatever acid you add, it’s going to impart a flavor to the cheese. So if you want a hint of lemon, use lemon, if you happen to have citric acid around, sure. However, I chose distilled white vinegar. It has a constant acid level of 5% where lemon juice changes from lemon to lemon. It also offers a cleaner flavor (as long as you don’t add in to much).
How much acid? This is where I was doing a lot of research and I couldn’t find one source that said X amount of vinegar is added to X amount of milk. A standard ratio. This is also where I learned that food bloggers and cooking how-to websites all say the same thing and complicate it. So what’s the ratio? 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 2 cups of milk. You don’t need to make a large batch or even a smaller batch because the recipe is calling for that. You can make the amount you want.
The milk is important. If you buy watery mass produced milk, you aren’t going to get a rich flavor. This is especially true if you want to use 2% milk. Make sure you buy local farm milk. My milk of choice is from Wholesome Country Creamery. It’s 100% grass fed, vat pasteurized, unhomogenized whole milk. It’s actually the only milk I buy unless I’m using 2% and then it’s from Maple View Farm. The better quality milk, the better quality cheese.
Homemade ricotta cheese is simple. It’s not complex science that needs to heat 12 minutes, to slowly bring to soft boil or keep at 178.4 degrees before adding an acid. It’s rustic, made from scratch, homemade cheese making at it’s best.