12 September, 2007

Building Blocks

Experiment 21B, Ricotta Cheese.

If you are looking for something good to make at home this weekend, do not read this article. The tale I present here is not exactly one of woe but a rill that starts from a spring of good idea, winds through thicket, opens to fertile plains, yet does not quite reach the promise of open sea. Keep paddling.

A couple of weeks ago I started ruminating upon making cheese. I wanted a fresh cheese that could be good for pizza. After some searching, I decided to try Ricotta: It's simple, quick, and I had all the ingredients required on hand. I found a nice write-up about making ricotta at the Fias Co Farm Website. As noted on the website ( and also documented in The Oxford Companion to Food, p 666, and Larousse Gastronomique, p. 888,) Ricotta, is Italian for re-cooked, and ricotta cheese is made from heating the whey created when making hard cheese. I know what you are thinking, and no, I didn't have whey on hand, and I haven't been making hard cheese (but I am thinking about it, I would have to start a new blog, Fromage MAC) This ricotta is made from milk and an acid like lemon juice or vinegar. The first time I made it with lemon juice, it turned out pretty good, a slight lemony twang to it. The texture was a bit rubbery, but I probably let it hang too long. It was still good on top of pizza.

Yesterday, I decided to try it again, this time with vinegar. Let's go to the boards:

First I gently heated one gallon of whole milk (bought at the grocery), to 200F. Next I added about 90ml of rice wine vinegar (a bad choice). I covered the pot let it stand for ten minutes, then transferred the mixture to a colander lined with cheese cloth.

The fabric in the picture is actually unbleached muslin. Instead of paying $3.50 for a small package of cheese cloth, I paid 99 cents a yard at Jo Ann's (my mom would be proud). The weave on the muslin is a little tighter so it is not an exact substitute, but it seemed to work well in this application.

I tied off the cheese to hang for a couple of hours. The water draining out of the curd is whey. I saved it because it's good for other uses: I cooked couscous with it.

Et Voilà, 970 grams of cheese. Perfect texture, add salt to taste. Oh yeah the taste. I didn't take into account the wine part of rice wine vinegar: The cheese had a fermented-alcohol flavor, not appropriate for a fresh cheese. I accidentally poured some of the whey into H's milk glass and he asked, "Daddy why does this milk taste like bread?" Maybe a plain white vinegar will do the trick, or try the lemon again, or I just remembered, I have some citric acid left over from canning tomatoes. I will figure it out. You should work on it too, it's fun.


1 comment:

s.j.simon said...

:) did you know how cheese was invented? It wasnt necessity, it was an accident, read this