Friday, June 1, 2007

Ricotta

breakfast


Or how I broke my week of (attempted) Auyrvedic eating with home-made cheese.


Don’t really know enough yet about the Auyrvedic tradition to go into great detail (I’m reading this book on and off and learning a little – check out the authors hilarious hippie name). What I can tell you is that it’s a system of health and well-being roughly 2000 years older than Traditional Chinese Medicine. Auyrvedic medicine has been a work in progress since about 3000 BC. Now that’s a long time. Predictably perhaps, given my passion for cooking, in Auyrvedic terms I’m a Kapha. I am built for endurance. And I love to eat. No surprises there.

But after a week of eating fairly austere meals, the kind that do you no end of Good, I wanted something ‘forbidden’.

Cheese.

Fresh ricotta, by which I mean the real thing - the kind sold in thick, cake-style wedges by good delis rather than the stuff in the supermarket fridge - isn’t always easy to come by. Certainly not as easy as many cookbooks suggest. Much to my surprise, it’s stupidly easy to make. Twenty-five minutes later you’ve got fresh, creamy curds of ricotta.



And with the boys here for a full month (teenage stepsons, the kind that voraciously swoop on food the moment they return from school), I am happy to say that it will not just be me eating this. They eat everything. As you can see from my breakfast shot, this is a perfect, spread thickly on toast with one of those French jams made without sugar.

May I have a small rant? I hate homogenized milk. Why homogenize the stuff? Just another process that a machine has taken away from us. Best way to homogenize milk? Shake the damn bottle. Simple as that.


Fresh ricotta – makes about 400g
Not everyone lives near a great deli. This is easy, and though surely it’s not authentic, it is at least, very, very good. Don’t be tempted to use low fat milk – it simply won’t work.

2 litres of full-fat milk, organic and unhomogenized if possible (I used half goat's and half cow's milk)
500ml of buttermilk (has anyone seen an organic one?)
Pinch of sea salt

You’ll need a few bits of equipment to get this right as well:
A sugar thermometer
A large colander
Muslin or cheesecloth, enough to line the colander with about 4 layers
A large non-reactive pot or saucepan (i.e. not aluminium or copper)
A rubber band


Rinse the muslin in cold water. Line the colander with it and set over the sink.

Pour the milks into a large, non-reactive pot. Add a pinch of salt. Turn the heat up to medium-high. Using a stiff rubber spatula, gently stir the mixture, scraping the bottom of the pan as you go to prevent scorching.

When the milk has warmed up to about blood temperature, stop stirring. As the milk heats up lumps will begin to rise to the surface – these are the curds. Very gently scrape the bottom of the pan from time to time to stop any sticking to the base.

Take out your thermometer. Once the milk reaches about 80 degrees Celsius (between 175 and 180 F), the curds and whey will start to separate (the curds will be fluffy and white; the whey like cloudy water beneath them). Remove from the heat immediately.

Using a slotted spoon, gently ladle out the curds into the prepared colander, starting on one side of the pot. You must do this slowly and carefully to keep the curds as thick and ‘whole’ as possible. Gather up the corners of the muslin, secure with a rubber band and tie the whole lot to the tap to drip away. Leave totally undisturbed (no squeezing!) for 15 minutes, or until there is no more dripping whey.

Transfer to a container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.


Planned: A beautiful, layered terrine with red peppers and carrots for the weekend and a lasagne. Might even make my own pasta sheets.


I’ll get back to that book on Monday.

22 comments:

Susan said...

One of the few non-homogenized dairy products we can get fairly easily here is Brown Cow Yoghurt. It has that delectable slab of cream on top that you have to break down with a spoon in order to reach the yoghurt itself. Love the stuff.

I am encouraged by your successful cheese making. I already have paneer on my list. This one is next. Looks really fresh and light.

Lucy said...

That creamy layer. God, but doesn't it just beg to be stabbed with your spoon and eaten very, very slowly? Great name for a yoghurt company by the way.

Paneer was my first venture into cheese-making, and given that we both enjoy Indian foods, I cannot recommend that you make it highly enough - you'll never go back to the packet stuff! The ricotta was however, even easier to make.

Darla said...

Oh my gosh-- your ricotta looks so good! I made homemade ricotta once but I used lemon juice instead of buttermilk-- it was delicious with berries. http://messycucina.blogspot.com/2005/12/ricotta-fresca.html

This post (and the picture you took!!) has reminded me that I should make it again!

Thanks for stopping by my Messy Cucina! I'll be back!

Christina said...

Egads, will you get out of my head? I just spent an hour today trying to learn how to make ricotta because I had a hankering for it. From what I understand, the buttermilk/whole milk curds here aren't the traditional ricotta, which is made out of whey, but it is as close as the average home cook can come. And, also as you have described and I have read elsewhere, the buttermilk/whole milk curds are just as delicious--if not even more delicious--as traditional ricotta. Who needs tradition when it comes to ricotta? I say throw it to the wind and make darned good cheese.

Thanks for inspiring me to actually get this made. I think it will be one of my weekend projects.

Johanna said...

Wow I am impressed by your diligence. I would love to make it but I don't think i have the patience - and don't have a sugar thermometer - although it might make its way to my wishlist.

When we were young we got unhomogenised milk from a local farm and I remember the joy of stirring the separated milk and cream

eatlikeagirl said...

Looks great! Home made ricotta is on my list to try also :-)

I made home made paneer this week and really enjoyed making it and eating it. Might try this next week.

http://eatlikeagirl.wordpress.com/2007/05/30/some-amateur-cheesemaking-homemade-paneer/

Lucy said...

Hi Darla - you should make it soon. Will check out your version as well.

Christina, egads indeed! I'd love to be able to earn to make the real thing. Once watched an TV programme about an Italian family in Australia living on the land who made their own using whey. It was wonderful. Good luck!

Ah, Johanna, I impressed even myself. Felt like a 'clever' cook! Those sugar thermometers are really cheap and worth it for moments just like this.

Hi eatlikeagirl, I love paneer. If you do try this, will you let me know?

Cynthia said...

I'm licking my fingers, just finished putting the last piece of that first pic into my mouth :)

Like Susan, I have paneer on my list of cheese to make and now I am adding your recipe for ricotta.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I am so making this! We eat a lot of ricotta in this house, I should make my own! Thanks for the inspiration!

Truffle said...

Such a silly question but where did you buy your cheesecloth? I've been struggling to find some. So far have only tried spotlight, lincraft etc.

Lisa said...

Oh my! I was also planning to make paneer, but after seeing your recipe for ricotta, which I've been using more of lately, I'm not sure which to try first.

Thank you for posting this recipe.

Lucy said...

Thanks guys - it's easy and you get to have complete control over the ingredients you use - just what I like!

Truffle - it's not a silly question at all. I got mine from www.herbies.com.au (best spice collection in Australia and freshest too). The Essential Ingredient at Prahran Market usually sells it as well.

Rosa said...

You've inspired me! I'd love to make this with ewe's milk, but it's hard to come by in France. I will let you know if I have any success.

Lucy said...

Rosa, ewe's milk would be wonderful. Do try it if you get the chance. As you know, fresh is so damn good!

Susan said...

You impress me, Lucy. I've never tried making ricotta before. Growing up in New England, we had scores of Italian delis that sold the highest quality ricotta, and we miss that now. I appreciate your efforts!

Wendy said...

Wow. I'm hugely impressed and very excited about trying this out! Thanks.

Jo Austin said...

Yess, well there will be no homemade ricotta made by this little black duck. Loved reading about it though. Must mention the whacky book by the lovely Amadea Morningstar. I have it. Peek in from time to time and then run. Thing is the Auyrvedic "system" is so great and people speak about the effect of eating in that manner with religious fervour but there is just so much enjoyment around food and my question, does one really enjoy the actual consumption of such fare or is it just how it makes you feel? I am interested.

Lucy said...

Susan, I'll bet you miss it!

Wendy, thanks. It's not authentic, but it is good.

Jo, it's a bit like macrobiotics, you know? I met a guy once who hadn't eaten a banana in 8 years. He looked hungry and frankly kinda, well, grey.

There's a lot of truth to these old healing systems, much that Western Medicine can learn. She's only young. I reckon we can gain insights, but that adopting a religious ferver along with it is to miss the point. It becomes much more about 'how good' you are than 'how well' you feel. I'm with you - there is far too much variety, fun to be had. Imagine life without the odd coffee?

I remember now, that book's been with you for a while, hasn't it?

Christina said...

I just made this today--good stuff! I'll be using it in lasagna later this week. Thanks for being the guinea pig for me.

Happy day!

Lucy said...

Yeah Christina! Lasagne - there's a good idea. Bloody cold here today.

Anonymous said...

I was reading a while back the benefits of raw milk - jersey cows are as close to the original milk producing breed of cow and don't carry as many contaminants in their milk.
Fresians on the other hand, are preferred as a breed because they yield such an enormous amount of milk, but they naturally carry tuberculosis, which is why we have to suffer the homo/pasteurisation process.

Kate.

Lucy said...

Hi Kate, it's illegal to buy raw milk in Australia which is not surprising given the info you've just passed on!

There's a company in Tasmania called 'Elgar Farm' who make the best organic dairy produce and from what I know most of their milk is from Jersey cows.