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When my mother came to this country, she used large curd cottage cheese that she blended rather than the Precious stuff they sold in the grocery stores. I didn’t understand why, until I tasted real ricotta, it’s not even close to that grainy product. Her cottage cheese concoction was much closer. While you can now buy fresh ricotta in many stores, it’s still fairly expensive. This recipe is easy, it doesn’t take much hands-on time and the results are so worth it.
The options are endless!
This is my basic recipe for fresh ricotta cheese. I wanted it a little sweet as my plan was to put it on crostini with some Heirloom Tomato Jam and more acidic green cherry tomato halves for an appetizer. You can control the sweetness by adding more milk and less cream. I also left this fairly soft, but if you want firmer, just drain it longer.
Some recipes will have you make ricotta with just vinegar. That will work, it’s really all about adding the acid to curdle the milk, but straight vinegar doesn’t give the ricotta the same flavor, and that’s what I’m all about; how can I add more depth of flavor, without making the process tedious? I think the addition of lemon juice does it.
Depending on what you are making, you could use what I did, part milk part cream, all whole milk, part-whole, part 2%. You could infuse flavor right into your ricotta for a savory pasta, or add a little sugar for additional sweetness. The options are endless!
Line a large sieve with a layer of heavy-duty (fine mesh) cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl. (You could also use a fine mesh chinois)
Slowly bring the milk, cream, and salt, just to a boil in a heavy 6-quart pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. When just beginning to simmer, turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and vinegar. Stir gently to incorporate and allow to stand 3 – 5 minutes.
Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let drain, from 25 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how firm you want it to be. Discard the liquid and chill the ricotta, covered in the refrigerator, until ready to use. The ricotta will keep for 2 – 3 days. Makes about 2 cups of Ricotta
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