The other day I was watching the Food Network while folding laundry. The Barefoot Contessa was making homemade ricotta, which I decided to try. It seemed simple enough, so I found her recipe online. I decided to try it today, since Greg and I have to take a cheese appetizer to a party tonight.
As it turned out, the quart of shelf-stable milk from my food storage and the pint of cream from my fridge were precisely the quantities the recipe called for, which meant no measuring cup. I’m not sure if the Pompeiian qualifies as the “good” vinegar Ina calls for. (It always gets me the way she says, “Make sure you use good vinegar” or vanilla or whatever. Her tone always seems to suggest that she means, “Not that crap kind that poor people use.” But I digress.)
While the milk, cream, and salt were coming to a boil, I set up the strainer and bowl. I knew I had cheesecloth somewhere, but I didn’t want to go look for it. A reviewer of the recipe said that he or she had just used dampened paper towels with great results. I had whole roll of paper towels within arms reach. Huzzah!
After the milk/cream/salt came to a boil, I turned off the heat and stirred in the vinegar. The recipe says to let it sit for a minute. I let it sit for about 3 minutes before pouring into the paper-towel-lined strainer–which turned out to be a bit small for the amount of cheese, so I had to hurry and set up a second small strainer over another bowl.
I let the whey drain off for several minutes, tasting the cheese in the meantime. It was soft, mild, and quite tasty. I was pleased to discover that it didn’t have the usual graininess of store-bought ricotta. It did need a little salt, though.
After maybe 10-15 minutes of straining, it was already quite thick–and I’m sure you could leave it longer if you preferred a thicker cheese. But I am impatient, so I didn’t want to wait longer. I put the cheese in a bowl and stirred in some salt, pepper, garlic salt, oregano, basil, and thyme.
If I hadn’t killed most of my herb plants a couple of months ago (hey–at least they had a good run for a few months), I would have used them. But the cheap, bottled herbs (that poor people use) worked just fine. I just kind of added shakes and dashes at a time until it tasted good.
I think this will have to become a repeat item. It will be fun to try out different flavors, and I think it will be great in lasagna.