Love lasagna or stuffed shells? Forgot to buy the ricotta cheese?
Got milk? 🙂
If you have a gallon of milk, you can make enough ricotta cheese, quickly, to complete your recipe.
This works best if you have two pots to nest together to make a huge double-boiler – otherwise you’ll have to watch and stir while the milk heats so it doesn’t scorch and burn and make, um, smoky ricotta. Don’t ask me how I know. May I strongly recommend the double boiler?!
Heat a gallon of milk to 185 degrees Fahrenhreit. A candy thermometer that clips on to the side of the pot makes it easy. One of these days I’ll get one of those thermometers that beeps when it gets to the temperature I want… If you have to leave and your milk gets to 200 degrees – it’s OK. It will still work. Once again, don’t ask me how I know. The milk can be whole, 2%, skim, even non-fat reconstituted dry milk. If you use dry milk, I’ve found it works best if you’ve made the milk up the day before.
When the milk reaches the right temperature, remove from heat, and stir in 1/4 cup vinegar. It can be white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. You might want to gather your children or friends around to impress them with your newly-acquired cheese-making skills. The milk will curdle within a few seconds. Stir for about a minute, then pour into a cheesecloth-lined colander. (If you want to save the whey, put the colander into a bowl.) You can also use a clean pillowcase if you don’t have cheesecloth.
Let the curds drain until there is no more whey – stirring will help this process to go faster. It takes a little longer with a pillowcase than with cheesecloth. This will make about 2-3 cups of ricotta cheese.
Voila! Ricotta cheese ready for your recipe! If you want to store the ricotta, stir in a little salt to taste, add some milk or cream to get the consistency you like, and refrigerate. I usually make this right when I need it, so it’s usually moist enough to use right away.
This also makes a great “squeaky cheese”. I have a flat-bottomed colander – well, it’s actually the strainer of a two-part pasta pot – but anyway, if I leave the cheese in there for an hour or so, it drains and forms a flat round of white cheese. Turn this out onto a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. We like to sprinkle this with seasoned salt, cut into cubes and serve. My children DEVOUR this! Unseasoned, it also is delicious crumbled onto pizza (if you’ve run out of mozzarella…).