Monday, September 8, 2014

Something From Nothing #28: Fresh Ricotta Cheese

Summer is starting to wind down, and depending on where you live you might have only a few more opportunities to wow your friends and family with your backyard culinary prowess. If you are like me and feel that you have pretty much pulled all of your rabbits out of your hat, then this recipe for fresh ricotta is just what you need.

Light, creamy, buttery, and oh so simple to make, this is the epitome of something from nothing. The only hitch here, and a minor one at that, is that you have to have two simple and inexpensive pieces of "special" equipment. You will need a couple of pieces of cheesecloth, which can easily be found at most supermarkets, fabric stores or hobby shops and a screen type strainer, which is also widely available at any discount, department or cooking store. The one shown here is very big, but one of those 4 cup strainers with a handle and two little upside down hooks on the opposite side will work nicely.

Once you make this simple base recipe, you can serve it plain with crackers or apple chips, top it with pesto, honey or jam, mix in herbs and spices for sweet and savory versions, or drain it longer (cover and place in the refrigerator for at least one to two hours) for a drier cheese that you can cook with. You won't believe how versatile and delicious this is to make. I truly hope you will give it a try. Fresh ricotta is the best.

Fresh Ricotta

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Place milk, cream and salt in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.

While milk is sitting, line a screen type strainer with 2 layers of cheese cloth and set it over a bowl so it can drain and catch the whey.

Pour the milk mixture slowly into the prepared strainer. Allow to drain undisturbed for 20 to 30 minutes (longer for a drier cheese), emptying the whey from the drainage bowl if necessary. If you just can't bear to throw your whey down the drain, click here for some interesting suggestions.

Gently roll or scoop the cheese out into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Cheese will keep for 3 - 5 days.

Makes about 1 cup of fresh ricotta.

Served with bread crisps or crackers and topped with honey (shown above) or cherry preserves (shown here), you just can't beat this for an easy and delicious appetizer.

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