Curdish rebellion.
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  1. #1
    Feb 2016
    Tesoro Compadre
    283 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Curdish rebellion.

    It's another cold, drizzly day here in the hinterlands of North Jersey. I decided it was the perfect day to make an industrial sized vat of lasagne and binge watch "Girls und Panzer". Rooting around the kitchen I saw I had everything needed to pull that off except ricotta cheese.

    So out I went to the store this morning, where I found Polly-O on sale for $7.99 for whatever size that large-ish tub is.

    $7.99? For factory extruded, factory flavored, glop? Forget that noise. Turns out they had milk on sale too, so I grabbed a gallon - at $2.50 - and went home to make my own. I just finished, and it's a snap. I recommend you do it even if you're not stuck inside with nothing to do but hang around cooking up pans o' carbs.

    Here's all you do (hopefully the pictures line up with the description numbers):

    1. Mise en place: Gallon milk, ~2 cups buttermilk, 2 tsp. or so of salt, a coupla tablespoons of vinegar. Strict measurements don't need to be adhered to; hot milk plus acid and salt is gonna make ricotta whether you want it to or not. Also, have a strainer, some cheesecloth or muslin to line it (along with a deep bowl or pot to set it in), and a good heavy duty cooking pot. The most important ingredient here may actually be the thermometer.

    2. In the heavy pot, place the milk and buttermilk over medium heat and bring the temperature up to between 185 and 190. You should stir fairly frequently towards the end to keep the bottom from scorching (the pot's, not yours). Gotta say, enameled cast iron is da bomb for this. Call if you wanna borrow my Le Creuset. (Yeah I'm humble bragging. Waddaya gonna do.)

    3. Once you've pulled the pot off the heat, stir in the vinegar and salt. Admire your manly-yet-delicate grip (see pic for example).

    4. Don't stir it now. After about 10 minutes, give or take, the curdling starts to solidify. The curds are large enough here that you can see they're not falling through the gaps of my spider (skimmer).

    5. Just gently ladle the cheese into the muslin lined strainer (make sure the strainer doesn't sit in water - use a deep enough pot). Let it sit for 5 - 7 minutes, but not much longer or it will get too stiff as it cools. Then just turn it out into a bowl. You'll notice as it sets it seeps out water for a while longer. This is normal, and can either be stirred back in or poured off. Or just enjoyed as a built-in "sauce".

    6. The difference between this and Cheese Factory Inc.'s "ricotta" is the difference between Charleze Theron and a bucket of tapir entrails, And you should - you MUST - try it while it's still warm, with honey drizzled over the top and maybe some sliced almonds. Or I'll hunt you down and force feed you some of mine.

    One thing to note: as mentioned in step 5, the amount of time the curds drain affects how stiff they get. You can work this to your advantage, varying the moisture content to fit all sorts of applications. I recently made a variation of middle eastern "znoud el sitt" with an extremely dry ricotta. Lowering the moisture content let me add honey and rose water as flavoring, without making it so soupy that it burst out of the pastry wrapper as it fried.

    Anyway, here's pics of the proceedings. I hope you try it someday!

    ps. in case there are any pedant purists out there, I know - I know - this is not technically "real" ricotta. "Real" ricotta is made from the whey left over from making other cheese (hence the name, ri-cotta, or "re-cooked"). I have two things to say about that. 1. "Pttttttthhhh! Nyah! Nyah!" and 2. After you skim off the first batch of curds, you can dump in more - lots more - vinegar into the still hot whey in the pot. Whatever congeals that second time will be closer to "real" ricotta. Enjoy. (BTW, it'll taste exactly the same as the first, non-authentic, batch of curds.)
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