Homemade Ricotta

When you make cheese yourself, there's nothing in it but wholesome ingredients. No texturizers, flavor "enhancers," or coloring.

By Susan Asanovic



New World Ricotta
Modern ricotta, developed in the early 19th century, is made from whole milk and is simple and delicious prepared at home. It is also the method used by most big commercial American dairies. Whole or part-skim milk is acidified to a carefully controlled level, then subjected to high temperatures. Although most of us do not have equipment for measuring or controlling pH and heat, the following method works very well. Since the big companies do not divulge their recipes, I devised this one by careful label-reading plus trial-and-error.

New World Ricotta
Yield: about 1 cup

These easy-to-handle proportions are adaptable to small-quantity cheese-making. Dried whey is available in health-food stores and is well known for its beneficial action on friendly intestinal flora. This is one of the reasons ricotta is such a highly digestible food. Dried whey contains about 13 percent protein, has 5 times the calcium of liquid milk, and is a good source of riboflavin and iron.

1 quart homogenized whole or partially skimmed milk (fresh and just milked is best but powdered skim can also be used)
1/4 cup dried whey powder
1/8 cup liquid buttermilk (2 tablespoons)

Stir the whey powder into the milk with a whisk and dissolve well. Stir in the buttermilk. Cover the bowl with waxed paper or place in cold oven to incubate for 24 hours. Then transfer to a saucepan and very slowly bring to scalding (200°F). It will separate into curds and whey. Gently drain through cheesecloth; hang to drip a few hours. Salt to taste if desired. Store fresh ricotta in moisture-proof containers, well closed, in the refrigerator.

It will keep about 4 days, maximum, especially unsalted. Milk can be added to the finished ricotta if you like it moister. To dry your cheese for grating, press it heavily in perforated forms, salt it on the surface, and dry in a curing room where the temperature is 100°F or a bit higher. Otherwise, enjoy your fresh ricotta, as is, unadorned, by the spoonful, or in any of your favorite recipes.