Last year my wife and I both read Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and loved it. We were intrigued by the account of her family’s quest to eat only homegrown or locally grown food for a whole year. And the descriptions of their cheese making experiences inspired us to try to make cheese ourselves.
With all that in mind, it made perfect sense to me to get my wife a book on cheese making for her birthday, Cheese Queen Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheese Making. I also got her one of Ricki’s cheese making kits that has basic supplies plus ingredients to make both mozzarella and ricotta cheeses. The side of the box proclaimed “All you need is the milk!” I am so lucky to have a wife that appreciates such gifts!
We made our first batch of cheese this week, a whole milk ricotta. This is an easy cheese for beginners like us, which is a good thing because we wanted to start out easy and work our way gradually into harder cheese recipes (no pun intended). And making ricotta also made sense because I had plans for a recipe that called for ricotta.
We’ve yet to source local milk, so we made it with organic milk from the grocery. From start to finish it took about an hour to make. A gallon of milk yielded about 1.5 pounds of cheese. I won’t put the full recipe here, because detailed instructions are in the book, as well as available in many places on the web. But generally speaking, here are the steps to making the cheese – which my wife photographed while helping with the cheese.
First, I added citric acid to whole milk and heated it to 185-195F.
When the mixture curdled, and the curds separated from the whey, I turned off the heat and let it all sit for 10 minutes. Then I ladled the mixture into a cheesecloth lined strainer.
Then I tied off the cheesecloth and let it drain for 20-30 minutes.
The finished cheese is removed from the cheesecloth and refrigerated. It will keep for up to one week, and can be frozen for longer term storage.
The ricotta is mild, and tasted great on a toasted slice of my wife’s HBinFive Carrot Bread.
We’ll use the ricotta fresh for a few days, then try freezing the leftovers for later. Based on this first experience making cheese, we are excited and ready to try another recipe, so stay tuned for further adventures!