How do you make homemade ricotta cheese? Ricotta is one of the easiest homemade cheeses, and chances are you have everything you need already at home. This simple afternoon project is not particularly labor intensive and kids with basic stove safety skills can help.
Step 1- Gather Ingredients
You will need 1 gallon of whole milk, 1/3 Cup of White Vinegar, and salt. The original method/recipe (from The Home Creamery shown below) I used called for 1 tsp. I am inclined to use 1 Tbsp, but you can always add salt at the end so start small until you see what your family loves.
This is the one cheese I have had success with no matter what kind of milk I use- from the standard grocery store gallon to the highest quality raw milk. Of course, I'm biased and I much prefer the raw milk but you can do this with whatever whole milk you choose. If you want a middle ground, non homogenized milk (cream on top) is my second choice.
Step 2- Heat milk in a steel pot to 185 degrees.
Stir occasionally to keep from scalding. I usually do this over a medium heat, be brave just don't burn your milk.
Step 3- Gently stir in vinegar and salt.
DO NOT OVER STIR. As soon as you see the curds and whey start to separate (shown below), you can stop stirring.
Step 4- Cover and set aside.
Again, the original recipe calls for 2 hours of sitting, but I have fudged this many, many times when making fresh cheese for dinner. I usually ignore it for about an hour and then move on to the next step.
Step 5- Strain and drain.
Pour curds and whey into a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Gently wrap the curds in the cheesecloth and hang over a bowl to drain for another 1-2 hours. Again, I've fudged this down to as little as 30 minutes. The important thing to know is that the longer it hangs the drier your cheese will be.
Whey is often considered a waste product from cheese making- not so, not so! It is a beloved treat of our chickens and pigs and can be used in baked goods like biscuits. (Especially served warm on a cold day!) A quick search should yield more results than you know what to do with.
Step 6- Unwrap, Refrigerate, & Serve!
This step is pretty self explanatory. I usually crumble into a serving bowl if we are going to use right away, or to a glass mason jar if it won't be used until the next day or two. There are also usually plenty of little hands and mouths close by waiting for a taste!
Fresh ricotta makes a great topping for tacos and salads. It is wonderful in enchiladas and lasagna. Many people also prefer it in sweet desserts or mixed with fruit for breakfast. I'm looking forward to trying it with some marinated fresh tomatoes and basil next summer!
Cheese making is a homesteading and self reliance skill that might seem overwhelming, but starting with this simple ricotta cheese will build confidence and please all the eaters at your table. It took me a long time to give this a try, but like many things I wish I had started sooner and now there is no looking back!
What homesteading or self reliance skill do you wish you had tried sooner? Which one are you holding back from trying?