Thursday, September 30, 2010

Make Your Own Cheese, Seriously!

This week I had to make ricotta gnocchi for Colin's birthday. OK I didn't HAVE to make it but it was his birthday and that's what he wanted to eat, so I was going to work to make it happen. I always let the kids choose what they want to eat on their birthdays. There was one problem though, I couldn't find ricotta cheese at any of the grocery stores. I lucked out and found parmesan cheese but no ricotta to be found.

When you live overseas for a while you get used to making things from scratch and making substitutions. I had heard somewhere, probably the Splendid Table, that ricotta cheese is easy to make so time to look for a recipe. Epicurious to the rescue! A quick search turned up a recipe with great reviews and even better I could get everything I needed to make it locally: milk, cream, and lemons. I already had salt. To see the recipe click here.

It was pretty easy. Mix the cream, milk, and salt and bring to a rolling boil. Add the lemon juice and reduce heat to a simmer. In about 2 minutes the milk should suddenly turn into a disgusting mess of white floating chunks in yellowish liquid. It sort of looks like something my kid threw up up. Don't panic the white stuff is the cheese curds and yellowish stuff is the whey. Curds and whey!

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

We have plenty of spiders around here and now curds and whey. We are all set for a visit from Little Miss Muffet. I don't think I would like a big bowl of curds and whey though. Ick! Instead I lined a colander with a clean kitchen towel strained out the cheese. I let it set for about 30 minutes so most of the whey dripped away. What was left was some of the best ricotta I have ever tasted. I can't wait to try this in something that showcases the cheese like shells stuffed with ricotta and spinach. Maybe next week... if I can find shells. Probably not.

A few notes:

1. Don't use UHT milk, for you state side folks that is long shelf life milk that doesn't need refrigeration. UHT stands for Ultra High Temperature processing. I have no idea why but it won't work. I found out that you CAN make it from powdered milk. YAY! It probably won't taste as good as fresh milk but if you are in Nouakchott or Ouagadougou, craving lasagna, and have by some miracle managed to get hold of a chunk of mozzarella, you are probably won't care.

2. If you can't find cream just use 3 cups of whole or 2% milk, it will still work, it just won't be as rich and creamy.

3. Save the whey if you are a bread maker. One of the commenters recommended using it to make bread. The whey is supposed to be high in protein so it makes your bread extra nutritious. I tried it and it came out beautifully. (I really DON'T like the local bread so I make my own several twice a week. I wasn't trying to show off, honestly) You can freeze the whey if you don't have time to deal with it the day you are making the cheese.

4. has a recipe for cheesecake using ricotta rather than cream cheese. I will be trying that soon. I haven't seen any cream cheese here yet and cheese cake sounds really really good. I have a birthday coming up. Maybe I will ask Dave make that for my birthday cake.


Donna said...

You are my new hero. I am going to do this. I made my last lasagna with cottage cheese, and it was alright, but, c'mon!

Jill said...

Thankfully we DID have ricotta when we lived in Chennai - because we only had UHT milk and I would have cried if I couldn't make this...

However, the stores unplug their refrigerators and freezers at night to "save energy" .... so who knows how good the cheeses were anyway once we got them. :)

You need to start a cooking blog here lady - you have a lot of great recipes that we need to try!

Jen said...

Will have to try that recipe and will definitely use the why for bread...sounds like an awesome idea!

Emily said...

Wow. I am impressed. That is amazing. I agree with Jill, a food blog would be awesome.

A Daring Adventure said...

This week's State Department Blog RoundUp is up- and you're on it (about a hundred million times)!

Have a great weekend!

Connie said...

Thanks for sharing! :)

Sara said...

Thanks for making this seem easy. I just made lasagna for our dinner tonight with imported Australian ricotta cheese. I think I may have to try your recipe though. Thankfully we can order fresh cow's milk. I hate the boxed stuff.
Please share more recipes!!!