Thursday, February 23, 2012

Making ricotta cheese

Homemade ricotta

 After a long time procrastinating about making cheese, I finally got myself motivated to give it a go. What prompted me (apart from having my Mad Millie Beginners' Italian Cheese Kit staring me in the face for some time..) was the recent discovery of a ready supply of farm milk, 'organic', unpasteurised, and unhomogenised. Being unpasteurised doesn't worry us, however I can understand why in certain circumstances (e.g. being pregnant) one might want to pasteurise it prior to use. According to the Mad Millie website, you can easily pasteurise the milk by bringing it up to 68 degs C and hold for 2 mins, or 63 degs C for 30 mins. Apparently though, the unhomogenised part is important and desirable for cheese making. Most milk available these days is homogenised, so I'm thrilled to be able to obtain this milk, without all the bother of having to milk my own cow (for now anyway!).

To make the ricotta I used the Mad Millie recipe supplied, which was 2 litres of milk with 1 tsp salt added. Heat this until 90 deg C, stirring all the time (all the utensils were sterilised prior to use, using a solution of iodophor - provided in the kit). It took quite a long time to reach 90 degs, as I had it on a very low heat, not wanting to scorch the milk. I wasn't entirely sure if I should be using a double boiler or not, but from the leaflet it seemed this was only necessary for the cream when making Mascarpone. Can any home cheese makers out there advise on this please?

Once the temperature reached 90 degs I removed the pan of milk from the heat and then added 1tsp of citric acid dissolved in 1 Tbsp of cold water. This made the milk curdle immediately. I then left it to cool and separate for about 2 hours (1-4 hours was the instruction). Then I scooped out the curds with a slotted spoon, and drained them in the (sterilised) ricotta basket provided in the kit (or you could use a muslin-lined colander). I fed the whey to the chooks, which they loved.

The result - a lovely creamy soft cheese.

It was very nice on crackers with fresh tasty tomatoes out of the garden, and there are numerous other ways to enjoy it too.

I chose to make up some Ricotta Pikelets using this recipe. While the berry butter was not all that popular in the house (I liked it!), the pikelets were deliciously fluffy and very tasty.

Ricotta pikelets with berry butter

Needless to say, I will be making up another batch of ricotta any day now. Like soap-making, I can see cheese-making could be kind of addictive! I particularly want to try making mozzarella, but am content to start with the easier cheeses first.

Do you make cheese at home, and if so what sort do you make?


Dr Mum said...

Awesome that you can get the raw milk, wish I could. they didn't like this? I could eat the photograph!

Cabbage Tree Farm said...

Hi Dr Mum, shame about the raw milk I guess the regs in the UK are pretty bad..

They liked the pikelets just not the berry butter.. :-)

Ruth said...

It's good to read your review about the Mad Millie kit. I've looked at those several times and I even bought Katherine Mowbray's book about cheesemaking. One of these days...!