Used in sweet and savory dishes, or eaten straight as is, it seems ricotta is everyone’s favorite cheese! I am a bit of a ricotta snob, I must confess. I grew up in Calabria, and despite my travels all over Italy, I have never found better tasting ricotta than the one I enjoy in Calabria. To say nothing compares is an understatement. When it comes to eating it as is, you’re going to want the fresh kind. I do occasionally buy the packaged kind, but I only use that for cooking and baking, and not to eat as is. If I want to enjoy a nice bagel or panino with great ricotta, and I am not in Italy, I make my own. The process is easy, albeit time consuming, but much of that time is spent waiting for the milk to heat up, then again to cool off at just the right temperature. Other than that, it’s relatively easy!
Many recipes you will find on the internet will call for acid of some kind, usually lemon juice or white vinegar. I myself don’t like the flavor of either in my ricotta, and despite using the least amount possible to curdle the milk, that lemon or white vinegar can always be tasted. Use instead rennet, which will give you not only a perfect ricotta in consistency, but also in flavor. Be sure to use vegetable if you want to make ricotta that is truly vegetarian.
In addition to the ingredients listed below, you will need a few pieces of special equipment: a kitchen thermometer is a must. Also needed are draining baskets, and a skimmer.
Fresh Homemade Ricotta
Yield: About 1.5 to 2 lbs of fresh ricotta
1 gallon whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon liquid vegetable or animal rennet
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