the home grown institute
15 Minute Ricotta
There was an old lady who swallowed a bird, to catch the spider to catch the fly... An evolving homestead can sometimes feel like that - challenges generating their own new set of activities.
So here are a couple of my current challenges: I've got an increasing number of eggs from my chickens and I have a teenage son who doesn't always have the inclination toward healthy eating. I discovered a recipe that I think solves both problems. It uses eggs and ricotta with a bit of sweetener to make what is a cross between a soufflé and cheesecake. Who wouldn't love that.
Ricotta turns out to present it's own challenge, one common to all dairy products. My strong preference is to consume dairy products that come from cows that have been raised on grass pastures. Not only is it so more humane for the animal, but the absence of hormones and antibiotics, along with the significant presence of naturally occurring omega 3s found lacking in conventional diary production, make a compelling argument for human health.
Although the co-op does sell Organic Valley brand ricotta (Organic Valley farmers pasture their cows), it is not always available and even though I expect higher prices from grass fed, the ricotta causes a bit of sticker shock. I decided to see what it would take to make it myself.
It turns out that making ricotta is quite easy. In fact, of all the Home Grown things I've tried, it may be the easiest.
15 Minute Ricotta
4 cups milk (or 3.5 milk and .5 cream)
3 Tbsp lemon juice (one large lemon)
Cheese cloth
Heat milk to 190 (stir occasionally)
Remove from heat and add lemon juice
Wait 5 minutes
Pour into colander lined with cheese cloth
Wait and hour (or longer if you like it dryer)
I buy a half gallon of milk from grass fed cows at the co-op where there are a handful of brands to choose from. (Let's hear it for the co-op!) I use whole milk. When I get home, I pour half of the half gallon into a pot and set the stove to medium. (I found a recipe that suggested using 3.5 cups of milk with .5 cup cream, so sometimes I do that... Cream from grass cows, of course!)
Although there are specialty thermometers that you can use (candy thermometer) I use a meat thermometer to check the temperature. I start it at medium so it doesn't burn but that will only take it up to about 125. During the 5 minutes it takes to get to 125, I squeeze the lemon and make sure it's 3 Tbsp. Then I turn up the stove and stand over it for the next 5 minutes stirring occasionally and checking the temp.
When it hits 190, I remove the pot from the heat and add the lemon juice, stir it two or three swirls and then let it sit for 5 minutes. During that 5 minutes, I line the colander with cheese cloth and wipe the splattered lemon juice from the counter. Grinding the peels in the garbage disposal makes a great deodorizer.
When 5 minutes are up, i am ready for the moment of glory - I pour the mixture that has now separated into curds and whey into the colander, clumsily making sure the cheese cloth stays in place. I leave it for anywhere from one to two hours and oula! Homemade ricotta!
Now, after my third batch, I feel like a pro. Easy. But of course, there is the challenge of what to do with the other half of the half gallon of milk. Well, there are those milk kefir grains I just got off of freecycle...
The Easiest Home Grown Thing Yet
Monday, March 4, 2013