Traditional ricotta cheese is made from sweet whey produced when making other cheeses. The word ricotta actually means re-cooked. But if you’re not a full-time cheese-maker, you probably don’t have large quantities of fresh whey. That’s okay, because it’s simple to turn four ingredients that are probably in your kitchen right now into a sweet, creamy ricotta that is both rich and delicate at the same time, like a fine champagne. When I make it in my open galley kitchen, my living room soon smells like a bowl of fresh cream.
A Note on Whey
Whey is the liquid that drains from cheese as it firms up. There are two types of whey: sweet and acid. While traditional ricotta is made from sweet whey, the whey that it produces is acid. That means it has more limited uses, but there are a few. For example, it can be used as a substitute for buttermilk in recipes, as a soil additive for acid-loving plants, or as a skin softener, applied with a cotton ball or added to your bath water. It doesn’t keep well though, so use it up in a day or two.
- 2 quarts whole milk
- 1 c. heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp salt
- juice of one lemon, freshly squeezed approx. 1/4 c.
Blend milk, cream, and salt in lg heavy pot. Bring to boil over med. heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scalding, approx. 10 min.
As soon as mixture boils, reduce heat to low. Stir in lemon juice. (The citric acid is what causes the cheese to curdle, so don’t skimp here.)
Stir occasionally until mixture curdles, approx. 5-6 min.
Pour mixture into colander lined with cheesecloth over lg bowl in sink. Let drain until ricotta thickens to your desired consistency, approx. 1-2 hrs. (If drier ricotta is needed, you can continue to drain it in the refrigerator.)
Transfer ricotta to airtight container(s) and refrigerate until ready to use; it should keep 2-3 days. Discard whey or reserve for another use.