Funny side story: In High School I was part of the super cool Theater Group. I was so into being a “techie” and participating backstage in all the plays. It was my life, until I got a boyfriend, then I only spent 50% of my life in the theater. Each year we participated in a yearly One Act Play competition. There was a Regional Festival, States Festival and New England Festival. For multiple years we were luck enough to participate in multiple festivals. I loved it! The only thing I hated about these festivals was the food. We were required to buy a meal ticket and without fail at EVERY SINGLE FESTIVAL they served LASAGNA. Oh man I really hate lasagna mostly because I despise ricotta cheese. Hate the stuff. I won’t eat stuffed shells, calzones or anything that contains the vile stuff. I am not a picky eater and will eat almost anything even if I don’t care for it with the exception of this. So I would starve when we went to festivals. I would always come home hungry and full of gas. I hadn’t reached the comfort level of tooting in front of my friends yet, another long story for later.
Fast forward to 2012. I was a nanny for an Australian family who LOVED ricotta cheese. They smeared it on crackers, toast, and sandwiches or fed it by the spoonful to the baby. GROSS! They couldn’t believe I didn’t like it. I made gorgeous lasagnas for this family and for their friends but refused to eat it. They thought I was crazy. I was. One day I was FAMISHED and Amelia offered me cracker spread in ricotta with salt and pepper. Surprisingly it was good. I can hear Sarah saying, “ I told you so!” She happens to love ricotta too. I soon was eating ricotta regularly whenever I was working for this family. They had a more liberal cash flow compared to me and did all their grocery shopping at Whole Foods and would buy a tub of ricotta every week. It was from a Vermont farm and cost around $7.00 for a pint. While grocery shopping I decided to snag a container while at Trader Joes, it was less than $2.00 and I picked the low fat version to save on some calories. DISASTER! It was SO GROSS! It tasted nothing like the ricotta I had while working. I tried buying the full fat version the following week at Trader Joes, still GROSS! I realized they must be doing something right in Vermont to make this fluffy and wonderful cheese.
Imagine my excitement when I gathered all my supplies to make my own ricotta cheese. Dreams of recreating the rich tasting ricotta from Vermont in my own tiny kitchen for a fraction of the price? Could I do it? Sadly the ricotta I made tasted nothing like the stuff from Vermont. I don’t know what they do but it looks like I will either need to attempt this again after doing more research or just bite the bullet and pay the stinking $7.00 for a tub of this magic cheese.
DIY Ricotta Cheese
1/2 c. cool, chlorine-free water (I used filtered)
1 tsp. Citric Acid
1 Gallon of Milk
1 tsp. Cheese Salt
Step 1: Pour water into a small bowl and stir in citric acid.
Step 2: Pour milk into a large pot, add the citric acid solution and the cheese salt and stir well.
Step 3: St the pot over medium heat and heat, gently checking the bottom of the pot with a slotted spoon for signs of scorching every 2 minutes or so. Avoid stirring as much as possible to allow curds to form. If the milk seems to be sticking, reduce heat to medium low. Heat milk to 180 degrees, do not allow milk mixture to boil over!
Step 4: As soon as the curds and whey separate clearly (you will see white curds floating in yellowing whey when you move the curds) turn off heat and let stand undisturbed for 10 minutes.
Step 5: Line a colander with cheesecloth and carefully pour curds and whey into colander. Drain until the cheese reaches the desired consistency, 15-30 minutes. Cheese will last up to one week in fridge.