One of the great things about posting every day this month is I am catching up on all the posts I never wrote. The ones I’ve been saving. Or simply never got to. I am not sure why I never wrote about this ricotta cheese…
…because it was ethereal and delectable in its creaminess and had a perfect neutrality, ready to go in either direction: sweet or savory. The day I made it last summer, I ate it nearly plain with just a few assorted dried fruits (cranberries and pomegranate seeds) strewn on top. It would be wonderful in combination any fruit such as fresh apricots, mandarin orange sections or brandied cherries; with olive oil, sea salt and chopped fresh herbs; baked into lasagna; turned into a cheesecake or used as a filling in a pastry such as cannoli, and on and on.
It was simple (and fun) to make. It’s kind of magical to see the way the curds and whey separate, resulting in cheese. There are some variables when making this recipe. First, the salt can be adjusted according to whether it will be eaten as a sweet or a savory. Second, the texture is variable. The longer it drains, the drier it will become. For a wetter, creamier consistency, drain for a shorter amount of time. Finally, the simplicity of this recipe really lets the taste of the milk and cream shine through. It’s really worth it here to use the best quality dairy you can find – preferably fresh and local. You will absolutely taste the difference.
Ricotta Cheese adapted from Cucina Fresca by Viana La Place & Evan Kleiman makes 2 cups
• 2 quarts whole milk
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 2-4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth which have been moistened and wrung out. Place over a large bowl and set aside. Heat the milk and cream in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scalding. After it reaches a simmer, remove from heat. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice – the curds should separate from the whey almost immediately (if not, add additional lemon juice as needed). Gently scoop the curds with a large spoon into the cheesecloth-lined colander. Let sit until the whey has drained off and the ricotta reaches desired consistency. Discard whey. Ricotta is best eaten fresh the same day. Will keep, well covered in the fridge, for several days.