Homemade Ricotta Recipe

Several people have asked about the recipe for the homemade ricotta that I dollop on top of the spiced collard greens in the first episode of my show, Heartland Table, on Food Network. Unfortunately that segment was cut from the episode, but it appears in my cookbook, and I’ll post it here as well.

So many recipes for fresh ricotta have you acidifying the milk with lemon juice or buttermilk to form the curds, but after trying a recipe from The Underground Collective in Madison, WI, I became hooked on using vinegar. Just a little. I think it makes a ricotta that is just ever-so-slightly softer and moister.

In my experience, the more “natural” the milk (non-homogenized and not ultra-pasteurized is best), the more cheese you get from it—although anything works.

Ricotta Cheese Ball

1 quart whole milk (preferably not ultra-pasteurized)

4 teaspoons white distilled vinegar

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

To make the cheese ball, pour the milk into a heavy-bottomed non-reactive sauce pan over medium heat. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and heat, stirring often to prevent scorching on the bottom, until the milk reaches 180ºF. (Without a thermometer, this is the seething, steaming period just before the boil.)

Remove from the heat, add the vinegar, and stir gently. You will notice white, fluffy curds separating from the whey, which will yellow and look almost transparent. If this doesn’t happen add another teaspoon of vinegar and stir again. Sprinkle the salt over the curds and whey. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to give the curds time to gather softly together.

Cut a 4-foot length of cheesecloth, open it up, and fold it into a square 3 layers thick. Lay the cheesecloth in a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl and gently pour the curds into it, scraping the pan to get every bit.

Gather up the corners of the cheesecloth and twist the cheese into a teardrop shape; squeeze gently to remove excess whey. Set the cheese in a small bowl or a teacup to firm up. As it cools to room temperature it will hold the rounded shape of the cup.

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