Ricotta Cheese is another soft cheese, like feta that can be easily made at home. Being a soft cheese, Ricotta does not require much equipment and does not need to age. It can be eaten fresh, plain, with herbs added or even added to recipes like spaghetti sauce to enhance flavors. As a dessert, ricotta can be found in Lemon Italian Creme which is wonderful!
Ricotta cheese, with its mild flavor, is one of the most versatile cheeses. Ricotta means “recooked” in Italian and while it is traditionally made from fresh whey, it can also be made with whole or skim milk – I will give the recipe for both! But first, some background…
When we got our first family milk cow, Buttercup, I quickly learned how to make cheese. With every 4 gallon batch of cheese, I would be left with about 3 gallons of whey. Whey is the liquid that remains after the curds have been strained. Since whey still contains vitamins and minerals, I hated to just throw it away. So began experimentation to find a use for all the whey.
I tried giving it to the chickens but they were not thrilled with it and Buttercup didn’t seem too keen on drinking it either. I tried making a drink similar to Gatorade with salt, honey and lemon juice. But, my drink was not met with enthusiasm either – and, that is an understatement! I think “yuck” was one word used to describe it!
My next experiment with whey was to use it in cooking. I tried cooking vegetables in it – some were good and some not so good. Green beans were OK but potatoes were not good boiled in whey! And then…
I found that I could make ricotta cheese from this leftover whey!
Boy, was my family happy!
Now, I make whey ricotta after almost every batch of cheese – Swiss, cheddar, Monterrey jack, mozzarella … My favorite ricotta is made from the whey of Mozzarella cheese; to me, it is the finest and best textured ricotta.
According to Wikipedia,
Ricotta is an Italian whey cheese made from sheep (or cow, goat, or Italian buffalo) milk whey left over from the production of cheese.
I use fresh raw cow’s milk from our own family cow for all my cheese making and have never experimented with sheep, goat or buffalo milk. And while I almost exclusively make whey ricotta, the yield is lower than that of milk ricotta and depends on what type of cheese the whey is leftover from. When using leftover whey, it is important to make the ricotta immediately, the whey MUST be fresh or it will not work.
Before getting started, be sure to check out Cheese Making Basics for helpful tips, supplies and ordering information. If you are interested in cheese making, I would highly recommend the book available from my affiliate partner, Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll – it is an excellent resource.
Instruction for Whey Ricotta are given first followed by instructions for Milk Ricotta. The yield for Whey Ricotta is lower than for Milk Ricotta.
Whey Ricotta Cheese
Makes 1 – 3 cups
2 gallons fresh whey*
1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
1. Pour the whey into a large pot and heat until it starts to boil.
2. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Let sit for at least 10 – 15 minutes. I usually leave it until the whey has cooled and is just warm.
3. Line a colander with cheesecloth, pour the ricotta through the cheesecloth and allow the whey to drain. This may take several hours since often the ricotta is very fine.
4. Use a spatula to scrape the ricotta from the cheesecloth.
5. Cover the ricotta and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
* The whey MUST be fresh – I start the whey boiling as soon as I have removed the cheese curds. Do not refrigerate and save for later – it will not work!
Milk Ricotta Cheese
Makes 4 cups
1 gallon whole or skim milk
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1. Heat the milk until a foam forms on the surface and it is almost to the boiling point.
If you don’t heat the milk enough, the curds will wad up when you add the vinegar and be stretchy – more like mozzarella – still usable, but not the consistency of ricotta.
2. Turn off the heat and pour in the vinegar and stir until the curds separate from the whey. The whey will turn a yellow-green color.
3. Drain the curds into a cheesecloth lined colander.
4. Remove the curds from the cheesecloth and place in an airtight container or form into a ball. .
You can also place the curds in a blender or food processor and whip until smooth. If necessary add a bit of whey to help moisten the ricotta.
5. Refrigerate or freeze the ricotta in an airtight container.