On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
I spend so much time in the kitchen that I don’t usually stop and recognize the scientific marvels that you and I and everyone who cooks perform all the time. I’ve scrambled too many eggs and baked too many loaves of bread to feel the surge of excitement and wonder every time.
But this ricotta marks my first foray into making cheese and I definitely feel the wonder. Start with milk, cream, salt, and lemon, end up with creamy, rich cheese. Whoa.
I know that homemade ricotta ranks as old news and that the cheese-making craze has grown to the point that I found $40 cheese-making kits in boutiques in Portland last weekend, but I’m still celebrating. With fresh ricotta on baguette, of course.
Not that I didn’t just eat this straight off the spoon, but ricotta also plays well in both sweet and savory dishes. For something simple, try ricotta on fresh, toasted bread with fresh-cracked pepper and a squeeze of lemon, or top it with mini chocolate chips for cheater’s cannoli. I also cannot wait to try this in lasagna or cheesecake! Yum…
Science tidbit: proteins, like the casein in milk, don’t play with heat or acid. The deadly combination denatures proteins, causing them to unfold from their usual shapes and form new connections, often with other protein molecules. These connections form a web that traps in water, fat, and deliciousness for us to eat.
- 3 c. whole milk (non-organic is best)
- 1 c. heavy cream
- ½ t. salt
- 3 T. fresh lemon juice
- Heat the milk, cream, and salt over medium heat, stirring often, until it reaches 165-170 degrees F. If you don't have a thermometer, cook slowly until it just starts to bubble.
- Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the lemon juice with two strokes, and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Lay several layers of cheesecloth over a strainer set in a large bowl.
- Using a spoon, transfer the cheese to the prepared strainer and let sit for an hour. This will give you a soft, smooth cheese that I like for topping toast. If you want a firmer cheese, let it drain for two hours.
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen and The Food Lab.