Sunday, 1 March 2009

I Made Cheese!

This month in we tackled making soft cheese in Recipes to Rival. Ricotta in particular.
Lauren of I'll Eat You had been making her own cheeses for the past year and thought it would be fun to share with the group.
I am so happy that she did, as I have always wanted to make cheese. I just needed a little push.
The recipe came together pretty easily, I am used to making my own yogurt so bringing the milk up to 185 degrees was familiar to me. Must be a magical temperature for playing with the nature of milk products.
At first it didn't seem that the milk would separate, but when it got close to 185 the transformation began. I had made ricotta!
I don't know if it is much less expensive to make it at home, but it was very satisfying.
When hubby read that the more milk fat there is, the more cheese you get, he bought homo milk just for this experiment. I got 788grams. Almost 2 pounds.

Fresh Ricotta
You'll need:
1 gallon milk (you can use 1 percent on up, remember that the more fat in the milk, the more cheese it will yield.)
1 quart buttermilk
-cheesecloth (a good, tightly woven one, not the kind you buy at the supermarket)
- If you don't have one of these, you can get by with a slotted spoon, but you may lose some of the cheese.
-a thermometer (mine is for oil and candy)

Place buttermilk and milk in a pot, heat on med-low heat until it reaches 185 degrees. It will begin to separate into curds and whey. Be sure to stir occasionally to make sure no curds stick to the bottom and burn. You will see that as the temperature approaches 185, the whey becomes clearer as the curds coagulate more.
Pour the curds into a cheesecloth lined colander. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together and hang for 10-15 minutes. Remove from cheesecloth and place in an airtight container. Voila! Cheese!

Here is a link to a post about making ricotta, with pictures:

Some tips: you can use milk that has been pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized. Ultra pasteurization heats the milk too much, and de natures the proteins that form curds. You will not get cheese from ultra pasteurized milk. Make sure your pots and other equipment are very clean before starting you can make any amount as long as you stick to a 4 parts milk to 1 part buttermilk ratio.

Part two of the challenge was to make a dish out of the ricotta. I made some lasagna rolls with homemade pasta, a tomato sauce that I had canned in the summer from my very own tomatoes and the ricotta.
I seasoned the ricotta with cream, salt and pepper, lemon zest and lemon juice, garlic and parsley.
I cooked the fresh pasta until just al dente, and lay it down on an olive oil coated cookie sheet.
When cool enough to handle, I spread the ricotta mixture over the noodles one by one and rolled them up.
In a lasagna pan, I spread a layer of my tomato sauce and placed the rolled noodles. (I had a couple of noodles left over)
I covered the filled pan with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese and baked at 400 for 45 minutes.
It was very good!
I was really happy with the fresh pasta recipe too. This was the first time I have used Giada's and I didn't have to adjust for consistency. I love that it is brought together in the food processor too. I have included it below.
Fresh Pasta, Giada De Laurentiis
3 cups all purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Place the flour in the bowl of a food processor, in a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the salt and olive oil to the eggs and stir to combine. Add the egg mixture to the food processor with the flour and pulse to combine the ingredients, scraping down the sides once or twice. Continue, with the machine running, until the liquid is evenly distributed, about 1 minute. The dough should stick together if pinched between your fingers and be cornmeal yellow in colour. Some of the dough will be clumping together, but it will not form a ball.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gather the dough into a ball and knead gently until the dough is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes before rolling and shaping as desired.
I can't remember the tomato sauce recipe I used, as I did it so long ago, but it was from this book - The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving: Over 300 Recipes to Use Year-Round, by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard.
I recommend this book if you are like me and don't have a lot of room for large batch preserving.

This was such a great dinner, and I am still on a high from making my own cheese! Next step - mozzarella!