Monday, 27 September 2010

Further Adventures in Cheese - Ricotta Salata!

This month the intrepid Forgers made Ricotta Salata, a semi-firm cheese made by pressing and salting ricotta cheese. It is mild, salty, and fresh tasting - and is excellent on pasta. An easy one to make at home, all you need is a container to press it in (I use a plastic container made from pvc pipe, with holes drilled into it and with a fitted wooden disk on top), some cheesecloth, and something heavy to weight it down. (I pile on my cast iron enamelware - seems to do the trick)
"Ricotta Salata is one of Italy's most unusual and least understood sheep's milk cheeses. The milk curds and whey used to make this cheese are pressed and dried even before the cheese is aged, giving this pure white cheese a dense but slightly spongy texture and a salty, milky flavor -- like a dry Italian feta.
Despite its name, this is not ricotta as Americans have come to know ricotta. In Italian, ricotta simply means "recooked." It is a cheese-making process rather than a specific cheese. This ricotta is also a salata, or "salted," cheese. Sicily, because of its abundance of sheep, is justifiably famous for its sheep's milk cheeses.
Use ricotta salata to dice into salads of all kinds--particularly pasta salads and spinach salads, or serve with fresh or grilled vegetables, beans, and fruit. Its firm texture makes it perfect for tossing. Also try ricotta salata crumbled over garlicky sauteed vegetables, tomato-based sauces and bean dishes." A.G. Ferrari Foods

Ricotta Cheese
from jam it, pickle it, cure it by Karen Solomon
yield: 1¼ c.

8 c. whole milk
1 tsp. citric acid
¼ c. water
2 Tbs. half & half
1 tsp. kosher salt

Pour milk into saucepan.  In small bowl, dissolve citric acid in water, then add it to the milk and set over medium heat.  Stir to distribute the acid evenly.  When temperature of milk reaches 190° F (~15-20 mins.), turn off the heat.  Do not stir or disturb the milk and let sit for ~10 mins. to allow curds and whey to separate.

Gently strain solids from the liquids in a fine mesh sieve.  Don't press or squeeze at all.  Once most of liquid has dripped out, move the curds to a bowl and toss with cream and salt.

Store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

NOW that you have fresh Ricotta cheese....let's turn it into Ricotta Salata!

from jam it, pickle it, cure it by Karen Solomon
yield: 1 (6-8 oz) cheese

1 1/4 c. Ricotta Cheese Curds
4 tsp. kosher salt, or more if needed

Pour the cheese curds into a cheese press and press at room temperature for 3-4 hours, until solid.  Once the cheese has come together, gently coat the exterior w/ 2 tsp.of the salt (or more), then wrap in a clean kitchen towel.  Place wraped cheese on a plate, and refrigerate for 2 days.

Remove cheese from fridge, rub with 1 more tsp. salt and replace cloth with a clean cloth.  Let sit another 2 days.  Repeat once more; cheese should be quite firm.

Once it's ready to eat, brush off as much of the salt as possible, and slice from center out-as you would a pie. Enjoy immediately.