Claudia Lucero's One-Hour Cheese takes the mystery out of curds and whey and "distills thousands of years of cheese-making know-how into a foolproof, simple-to-follow manual." With step-by-step photos and more than 16 recipes and variations, Lucero proves that at-home cheese making really can be easy!
MEYER LEMON RICOTTA
Historically speaking, ricotta is made with whey—it’s actually a by-product of other cheesemaking. But our batch uses less than a gallon of milk to make ricotta—versus the more typical 500 gallons—so if we used whey, we would only get a few measly teaspoons. Like many smaller operations, we will add milk for a larger yield! This whole milk and cream version will give the traditional whey recipe a run for its money. Further, we will use sweeter Meyer lemons for our acid, imparting a faint, sweet essence that will leave folks guessing.
Its delicate flavor and texture make this ricotta especially wonderful for desserts (cheesecake!) and breakfast favorites (blintzes!) but it also blends nicely in savory dishes with rich sauces. Experiment with half of your batch and add tidbits like herbs, cracked pepper, seeds, dried fruit, and so on, to create a snacking cheese that goes well with crisp veggies or crostini.
HOW EASY IS IT?
Ready to Eat In: 50 minutes
Makes: 12 ounces
Biggest Pain: Waiting for the curds to drain slowly
Uses: Include in sweet or savory recipes in need of a mild, semispreadable cheese, like cannoli and lasagna.
Recommended Milk: 1 quart whole cow’s milk and 1 pint cow’s milk cream (also called heavy cream or whipping cream)—very flexible; see variations.
Worth Mentioning: This cheese will be very loose when warm and freshly made—chill it in the freezer for 15 minutes to cool it quickly.
- 2 Meyer lemons (¼ cup Meyer lemon juice)
- 1 quart (4 cups) whole cow’s milk (not ultra-pasturized)
- 1 pint (2 cups) cream
- ¼ teaspoon flake salt or to taste
- Citrus juicer
- ¼ cup
- Small mesh strainer
- 2-quart stockpot
- Large mixing spoon
- Cooking thermometer
- Large colander or mesh strainer
- Fine cheesecloth
- Large heat-resistant bowl (optional, for whey collection)
- ¼ teaspoon
- 1-quart bowl
- Measure out ¼ cup of lemon juice. Squeeze the lemons and strain for pulp.
- Pour the milk and cream into the pot.
- Pour the lemon juice into the pot and stir thoroughly. Set to medium heat.
- You may already see some curds forming within seconds. Stay close and monitor the heat, stirring every few minutes to prevent a skin from forming on the milk’s surface and to check for sticking milk at the bottom. (Reduce the heat if needed.)
- Check the temperature once you see steam rising from the pot as well as little foam bubbles forming around the edge. Curds will form rapidly as the milk approaches the target temperature of 190°F, and it will look more like thin oatmeal.
- This is coagulation! Keep checking the temperature, and continue to stir, very gently this time, so that the newly formed curds are not broken up. Turn off the heat when it reaches 190°F.
- Take the pot off the burner and allow the curds and whey to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. The curds will release more whey during this time.
- While you wait, line the colander with cheesecloth. Optional: Place a bowl under the colander to collect the whey (highly recommended—see “Uses for One- Hour Whey,” page 31, for ideas). Otherwise, place the lined colander in the sink.
- Pour the curds and whey through the cloth.
- Allow the whey to drain for about 10 minutes or until you get the creamy texture of smooth mashed potatoes.
- Gather the cloth into a bundle and give it a gentle squeeze to strain out that last bit of whey. The whey from this creamy cheese is somewhat milky in appearance. (Compare that to whey for mozzarella, which will be more clear.)
- Place the cloth full of drained cheese back in the colander, and add the salt.
- Stir just until the salt is mixed in thoroughly. Salt helps release more whey, and air dries out cheese, so if you stir longer than necessary, the cheese will be crumbly instead of creamy.
- Stir minimally for the creamiest ricotta! While warm, the consistency will be loose and creamy.
- It’s ready to eat! Scoop it into a bowl for eating right away or chill it for a firmer texture.
VARIATIONS & SUBSTITUTIONS:
- Use equal amounts of any cow’s milk. The creamy texture will decrease with lower fat milk.
- Skip the cream and use all milk.
- Use ¼ cup regular lemon juice, lime juice, or white wine vinegar instead of the Meyer lemon juice.
- Mix any variety of tasty treats into the cheese: fresh or dried oregano, or aromatics like anise seeds, fresh grated nutmeg or cinnamon. You could even fold in dark chocolate bits after the cheese cools (if it’s still warm, you’ll end up with milk chocolate–colored ricotta, which would still be yummy, but a little odd looking).
Note: Your ricotta may firm up significantly after chilling overnight in the fridge, like all cheeses and fatty foods do. It should become spreadable again with a light stir. If you want a super-rich texture, add a splash of cream just before serving.