Remember Little Miss Muffet? When you make ricotta cheese, you use acid (lemon juice or vinegar) to curdle the milk, which means you get the protein in it to clump together into a mixture of curds and the watery leftover whey. It might take a little experimenting to get the hang of this recipe, but it’s always edible, even if it doesn’t come out perfect. Try the ricotta spooned onto fresh bread with a drizzle of olive oil or honey, eat it with fresh strawberries, or use it to make our Ricotta Pancakes or our Skillet Lasagna.
- Cheesecloth or a clean dish towel
- Colander or strainer
- Large bowl
- Measuring spoons
- Large heavy pot
- Slotted spoon
- Pot holder
- 2 quarts (½ gallon) whole milk
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or white vinegar or a combination (try 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons vinegar)
- Spread out the cheesecloth or dish towel in the colander or strainer, and put the colander over the bowl.
- Pour the milk into the pot and add the salt. Put the pot on the stove and turn the heat to medium.
- Bring the milk to a full, rolling boil, stirring it occasionally to make sure the milk isn’t burning on the bottom of the pot, 15 to 30 minutes, depending upon your stove.
- Add the lemon juice and/or vinegar, then turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, 1 to 2 minutes. The mixture will separate into curds (the thick, cottage cheese-like part) and whey (the liquidy part).
- Turn the heat off and let the mixture sit at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours.
- Using the slotted spoon, carefully remove the curds from the pot and put them in the colander. Pour the remaining liquid into the colander. Let the curds drain for 15 to 20 minutes (The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta will be). Set aside the whey that collects in the bowl (you can keep it [see below] or throw it away).
- Eat or use the ricotta right away, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.
WHEY TO GO! The liquid whey left over from making ricotta is really healthy. Cover and refrigerate it to use in breads, soups, and smoothies instead of milk or water. You can also use it instead of water when cooking pasta or rice. Or, if you’re really adventurous, try drinking it plain (you’ll make your great-grandma proud).