Homemade Ricotta Cheese

08 February 2012

Ricotta (meaning re-cooked in Italian) is truly a by-product of cheesemaking. When cheese is being made milk is separated into curds and whey. The curds go onto become cheese and at one time the whey was discarded. Fortunately someone figured out how to get all the protein that lingered in the whey out and turn it into Ricotta.

This recipe isn't true ricotta because it's made from milk not whey. But, it's very easy to make, quite delicious especially if you can find some really nice milk, and it's easier to work with that most commercial ricotta because it's easier to control how wet it is.

Our malfatti recipe calls for one pound or about two cups of ricotta. That's about the amount of cheese you'll get if you start with a half gallon of milk.

  • 1/2 gallon milk (milk that is not homogenized or pasteurized is great)
  • 5 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot slowly heat the milk stirring occasionally until it reaches 180° F. It is very helpful to have a thermometer here so you don't have to guess, but the milk will be just beginning to steam around this temperature. Stir a little more often as the temperature gets close to avoid scorching the milk.

Once the milk has reached 180° F take it off the heat, add the vinegar and stir for about a minute. You'll see curds form in the milk. Cover the pot with a lid or loosely with plastic wrap and let it sit for a few hours. Drain through a wire strainer lined with cheese cloth. (The liquid whey that drains through is great for your compost or can even be used directly as a fertilizer.) Let the curds now hanging in the cheesecloth drain overnight in the fridge.

Twist up the cheesecloth and squeeze out the remaining whey. If what you're squeezing through the cloth is clear, keep squeezing. If it's white you don't need to squeeze anymore and the cheese is ready to go!