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Homemade ricotta

Ricotta, fresh from its mold (M.E. Malone)
June 24, 2009

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Makes 4 cups

Rosetta Constantino created this ricotta recipe to duplicate the creamy texture and rich taste of the ricotta from her childhood in Calabria. It is made with store-bought milk and coagulated with liquid vegetable rennet. You’ll need two 2 1/2-cup ricotta draining baskets and a thermometer. The rennet, which will last at least a year in the refrigerator, and the ricotta draining baskets can be purchased from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company (www.cheesemaking.com). If you’re new to ricotta making, says Constantino, you’ll have smaller yields at first. The quantity of ricotta will increase with practice. M.E. MALONE

1 gallon whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon liquid vegetable rennet
1/4 cup cold water

1. In a large heavy soup pot, combine the milk and cream. Gradually bring to a boil. As soon as the milk begins to foam up and climb toward the top of the pan, turn off the heat. The temperature of the milk mixture should be about 200 degrees.

2. With a large spoon, skim the foam from the milk. Pour the milk into a clean saucepan, leaving behind any scorched milk adhering to the bottom. Add the salt and stir until dissolved.

3. Let the mixture cool to about 100 degrees, skimming off any new foam skin that forms on top of the milk.

4. In a bowl, combine the rennet and water. Stir it into the milk mixture until well distributed. Let stand, undisturbed, for 10 minutes until you can see that the milk has thickened.

5. With a wooden spoon, cut a crisscross pattern through the center of the pot. Stir quickly with the wooden spoon for about 15 to 20 seconds to break up the coagulated milk. Then, using a perforated stainless skimmer, slowly and gently circle the pot in one direction (it should take about 20 seconds to make a full turn around the pot) and watch as the milk begins to separate into curds and whey. Continue the slow, gentle stirring motion with the skimmer, moving the curds toward the center of the pot until they have gathered into a large mound in the center with the whey surrounding them. (Some curds will remain with the whey.) This can take up to 5 minutes.

6. Line a colander with cheesecloth. Gently and slowly pour the whey into the colander. Use the skimmer to return any curds in the cheesecloth to the pan. Using the skimmer, gather the curds, disturbing them as little as possible, and gently spoon them into the baskets, mounding as high as needed.

7. Set the baskets to drain in plastic containers or bowls and let stand at room temperature until the whey no longer drips from the cheese baskets, emptying the liquid several times during the process. This should take about 2 hours. Expect quite a bit of whey to drain from the curds. The ricotta can be eaten at this point or refrigerated for 2 to 3 days.

Adapted from Rosetta Constantino