Sunday, August 27, 2006

Curds and Whey

Weekends appear to be my busy Amish times, because this time around I made cheese! I made ricotta again in order to make ricotta salata, which is a dry, salted ricotta that apparently is very good for eating out of hand. Right now its happily being pressed in the fridge, and will soon begin it's salting and aging process for the next few weeks.

I really hope it turns out because when I made it this time, I think I overcooked the curds. I was trying to get it not only to the curdle stage (which it did, beautifully), but also to the "no milky whey" stage like the book suggests. Alas, I still had milky whey, but I finally gave up when I realized the curds were turning a bit rubbery. I think perhaps I just need more curdling agent on the front end to maximize my yield from grocery store milk. Basically, the recipe is as follows (paraphrased courtesy of Home Cheesemaking, a great book by Ricki Carrol):

Whole Milk Ricotta
-1 gallon whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
-1 tsp citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water
-1 tsp salt

Mix salt and citric acid solution together. Add to milk, stirring well. Heat milk slowly to 185-195 degrees (should take at least 20 min), stirring often to prevent scorching. Once curds and whey separate and no milky whey is left, turn off heat and let sit for 10 minutes undisturbed.

Gently transfer curds into butter muslin-lined colander , and hang for 20-30 minutes above bowl (to catch drips) until desired amount of whey has drained off. Store in sealed plastic container in fridge for up to 2 weeks, if it lasts that long.

Note: Citric acid can be ordered online (see link at left) or found in any homebrewing shop for beer or wine. Butter Muslin can be ordered online, or storebought cheesecloth can be folded several times over for drainage. Jersey cotton shirt material also works nicely. Just make sure holes aren't too large, or all the cheese will drain right through.

So next time I think I'll try adding 1 1/2 tsp of citric acid and see how that works. Hopefully my yield will improve without imparting too much of a rubbery texture

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