My mother used to make butter and ghee and though she never said it, I could tell that it gave her great satisfaction. It wasn’t a matter of economics; rather it was a desire to consumme less preservatives (yes, butter has preservatives which allows us to keep it for a long time, albeit refrigerated). At the time, I admired her for it although I don’t think I fully realised the satisfaction she got from it.
Yesterday, I made my own ricotta cheese and all at once I understood. For me, it was partly economics that prompted me to try it (it is much cheaper to make ricotta than buy it). I also was curious. If I could make cheese at home (my next project is mascaporne), I wouldn’t have to pay those exorbitant prices for imported cheese at supermarkets. Well, at least I’d save a little.
For a RM15 block of store bought ricotta, it cost me just about RM8 to make it at home. I needed two litres of full cream milk, a cup of whipping cream, lemon juice and salt.
Homemade ricotta is probably the simplest cheese to make. Although you can use full cream milk from the carton, you will get better results from fresh milk — luckily I managed to catch the man who goes around my neighbourhood (on a motocycle) delivering fresh cows milk. (I had to pre-order two litres the week before).
Apart from the milk, whipping cream, salt and lemon juice, you will need a large bowl and a muslin cloth (or a dishcloth) as well. And a stockpot to boil the milk, of course.
First step: Heat the milk and whipping cream; when it comes to a ROLLING BOIL (not just a simmer) add the lemon or lime juice and resume boiling, stirring now and then. Keep stirring until the milk mixture starts to curdle. Depending on the milk (fresh milk works faster than milk from the carton), this may take between 20 to 30 mins.
When the milk starts to curdle — when you can see clumps amongst the slightly thickened liquid — put off the heat and let the milk stand for about 15 mins. If the milk isn’t curdling well, add a little more lemon juice.
After 15 mins or so, you will see the curdled milk seperate from the liquid, or whey. Place a muslin clothe or dishcloth over a large, deep bowl and pour the curdled mixture into the cloth to physically separate the curd from the whey.
Let the muslin seive do it’s work — leave it for about 30 minutes or until almost all the liquid has dripped into the bowl.
Tie the edges of the muslin together to form a ball with the curd and hang it on your tap or somewhere so the remaining liquid drips out.
Once you;re satisfied that there is close to or completely no whey left, put the balled ricotta in the fridge for about 2 hours or so to set.
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