Cheese making has always intrigued me as one of those mythical arts that I never thought I’d be able to make. I’m not a fan of strong cheeses and for some reason I had always associated cheese making with those sorts of cheeses. It wasn’t until I saw the cheese making kits at Mad Millie that I started to think about more about trying it. I started looking at the videos and lists of different cheeses that you could make quite simply. These were all the sorts of ‘cheeses’ that I do eat quite often: cream cheese, feta, mozzarella, halloumi, mascarpone, cottage cheese.
A friend mentioned that a group of her friends had got together regularly on a Saturday to make cheese from fresh farm milk. I did a few reconnaissance missions to see where I could get this from and discovered that ‘farmhouse milk’ (pasteurised but not homogenised) can be found at most supermarkets. Some of the recipes are fine to use standard homogenised milk.
After a few more views of the cheese making videos at Mad Millie I decided to take the plunge and buy a kit. I bought an Artisan Kit – this deluxe beginners’ kit combines the Fresh Cheese Kit, Italian Cheese Kit, as well as the equipment for making some hard cheeses. You can buy the Fresh Cheese Kit and Italian Cheese Kit separately (I have even seen them at the local garden centre) but I figured I’d want to try a range of different types so this was the most cost effective way.
It is amazing to think that all these different cheeses are made from essentially the same ingredients: basically milk and/or cheese. Heating to different temperatures, adding various combinations of salt, citric acid, starter culture, rennet and calcium chloride, and leaving for different periods of time seems to be all that is required to create a whole range of different products.
After reading through the Cheese Kit Instructions/Recipes, I decided to try making Ricotta Cheese. Ricotta (Italian for recooked) is a very simple cheese that is traditionally made from left-over whey which is acidified and then ‘recooked’. The recipe I used was Whole Milk Ricotta which is more convenient and has a higher yield than ricotta from whey. It is really simple and you could make it at home using equipment you probably have in your kitchen, but it is easier if you have the right gear. Sterilisation is very important for cheese-making, but for ricotta that you are going to consume pretty quickly you should be able to get away with not using the steriliser supplied in the kit.
2 l full fat homogenised milk
1 tsp citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water
1 tsp salt
Large pot (with heavy bottom)
Draining spoon (or slotted spoon)
Ricotta basket and container (you could use a sieve)
Pour the milk into the pot and add the salt. Heat milk to 95C while stirring constantly. Once you have reached the temperature, take the pot off the heat. Stir in the citric acid solution – ricotta should start to curdle immediately. Leave the ricotta to cool for 20-30 minutes. With the draining spoon, carefully scoop up the curds and put them carefully in the ricotta basket. Layer curds on top of each other. Leave the full basket to drain in the container until the desired consistency is obtained (can be eaten either dry and crumbly or moist and creamy). Can be stored for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
Keep the whey that is left behind after you have scooped out the curds. Whey is very nutritious and should not be wasted. It is the same as buttermilk. You can use it instead of water in bread and baking, use it in smoothies, or to make stocks and soups.
For my first taste of my home made ricotta, I spread some on a wholemeal pita bread and topped it with smoked salmon and avocado. Served with a blueberry smoothie made with whey.