When I hear the words "convenience food," I assume convenience. As in, it's easier to buy it than to make it. I always assumed ricotta cheese was a good example of convenience food. Why make it fresh when I could go to the store and buy a tub of Sorrento's?
But as I browsed through my favorite food blogs, I noticed more and more people making fresh ricotta.
On closer look, it didn't seem especially hard. Or expensive. In fact, I already had on hand everything I needed to make it -- milk, cream, salt, lemon juice, cheesecloth and a sieve. That's it.
All you do is heat the milk, then add lemon juice so the milk curdles. Collect the curds -- that's the ricotta. My ricotta turned out soft and light. It tasted fresh and milky.
I spread it on a toasted baguette topped with olive oil, salt, pepper, roasted asparagus and roasted peppers. Yum. Too late I realized I should have saved some to top with honey and fruit for dessert. Oh well. Next time.
Put the milk, cream and salt in a saucepan and heat to 190° F. If you don't have a thermometer, heat milk until just before it begins to boil.
Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice. At first, nothing will happen.
Within 5 minutes, though, you'll see the milk start to separate and the curds begin to form.
In the meantime, place a sieve over a bowl and line the sieve with cheesecloth.
Pour the milk mixture into the cheesecloth and let it stand so that the liquid separates from the curds.
After an hour, you'll have soft, tender ricotta. It will firm up, so don't worry if it looks too soft right now. (Let it stand for another hour if you like your ricotta firm.)
Transfer the ricotta to a container.
This is how it will look after an hour in the fridge (see how it firmed up?).
I spread the ricotta on a toasted baguette and topped with roasted vegetables. Delicious!
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream (I think next time I will leave out the heavy cream and use 4 cups of whole milk)
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Pour the milk, cream and salt into a saucepan. Attach a thermometer. Heat the milk to 190° F, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice. Stir once, then let it stand, undisturbed, for 5 minutes.
2. Line a sieve with cheesecloth and place over a bowl.
3. Pour the milk mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve. Let stand 1 hour for soft, tender ricotta, or up to 2 hours for firmer ricotta.
4. Remove the ricotta from the cheesecloth and transfer to a container. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Makes 1 scant cup of ricotta.