While the cat's away the mice do play! And by play, I obviously mean make cheese! (and I actually just got how appropriate of an analogy that was to use...) (And I also just now got a vague memory of my cousin and I dressed up as lumberjack wives with giant wooden spoons giggling, "While the husbands are away the wives do play!"... but I digress.)
That's right! I finally got my big-girl panties on and braved up enough to attempt to make cheese in my own house!
How did it go??
Well, the first tip I have to offer is this: when relying on a candy thermometer, make sure it works first! That's right - my candy thermometer is not working. Which I didn't find out until I was fairly certain my milk was about to boil and the thermometer was still reading 50 degrees - fairenheit. Right... So I abandoned my attempt with a thermometer and did a rough guess of 190 degrees (which, incidentally, I'm much better at doing when you're steaming milk - you can tell how hot it is by the sound of the air moving through it... not so much on a stove top.)
Second tip: make sure your children are happy before you start. They were, kind of, and then I had a minor interruption in the form of a vehicle swap, and then they weren't happy anymore, but the milk had already started cooking, so I was kind of stuck. By the end they were both screaming at me.
At the end of the labour intensive portion (which is really not that intensive), my ricotta was draining happily on a few layers of cheesecloth and it actually smelled like ricotta! Go figure! Apparently I'm using an impure recipe - it professes to not be a real ricotta a) because you start with regular milk instead of whey, while even the name "ricotta" means "to cook again", so you would normally make something like mozzarella and then use the leftover whey to make ricotta and b) because it uses whole milk, while ricotta is typically made from skim or 2% milk. Oh, and the recipe advises you to add some cream, which worked just fine for me since I had about a cup of half-and-half sitting in my fridge needing to be used up.
However, despite the impurities, Smitten Kitchen claims that this will make a fantastic tasting cheese.
In the end, after an hour and a half of straining in cheesecloth, I was left with a soft cheese that had an almost identical texture to the remnant of store-bought ricotta in my fridge, and the taste was a bit saltier, and not as rich, but it was still yummy! Next time I think I'd cut the salt down a bit, maybe by a third even. While this recipe is too salty to adapt for my ricotta-stuffed grilled peaches, it would be a perfect filling for homemade ravioli, which I am dying to make now that I've got this in my fridge! I think next week I'm going to try a homemade marscapone and see how they compare!
Now, what to do with that leftover whey??? I'm hesitant to use it to water my plants since I added salt to the ricotta... salt isn't good for plants, in case you were wondering :) Maybe, just maybe, I'll make more ricotta with it??
OH! And how do you like my chalkboard table that I displayed these on?? We have about 3 of those little Ikea LACK tables in the house so I painted one with homemade chalkboard paint to put up in Gabe's room! Cute, hey?
Mrs. VanderLeek ;)
*UPDATE* - Once I let the ricotta cool completely, the flavors married even more to the point where the saltiness barely stood out. It has a 'fresher' taste than the store bought, and has become so mild that I might just be making those grilled peaches after all!