When I started to make cheese I jumped head first into semi-firm cheese. When I got my first kit from Danlac for Father’s day several years ago I had no clue what I was doing, I tried making “Ricotta” but it was a hard puck and inedible. The almost two years of research, reading recipes/directions on cheese making, lurking on cheese making websites sites help a bit but I should have started with fresh cheese and not something that needed to be aged. Part of the purpose of Cheesepalooza for me is to “re-set” my cheese making, so I have hit the reset button (I have not erased my “saved games”) and now the journey starts again. This time it is a return to Whole Milk Ricotta and I had hoped that it was not a repeat of the first attempt. I was nervous about making this, my cocky cheese swagger was gone, and I was hoping to make it right.
First off I want to do a full disclosure on this, I don’t really like Ricotta and if I make it I tend to give it away rather than eat it myself. I came up with some flavouring for the Ricotta to help solve my issue with it. Also I could not find Citric Acid, I normally buy it a Bulk Barn, but they were out and they would not have it in prior to the Cheesepalooza meeting. In the Mary’s book she says you can use lemon juice as a substitute so that is what I did. The directions are basically the same as in the book, but you add the lemon juice when you are at temperature not before.
So now with my ingredients in hand it was time to start the process. I readied my pot on the stove and added the milk and the salt and started the long process to heat the milk to temperature.
I decided not to use my normal vat and just use a pot for two reasons. The first being my vat holds 14 litres of milk, it would have been over kill. The second is that I was bringing it to our Cheesepalooza meeting the next day. I also used a new setup for my thermometer; this would not work on the roaster vat.
So now I waited the 30 minutes for the milk to come to temperature. Yes I know it says it should take 20 minutes but I wanted to go a bit slower. I just got home from work and this way I could spend some time with my wife and kids at the same time.
Now it was time to pull it off the heat and add the lemon juice; I could see the fluffy curd start to form right away. I then put the lid on and walked away and had some more family time for the next 10 minutes.
Fluffiness and a distinct smell of a mild lemon tea was what I got when I opened the lid. Time to start to scoop it out into my cheesecloth and Ply-ban (plastic cheesecloth with an even finer “weave”) draining set up.
Now it was time to pull up the corners and let it drain for a bit.
After draining for 20 minutes (I wanted it to be moist) and also straining all the last bits of Ricotta out of the whey it was time to take it out of the bag and decide what to do with it.
As I mentioned before I am not a fan of True Ricotta (which is sweeter than this one) let alone this version, so in the spirit of this challenge I decided to try it in the pure state, but after I added the additional salt as per the directions. It was mild, a bit lemony, and had some saltiness to it. I think that was due to the extra salt not being fully absorbed into the cheese. I have had good reviews from my co-workers when I had made a cheese spread from shattered curd before, so that is what I would do. I divided it into thirds and went about adding some flavour to the cheese.
1. Fresh Cracked pepper with garlic and thyme – sprinkled some pepper, some garlic salt and some ground thyme over the warm curd and worked it in with a spatula then put it in containers
You can’t really see any of the herbs and spices in the bowl, but they are there. Valerie said that she could really taste the lemon in this one, Addie and Deb agreed. They did say it was nice.
2. Fresh Jalapeño - This was exactly what it sounds like, I grated a half of a jalapeño into the cheese, seeds and all. IT was a bit fiery to begin with, but by our meeting it had mellowed a good deal. This one must have been good, because I came home with the least amount of it.
3. Ginger and Garlic with Pepper and Parsley - if I ever utter those words and cheese again please someone smack me. I was trying to be creative, but what I ended up making was something that just did not taste good. It smelled overwhelmingly of garlic but to me the ginger was a bit off-putting. I thought that given ginger and garlic go well in some Asian food this would work. I was wrong and I think that Valerie, Addie and Deb were just humoring me by trying it. Some of my co-workers really want to try it so I will bring it in and let the crackers fall where they may. I am sorry that there is not a picture, honestly I forgot to take one.
In the spirit of Cheesepalooza I wanted to use the whey in some manner. My son and I were adventurous and drank some. He had a small sip and I had a nice glass of it. It was lemony and refreshing while it was warm. The next day I took some with me to the meeting, Addie joined me in a glass and he agreed that it was on the refreshing side and that you could probably make some good lemon aide with it. Alas when I returned home from our meeting I noticed that my tomato plant was dry and needed a drink. I took the remaining whey and poured it into the pot, and gave my chillies a drink of it too.
I guess the big question is, what did I get out of this? First I can say I successfully made this cheese, it turned out the way I wanted it to. Second that fresh cheeses can be fun to make and there is not as much clean-up as with my other cheeses. Third I had fun doing this, and if I can have fun making something I don’t really like, then maybe I should stick with this making cheese thing.
Just as a note Ricotta actually means re-cooked and is made from whey leftover from cheese making. This maybe Ricotta in name but really it isn’t a “True Ricotta”, that my friends will come later.
Suggestions are welcome, comments are encouraged, improvements a reality. Go and make some cheese!