Light and fluffy, homemade ricotta cheese is one of the easiest things you’ll ever make. This recipe was shared with my by Jeff, a member of our Facebook community, when I had more raw milk than I knew what to do with. It’s completely free of additives or chemicals and can be easily made from the items in anyone’s fridge or pantry.
You need milk, lemon juice, salt, and, optionally, herbs. (Since the herbs are optional, I didn’t count them in my “3 ingredients”)
First, bring a half gallon of milk (8 cups) up to 185 degrees.
We used raw milk.
Remove the milk from heat and quickly stir in 1/4 cup of lemon juice. (Vinegar can be used if you don’t have lemon juice.) Curds will begin to form immediately.
Cover and let it sit for 20 minutes.
This is optional – you can add your seasonings before draining. I added some powdered garlic, thyme, pepper, and sea salt because I knew I’d be using this for Italian food the next day and I wanted to really infuse it with flavor. You can wait and add herbs at the end, or just sprinkle it with a little salt. In hindsight, I should have waiting because I couldn’t use the whey in pancakes the next morning because of the garlic flavor.
Now it’s time to drain your cheese. Apparently regular cheesecloth is too porous and I didn’t have it on hand, anyway. I followed a tip from The Prairie Homestead and used a clean cotton pillowcase for my improvised frugal cheesecloth. (She has other great ideas for frugal alternatives to cheesecloth HERE) I popped my pillowcase-lined colander in a pot to catch the whey, put the lid on, and left it in the fridge for a few hours. (A minimum of 2 hours is needed to drain the cheese well.)
Scoop your drained ricotta into a bowl. Reserve the whey for other uses.
(Remember that if you already added seasoning the whey will be seasoned.)
Taste it and add more seasonings if desired. I like lots of flavor so I loaded it up.
If you allow it to sit in the fridge with the herbs overnight, it will be a rich and intensely complex addition to your food the next day.
Here’s a recap of the recipe:
- 1/2 gallon milk
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- sea salt
- Herbs and spices of choice
- Heat milk to 185 deg in a stainless steel pot.
- Remove from heat, then add the lemon juice and stir it well to incorporate it.
- Cover the pot and let sit for about 20 minutes.
- If desired, at this point you can put in some seasonings for more intense flavor. Keep in mind that if you are using the whey for other purposes, you won’t want to add seasoning at this point.
- When curds have formed drain in colander lined with double layer of fabric (not cheesecloth – it’s too thin)
- Drain in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
- Scoop out the cheese into a bowl and mix in herbs and salt with a fork.
- This can be stored, covered, in the fridge for up to two weeks.
We’ll be using this later in a lasagna made with the last jar of Italian marinara sauce from the previous summer’s tomatoes. Ricotta is incredibly versatile – check out this mouthwatering slideshow and get inspired!