Say cheese and we in India are most familiar with three kinds. Mozzarella on our omnipresent pizzas. Cottage cheese without which our restaurants would be out of business! The other of course is processed cheese in slices and cubes stacked in the fridge for our white sauce and for the kids' sandwiches. The past decade or so has seen more of cheese with the culinary revolution, increasing popularity and interest in food. We can now safely say we know Parmesan, mascarpone, ricotta, quark, feta, cream cheese and Gorgonzola to name a few, at least by name. They don't sound all that much alien as they pop out of the menus and television shows all the time, we can actually pretend we know them!
The availability of exotic varieties of cheese is truly heartening with these dotting the aisles of the newer specialty supermarkets and the virtual aisles of online food stores. But truth be said, the prices kill the joy of buying them! The wallet effect apart, it would not really hurt to run to the near by store and buy a tub of fat free cream cheese for your cheese cake on the way back from work. Thankfully there are at-least some of these which are best consumed fresh - and the making of which need not be a study in itself. Home made ricotta is one of them.
Ricotta means 'twice cooked' and is traditionally made using left over whey which is a by-product of cheese making. Below is the recipe for homemade ricotta for folk like us who have no access to cheese making by- products. Again homemade ricotta can be made using lemon juice or vinegar or buttermilk to curdle the milk, with obvious subtle difference in taste.
It was a joy to discover that ricotta is oh-so-easy-to-make with just a handful of easily available ingredients. When really fresh, it has a very soft and creamy texture. Can be made quickly subject to the availability of whole milk and cream. You could use ricotta in cheesecakes, cakes, muffins, desserts, in your savory tarts or eat just as is with a drizzle of honey and nuts. Delightful soft cheese, ridiculously easy to make, supposedly super versatile in use and very cost effective - who in their right mind will now say no to this cheese!
You will need :
Pour into the lined strainer and drain for 15 minutes. Gather the cheesecloth around the cheese and squeeze gently to drain excess liquid. Guess we have to remember that you if you drain it longer it makes for a drier cheese and you only need to squeeze it gently and not actually wring it dry!
Home made ricotta is best served warm, refrigerated for up to 3 days. Not sure if this freezes well.
Please note: David Lebovitz recommends whole milk, heavy cream and whole milk yogurt - the higher fat percentage in all these contributes to the creamy texture. You may use low fat milk, yogurt and cream but can't expect the same texture. I have used milk at room temperature as I thought it would take longer for cold milk to boil ( Did not want risk boiling long along with the acidic ingredients, fearing tough cheese)
I actually have some ricotta in my fridge, lets see what I can do with it!