How to Make Ricotta Cheese

If you ever wanted to get started making cheese, here is an easy starter cheese that uses only a few ingredients.

Ricotta cheese is what I call the gateway cheese. Once you make it, you start to wonder what other cheeses can be made at home.

Ricotta cheese is a simple cheese that incorporates all of the chemistry of cheese-making with a quick result. Ricotta cheese can be made in an hour and eaten immediately or placed in the refrigerator for a week. After mastering ricotta cheese, I gained the confidence to begin making more complicated artisan cheeses, and today I have a nice cheese cave in my basement aging around 100 pounds of artisan cheese. I still make whole milk ricotta though, and I want to share step by step how I do it so that you too can experience all of the joys of owning a family cow.

Cheese is basically milk that has been coagulated or curdled, and it is the combination of pH and temperature that causes this reaction. If you set milk out on the counter it will naturally curdle on its own, thanks to the natural bacterial activity in the milk that lowers the pH. Cheese makers add cultures to lower the pH when making semi-hard and hard cheeses, but ricotta cheese can be made using lemon juice as the pH-lowering substance. The combination of a high temperature and the acidic lemon juice causes the milk to coagulate, creating a delicious soft cheese.

How to Make Ricotta Cheese

To get started you will need a few items:

1 gallon whole milk

*do not use ultra pasteurized milk*

3/4 cup fesh lemon juice

salt to taste

Large heavy pot

Cooking thermometer

Cheesecloth

Colander

Prepare by making sure all of your equipment is clean and sanitized. Next, heat the milk in the pot over medium heat until it reaches about 200 degrees. Stir the milk constantly to prevent scalding. The milk usually gets foamy as it reaches 200 degrees. The milk should not boil, however.

Remove the pot from heat and add the lemon juice while continuing to stir. The milk will start to separate, and at this point allow the milk to just set and rest for about 10 minutes. If the milk is not starting to separate, just add another tablespoon of lemon juice. Line a colander with cheesecloth and place colander over a large bowl. Scoop the curds into the cheesecloth-lined colander and allow to drain about 15-20 minutes. The longer it drains, the drier the cheese will become. Add some salt to taste and stir the curds a bit. I always start with a scant 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and then taste the cheese to determine if it needs more salt.

Now you know how to make ricotta cheese!

The ricotta cheese is now ready to be eaten, used in a recipe, or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Fresh ricotta cheese is delicious in lasagna and salads.

Of course my family loves it best in pancakes!

Blessings,

Sam