For Father’s Day, I signed up Kurt for a cheese-making class at Sur La Table. He learned to make ricotta, mozzarella and creme fraiche, but focused primarily on the mozzarella since I could already make the other two.
However, he did bring back a recipe for crostini topped with a fresh ricotta and pea spread that he said was fantastic. I was lucky to have a pound of fresh unshelled peas on hand, and had also just purchased a fresh baguette from the Leesburg farmer’s market. These with some home made ricotta would result in a tasty summer first course or late night snack!
Although I already have a preferred recipe and technique for making ricotta, I glanced through the class recipe and saw that the ingredient proportions varied only slightly, but the technique quite a bit. Not trusting a new technique, I went with the new ingredient measurements, but stuck with my tried-and-true technique. This new recipe uses less cream but without detracting from the richness of my original recipe; it also makes half as much.
Note: Use the freshest milk you can purchase, organic or regular. I tend to use non-organic milk because it’s replaced more frequently than organic. Also, do NOT use ultra-pasteurized milk; the very high temperatures used in the UP process renders this milk useless for cheese-making. Luckily, all UP milk must be labeled!
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 1/4 c heavy whipping cream
- 3 TB white distilled vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
Place the milk and cream in a large pot and stir to combine. Heat the milks over medium heat, stirring frequently, until an instant read thermometer registers just under 185 degrees F.
Remove the pot from heat and add the vinegar. Stir for 30 seconds; curds should form immediately.
Add the salt and stir again, making sure salt dissolves and is distributed throughout the pot.
Cover the pot with a clean dish towel and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours. In the meantime, line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth. Pour the curds into the lined colander and let drain for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, pull up and gather the edges of the cheesecloth, twisting them to gether to shape the ricotta into a ball. Squeeze the cheese by twisting the ends of the cheesecloth to press out excess whey. When the curds begin to push through the cheese cloth, stop squeezing! Place the cheese in a container with a tight lid and let cool in the refrigerator. Eat as is or use in your favorite recipe, like the one following!
Fresh Ricotta Spread with Peas, Parm and Lemon
- 1 c thawed frozen peas, or lightly cooked fresh peas
- 1/2 c fresh ricotta, from above
- 1/2 c grated parmigiano
- 1/4 tsp lemon zest
- 6 – 8 mint leaves, torn
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- fresh ground pepper
- 1 TB good olive oil, plus more for toasting bread
- 1 TB lemon juice
- 1 loaf baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
Cook fresh peas briefly in boiling water, then plunge into cold water to preserve that beautiful green color. If using frozen peas, defrost at room temperature or in your microwave– do not cook them!
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the bread slices with olive oil; place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake the slices in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes or until slightly browned. Let cool.
Prepare the remaining ingredients.
Place all the ingredients into a food processor: peas, ricotta, parm, mint, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Pulse the mixture to desired smoothness (I went for fairly smooth); taste and correct seasoning. Spread thick or thin on the sliced toasted bread. Serve as is or drizzled with additional olive oil.
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