How to Make Ricotta and Mozzarella in Your Own Home

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Pouring the curds into a strainer are Peter Ciaccia, right, and Carl Cardascia. Both men are from Naples Lakes Country Club in Naples, Florida.

The meal began with the Homemade Ricotta atop Toasted Panella Bread brushed with Imported Fig Jam and a Caprese Salad with the Homemade Mozzarella, Tomato and Fresh Artichokes. After the antipasti came the next course, Gorgonzola Dolce Sauce and Walnuts on Garganelli Pasta, followed by a delicious entrée of Grilled Pork Chops on Escarole and White Cannellini Beans with Baby Sweet and Hot Peppers. Dessert consisted of Marion’s own delectable creation, Panetone Bread Pudding with Walnut Caramel Sauce.

Although making the fresh mozzarella and ricotta was a laborious process, it was also a rewarding one that made all appreciate their Italian heritage. The amazing dinner that followed was an added bonus and certainly made the work well worth it. Surrounded by good friends and great Italian food under the stars on a warm Florida evening, the experience was truly reminiscent of a day in Italy. All toasted their ancestors with a cold glass of Moscato d’Asti.

Homemade Ricotta
Makes 2 cups

Ingredients: Equipment:
1-1/4 cup water 5 quart or larger non-reactive pot
1- 1/2 teaspoon citric acid measuring cups and spoons
1/4 rennet tablet or 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet (not junket rennet) thermometer
1 gallon milk, whole or 2%, not ultra-pasteurized 8" knife, off-set spatula, or similar slim instrument for cutting the curds
1 teaspoon kosher salt slotted spoon
  cheese cloth

Instructions:
Warm the milk to 200°F: Pour the milk into a 4-quart pot and set it over medium heat. Let it warm gradually to 200°F, monitoring the temperature with an instant read thermometer. The milk will get foamy and start to steam; remove it from heat if it starts to boil.

Add the lemon juice and salt: Remove the milk from heat. Pour in the lemon juice or vinegar (or citric acid) and the salt. Stir gently to combine.

Let the milk sit for 10 minutes: Let the pot of milk sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. After this time, the milk should have separated into clumps of milky white curds and thin, watery, yellow-colored whey — dip your slotted spoon into the mix to check. If you still see a lot of un-separated milk, add another tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and wait a few more minutes.

Strain the curds: Set a strainer over a bowl and line the strainer with cheese cloth. Scoop the big curds out of the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the strainer. Pour the remaining curds and the whey through the strainer. (Removing the big curds first helps keep them from splashing and making a mess as you pour.)

Drain the curds for 10 to 60 minutes: Let the ricotta drain for 10 to 60 minutes, depending on how wet or dry you prefer your ricotta. If the ricotta becomes too dry, you can also stir some of the whey back in before using or storing it.

Use or store the ricotta: Fresh ricotta can be used right away or refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week.

Showing off the finished product is Michael Caggiano of Montclair and Naples, left, and Carl Cardascia.

ADDITIONAL NOTES
Whole vs. 2% vs. Non-Fat Milk
: While whole milk is our favorite for making ricotta, 2% milk can also be used, though the ricotta is slightly less rich and creamy. Avoid using skim and nonfat milks; these don't separate as easily into curds and whey.

Pasteurized Milk: Pasteurized milk is fine to use for making ricotta, but avoid UHT (Ultra High Temperature) pasteurized milk as this process changes the protein structure of the milk, preventing it from separating.

Making Fresh Ricotta Salata: If you'd like to make a fresh farmer's cheese (ricotta salata) from this ricotta, wrap it in cheese cloth and press it beneath a weighted plate in the refrigerator overnight.

Using the Leftover Whey: The leftover whey can be used in place of water in any baking recipe, whizzed into smoothies, or drunk on its own over ice.

Homemade Mozzarella
Makes about 1 lb

Ingredients: Equipment:
1/2 gallon whole milk, not UHT pasteurized (see recipe notes) 4-quart pot
1/3 cup lemon juice (from 1-1/2 to 2 lemons), Instant read thermometer or candy thermometer
1/3 cup distilled white vinegar, or 1/2 teaspoon citric acid Measuring spoons
1 teaspoon salt, optional Cheese cloth
  Strainer
  Mixing bowl
  Slotted spoon

Warm the Milk: Pour the milk into the pot. Stir in the citric acid solution. Set the pot over medium-high heat and warm to 90°F, stirring gently.Instructions:
Prepare the Citric Acid and Rennet: Measure out 1 cup of water. Stir in the citric acid until dissolved. Measure out 1/4 cup of water in a separate bowl. Stir in the rennet until dissolved.

Add the Rennet: Remove the pot from heat and gently stir in the rennet solution. Count to 30. Stop stirring, cover the pot, and let it sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.

Cut the Curds: After five minutes, the milk should have set, and it should look and feel like soft silken tofu. If it is still liquidy, re-cover the pot and let it sit for another five minutes. Once the milk has set, cut it into uniform curds: make several parallel cuts vertically through the curds and then several parallel cuts horizontally, creating a grid-like pattern. Make sure your knife reaches all the way to the bottom of the pan.

Cook the Curds: Place the pot back on the stove over medium heat and warm the curds to 105°F. Stir slowly as the curds warm, but try not to break them up too much. The curds will eventually clump together and separate more completely from the yellow whey.

Remove the Curds from Heat and Stir: Remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring gently for another 5 minutes.

Separate the Curds from the Whey: Ladle the curds into a bowl with the slotted spoon.

Making Mozzarella Without the Microwave: Instead of microwaving the curds to make mozzarella, warm a large pot of water to just below boiling (about 190°F). Pour the curds into a strainer and nestle the strainer into the pot so the curds are submerged in the hot water. Let the curds sit for about five minutes. Wearing rubber gloves, fold the curds under the water and check their internal temperature. If it has not reached 135°F, let the curds sit for another few minutes until it does. Once the curds have reached 135°, lift them from the water and stretch as directed.

Stretch and Shape the Mozzarella: Sprinkle the salt over the cheese and squish it with your fingers to incorporate. Using both hands, stretch and fold the curds repeatedly. It will start to tighten, become firm, and take on a glossy sheen. When this happens, you are ready to shape the mozzarella. Make one large ball, two smaller balls, or several bite-sized bocconcini. Try not to over-work the mozzarella.

Using and Storing Your Mozzarella: The mozzarella can be used immediately or kept refrigerated for a week. To refrigerate, place the mozzarella in a small container. Mix a teaspoon of salt with a cup of cool whey and pour this over the mozzarella. Cover and refrigerate.

ADDITIONAL NOTES
Milk for Mozzarella
: Almost any milk can be used for making mozzarella: whole, 2%, skim, cow, goat, raw, organic, or pasteurized. Pasteurized milk is fine to use, but make sure that it is not ultra high temperature (UHT) pasteurized. The proteins in UHT milk have lost their ability to set into curds.

Melting Homemade Mozzarella: I've found that homemade mozzarella doesn't always melt as completely as store-bought mozzarella, especially if I've overworked the cheese and it has become very stiff. If you're planning to make pizza or something else where melting is desired, use a whole-fat milk and make extra-sure not to overwork the cheese. It can also help to grate the cheese rather than slice it.

Using Junket Rennet: Junket rennet is less concentrated than other kinds of rennet and isn't ideal for making cheese. If this is all you have access to, try using 1-2 whole tablets to achieve a curd.

Using Leftover Whey: Making mozzarella leaves you with almost 3 1/2 quarts of whey! You can use this whey in place of water in bread recipes and other baked goods, mix it into smoothies, or add it to soups.

 



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