Adventures in Cheese Making: Ricotta and Ricotta Salata
If you’ve visited this blog before, you could probably tell that we enjoy cheese. We specially ordered Limburger from the internet just to try it (and later discovered we could actually buy it locally), we support a local dairy farm by occasionally buying cheese from them, and our first real date night after I finished classes last semester involved us going to a fancy cheese shop. We may be a tiny bit obsessed with cheese. But who isn’t? It’s wonderful. As part of our enjoyment of cheese I bought Erik a cheese making kit for Christmas. A few weeks ago we finally got to try it out.
We decided our first cheese would be ricotta salata. Ricotta salata is a variant of ricotta that’s been dried, salted, and aged (salata means salted). It has a stronger flavor than basic ricotta and is good for grating or crumbling. Flavor-wise it’s a little bit like feta, but not nearly as strong. We decided it tastes somewhere between a salty mozzarella and a smooth provolone. To make the ricotta salata we first had to make basic ricotta. Making the ricotta was pretty easy. I think the hardest part was stirring the milk while it heated up, since my hand kept getting incredibly warm.
Basically all you have to do is heat up the milk (with some salt added) in a large pot to the proper temperature, then take it off the heat and stir in citric acid dissolved in water. This causes the milk to curdle, and the curds are your cheese! After letting it sit for about an hour you separate the curds from the whey and let them drain to desired consistency.
For the ricotta salata we had to press any excess moisture out overnight. This formed the curds into a solid shape. Then it was aged in the refrigerator for 3 weeks, having salt added daily to the outer rind for the first week.
Waiting for our cheese to be ready was difficult. All we wanted to do was eat it! But we were patient and waited. Our cheese got a bit cracked due to humidity issues in the fridge. We ended up having to keep a moist paper towel around it to make sure that it didn’t get too dry. Finally we were able to eat it. And it was good! This was my first time having ricotta salata, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but it was really tasty.
Obviously we’re not recommending everyone go out and make their own cheese, but this was definitely a fun experiment, and we’re looking forward to making more. It also wasn’t actually that expensive, so if you are a cheese fan as well, I definitely recommend giving it a try – it’s not going to bust your wallet. Plus it’s a lot of fun to say you made your own cheese.