This past weekend we attended a Foodcrafting workshop at the Institute of Domestic Technology, founded by Joseph Shuldiner, Institute Director. We’ll be sharing some of the highlights of their classes and techniques they’re teaching, over the next several posts. Classes are located in Altadena at the Zane Grey Estate. Check out their site for classes. They are updating their class list frequently and rotate each series quarterly. This weekend’s workshop was a sampling of many of the intensives they do here. Classes cover Foodcrafting – basics of food preservation and preparation, Coffee Roasting, Milkcrafting (cheesemaking), and Cocktail Crafting. The estate also houses a herd of goats as part of the Mariposa Creamery, a flock of chickens and vegetable gardens peppered throughout the grounds.
This post will cover the fresh ricotta making process. The process is quite simple and surprisingly quick. Almost
as simple as making pulled mozzarella, as demonstrated by Chef Ray Garcia at the Tomato Cooking demo from our previous post.
If you have the opportunity, we encourage you to take a hands-on course at the Institute of Domestic Technology or another facility in your area to truly understand the nuances and chemistry behind cheesemaking. While the process is simple, understanding the chemistry and history is quite fascinating and provides a greater appreciation for the art of cheese making. If you are located in and around the Los Angeles area, I encourage you to sign up and take a class with Steve Rudicel and Gloria Putnam, Urban Dairy Farmers and Artisan Cheese Makers. You’ll visit with their goats and they’ll provide you with everything you need to create a lovely cheese to take home. Steve will also be teaching the Cheesemaking three-part series at the Institute throughout the year.
Ricotta is a fresh cheese, formed through heat and acidification. Aside from milk and salt, the only other ingredient is citric acid. Citric acid causes milk fats to separate from whey and create curds. Have you ever put lemon juice into milk and seen curds form? Milk is made up of several components including protein, fat and water. Specifically with casein, a milk protein, clumps together, when introduced to acid, forming curds.
Other types of fresh cheeses are queso fresco and Indian paneer. The other type of cheese is cultured bacteria cheese, where the cheese is acidified by bacteria, which turns milk-sugars into lactic acid, then the addition of rennet completes the curdling. In this post, we will cover the making of the fresh cheese, Ricotta.
You begin with your foundation of unpasteurized, raw milk. Pasteurization denatures the calcium in milk and it’s the calcium that reacts to create coagulation in the cheese. So ensure you find a good unpasteurized milk. The milk is combined with citric acid and salt and brought up to 185°-195°F. At this point the curds will begin separating from the whey. The recipe is found below and creates a very delicious and creamy textured ricotta that should be eaten within a week of preparation.
The whey collected from the draining process was used to feed to Sow Swell chickens. Given their current state of molt, the whey proteins will provide them with an extra dose of protein they need to back to egg-laying shape!
Whole Milk Ricotta (recipe courtesy of The Institute of Domestic Technology)
Yield: 1 pound
1 gallon of whole cow’s milk
1 teaspoon citric acid powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
In a non-reactive, heavy 4-quart stockpot, combine milk, citric acid and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Mix thoroughly
with a whisk.
Place the pot over medium-low heat ad slowly heat the milk to 185°F-195°F. This should take about 15-20
minutes. Stir frequently with a rubber spatula to prevent scorching. Try to avoid scraping the bottom of the stockpot so as not to mix any scalded milk that may be stuck at the bottom of the pot. As the milk reaches the desired temperature, you will see the curds start to form. When the curds and whey separate and whey is yellowish green and just slightly cloudy, remove from heat.
Gently run a thin rubber spatula around the edge of the curds to rotate the mass. Cover the pan and let the curds set without disturbing for 10 minutes.
Place a non-reactive strainer over a non-reactive bowl or bucket large enough to capture the whey. Line the bowl or bucket with clean, damp, butter muslin and gently
ladle the curds into it. Use a long-handled mesh skimmer to capture the last of
the curds. If any curds are stuck to the bottom of the pan, leave them there to avoid scorched curds flavoring your cheese. (Note: The Institute recommends using butter muslin over cheesecloth sold in most grocery stores. The mesh in cheesecloth is much looser and will not properly strain your cheese. Unbleached, organic butter muslin is a preferred straining cloth.)
Distribute the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt over the curds (to taste) and gently toss the curds with your hands to incorporate. Be careful not to break up the curds in the process.
Make a draining sack by tying two opposite corners of the butter muslin into a knot. Repeat with the other two corners. Slip a wooden dowel or wood spoon under the knots to suspend the bag over the whey catching receptacle or suspend over a kitchen sink using kitchen twine tied around the faucet.
Allow the curds to drain for 20-30 minutes, or until desired consistency has been reached. If you like moist ricotta, stop draining just as the whey stops dripping. If you prefer a drier ricotta, let the curds dry for a longer period of time. Discard the whey or keep for another use.
Your ricotta should keep for about a week in the refrigerator. Enjoy!