I was going to try my hand at mozzarella, but I actually need some ricotta for a cake, so I gave ricotta a try first. I noted earlier that Barbara Kingsolver's Animal. Vegetable, Miracle seemed to be jazzing me up in several directions at once. One of those directions was my hitherto dormant, apparently unconscious, mad desire to make cheese.
Most of the things I have wanted to do desperately had been with me, more or less inchoate for a very long time. I was, for example, the frustrated child of two non-gardeners. My parents were heavily into easy care landscape for the front yard, and equally into forgetting entirely about the backyard, with the exception of annually picking our two inherited, unpruned damson plum trees. I wanted to grow flowers and vegetables. From about age five-I kid you not-I would spend a large percentage of my allowance on packets of seeds, which I would plant in thinly scraped areas of packed-clay dirt, sighing over their failure to grow. Eventually, I figured out what I was doing wrong.
Since I was a kid I have always wanted to bake bread. I wanted to learn how to do calligraphy properly and to go to Spain, and I wanted to learn how to do stage sword-fighting (not done yet, that). There are several more. Until quite recently, I did not especially want to make cheese. (Although I have longed unreasonably for a dairy goat from childhood-a sign, perhaps?) Suddenly, making cheese seems both very important and doable. Who knew?
If, as Barbara Kingsolver suggests, you google "cheese queen" you will find the website of Ricky Carroll, who conducts cheesemaking workshops, sells supplies and equipment and has written a book about cheesemaking. I ordered the stuff I used from her, as well as her book. I am sure it is all available elsewhere, but her business and her instructions fit together nicely, and she inspires confidence in the novice.
This is what you need:
1 gallon whole milk -NOT ultrapasturized
1 tsp cheese salt
1 tsp citric acid
Pour milk into a stainless pot, add citric acid and salt, and stir to mix thoroughly. Heat until about 190F, stirring often to prevent sticking or burning; do not boil. The curds will begin to separate from the whey. When all the whey looks blue-ish and very unmilky, turn off the heat, and let it set for 10 minutes, undisturbed.
Line a colander with butter muslin. This resembles cheesecloth, but has a tighter weave. You lose fewer curds with it, and it is washable, too. I bought mine from Ms. Carroll (likewise the cheese salt and citric acid-I've got some vegetable rennet waiting for the mozzarella event). If I didn't have any butter muslin, I'd use several layers of cheese cloth.
Ladle the curds into the cheesecloth, and tie it up to drain- for at least an hour, or until the ricotta is as you like.Isn't it pretty, all round and smooth? Tastes lovely too (there were a few shards that fell off, to sample.) It will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Don't throw out the whey- use it in breadmaking, or for pizza. I used in my personal favorite pizza dough, and was not disappointed. I thought it added a slight, almost imperceptible tang of sourdough flavor, very nice. The peculiar chemistry of this particular pizza dough was not affected.
I'm going to get some little basket molds, and make some ricotta salata, as well as the mozzarella. The ricotta process, simple as it was, produced a highly therapeutic feeling of satisfaction similar to bread-making gloat. Can't understand why I never tried this before. If you haven't- I recommend it highly.