This homemade ricotta uses Meyer lemons to acidify the milk, imparting a faint, sweet essence that will leave folks guessing. Its delicate flavor and texture make this cheese especially wonderful for desserts (cheesecake!) and breakfast favorites (blintzes!), but it also blends nicely in savory dishes with rich sauces. Experiment with half of your batch and add herbs, cracked pepper, seeds, dried fruit, and so on, to create a snacking cheese that goes well with crisp vegetables or crostini.
• 1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice (about 2 Meyer lemons)
• 4 cups whole cow’s milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
• 2 cups cream
• 1/4 teaspoon flake salt, or to taste
1. Juice the lemons and strain out the pulp with a mesh strainer.
2. Pour the milk and cream into a 2-quart stockpot.
3. Pour the lemon juice into the pot and stir thoroughly. Set to medium heat.
4. You may see some curds forming within seconds. Stay close and monitor the heat, stirring every few minutes to prevent a skin from forming on the milk’s surface and to check for sticking milk at the bottom. Reduce the heat if needed.
5. Use a cooking thermometer to check the temperature when you see steam rising from the pot and little foam bubbles forming around the edge. Curds will form rapidly as the milk approaches the target temperature of 190 degrees Fahrenheit, and it will look more like thin oatmeal.
6. This is coagulation! Keep checking the temperature, and continue to stir, very gently this time, so that the newly formed curds are not broken up. Turn off the heat when it reaches 190 degrees.
7. Take the pot off the burner and allow the curds and whey to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. The curds will release more whey during this time.
8. While you wait, line a large colander or mesh strainer with fine cheesecloth. Optional: Place a 1-quart bowl under the colander to collect the whey. Otherwise, place the lined colander in the sink.
9. Pour the curds and whey through the cloth.
10. Allow the whey to drain for about 10 minutes or until you get the creamy texture of smooth mashed potatoes.
11. Gather the cloth into a bundle and give it a gentle squeeze to strain out that last bit of whey. The whey from this creamy cheese will be somewhat milky in appearance.
12. Place the cloth full of drained cheese back in the colander, and add the salt.
13. Stir just until the salt is mixed in thoroughly. Salt helps release more whey, and air dries out cheese, so if you stir longer than necessary, the cheese will be crumbly instead of creamy.
14. Stir minimally for the creamiest ricotta. While warm, the consistency will be loose and creamy.
15. Scoop it into a bowl for eating right away or chill it for a firmer texture.
Keep yourself supplied with lemons and more with the information here: How to Grow Citrus in Pots Indoors.
Reprinted with permission from One-Hour Cheese by Claudia Lucero, available in the Heirloom Gardener store