Wild garlic and mint
I realise that I write regularly about making my own cheese. It is something that I am quite fascinated by. I have tried yoghurt and using live cultures etc, but it is difficult, especially due to the fluctuating temperature of our cottage (we only have a wood burning stove for heat) and the temperamental weather (British weather is utterly mental). Live cultures etc don’t seem to like this, they are sensitive sorts.
Making ricotta requires non of this effort. It is a fail safe method of making your own gorgeous cheese. Not complex or pungent, but super smooth and creamy. Every time.
This is a simple technique. I would advise you seek out good quality, organic milk for best results. Once you try it, you will not want to go back to the shop bought variety. This is a real homemade treat that takes no time at all and actually saves you money.
I have mixed a few fresh herbs in here. We had just picked some wild garlic, we took a wrong turn on Anglesey and ended up driving through a field of the stuff! The mint is beautiful looking, grown by the good people at Hooton’s Homegrown. I walked into the kitchen this morning and was greeted by the wonderful aroma of these two and could not resist combining them with the cheese.
Ricotta means ‘recooked’ in Italian and is a so versatile. It goes well in savoury and sweet dishes. I love it with some warm oat bread and honey and it makes a delicious base for pasta sauces, we have also used it with dark chocolate for dessert (see here). This ricotta recipe is excellent as it can be stirred directly into warm pasta. It is basically a great thing to have in the fridge.
I am sure that this is one of those cooking techniques that you will use again and again. You can even make paneer, just use the same method but use a semi skimmed milk (the ricotta uses whole milk). See a recipe here on the brilliant Kolpona cuisine blog.
There is no waste here. After the curds have formed, drink the whey. This is packed full of good protein. It’s the same stuff those muscle bound freaks buy for inflated prices (and biceps!). The whey can also be used in cooking, its great in stews, soups and even breads.
Cheesecloth had always eluded me. I had heard of this mythical fabric but never owned any. I have resorted to all sorts of strange methods to compensate for it. I mentioned this to Jane and in her ever thoughtful fashion, she bought some in a little shop somewhere in Yorkshire. I am now the proud owner of a metre square. Thank you honey!
1 litre of good whole fat milk (makes enough for a decent sized ball), juice of 1 lemon or 2 tbs cider vinegar (or any distilled vinegar), 1 teas sea salt, 1 handful of wild garlic, 1 handful of fresh mint, 1 piece of muslin/ cheese cloth.
Homemade ricotta with wild garlic and mint
Heat the milk in a pan gently until it is steaming and small bubbles are forming around the edges, do not boil. Add the lemon juice of vinegar, then stir a couple of times to mix. Take off the heat and leave for 5 minutes, allowing the curds to form. Line a medium sieve with your cheese cloth and place over a bowl. Gently pour the milk/ cheese through the sieve and allow to drain.
Making the cheese
The longer you leave it to drain, the drier the cheese. Think about what you would like to us it for. I recommend leaving it for around 10 minutes. Cool and cover, place in the fridge, it be good for around a week.
When the cheese is fully dried, chop your herbs finely and mix in with the cheese. If it is proving to be too dry, mix in a little olive oil to get things lubricated. Taste the cheese, add more salt if you like.
Using vinegar will give a cleaner flavour, lemon will make it slightly lemony. Again, it depends on how you would like to use the cheese.
We had ours mixed into roasted root veggies, with our Sprouting Spring Salad.
Roasted root vegetable
You can use goats milk for the ricotta, it will be more tangy. In Italy they use alot of sheeps milk, which is very smooth and creamy and of course the famous buffalo milk, which is equally as good. It is fun to experiment with different milks. I have to say, I like the ricotta we get from local Welsh milk.
Calon Wen Milk
You can’t beat a crisp dry white wine with a fresh cheese like ricotta, something to cut through that awesome creaminess and get your palate sparkling. We had a lovely Chilean Sauvignon Blanc which worked a treat.