When it comes to the season of relaxed barbeques and end of year merriment, it’s always a good idea to have a party trick up your sleeve. I’m not talking about double-jointedness, or awkward jokes, I mean a signature dish that sounds way more complicated than it is. It’s up to you whether or not you let your friends know just how easy it is – you could always go for the good old, “Oh this? This was nothing!” and then wink, and join in on another conversation, leaving your friend guessing.
A couple of summers ago, I found one such recipe that does the trick perfectly. If you can make a homemade version of something that usually nobody bothers to make, you know you’re onto a winner. And such was the case with this homemade ricotta.
I think, over the course of this summer, I made this ricotta for five different get-togethers; barbeques, Christmas parties, nights by the pool. And every time, I was met with a “You made this?!”. I tried explaining how easy it was, but my friends would not hear it. But you’ll listen to me, right? You’ll let me explain just how easy it is, and then you’ll claim it as your own, and impress your own friends, won’t you? You and me, we’re onto something good here.
Homemade ricotta is as easy as heating milk and cream, then adding vinegar and turning it into a bubbling science experiment. And then add crusty bread, tasty toppings and impressed friends, and your party trick is complete. Ta da!
2 litres of full cream milk
1 teaspoon of salt
4 tablespoons of cream
4 tablespoons of white vinegar
In a nice, moderately big saucepan, combine the milk, salt and cream. You might not usually go for full cream milk in your day-to-day dairy consumption, but I do insist you use full cream here – from my understanding, it’s something about the fats that makes this work so well. Give those three a stir, and place the pan on the stove, on a high heat until it’s just about to boil.
Now’s when you add in the four tablespoons of vinegar and barely stir that in to the mix. Adding the vinegar will instantly start the milk curdling (in a totally good way) and it needs to be distributed through the mixture – but over mixing at this point will give you rubbery ricotta, which is less than ideal, to say the least.
Let this curdling mixture simmer for about two minutes or so, and then take off the heat and let sit for another ten. Most of the curds will float to the top, and the leftover whey will be a clearish yellow colour.
During these ten minutes is a good time to set up the draining station. Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl, and line the sieve with a damp tea towel folded in half. Or cheesecloth, if you have that. I don’t have that. I used a tea towel.
Once the cheese has sat, gently pour the curds and whey into the tea towel and all of the liquid will drain away. Let it sit for another ten minutes or so, and then feel free to wrap the cheese up in the cloth and squeeze it to strain any last bits of liquid out, if you’re impatient like me.
And now’s the fun bit! Spread your fancy cheese over some delicious crusty bread, and serve as is, or with some tasty toppings. Impress your friends, or eat it all by yourself if you want. The choice is yours.
The great thing about ricotta is that it works as a base for just about anything good. Some combinations I used were:
Strawberries and mint
Honey and balsamic vinegar (though I always forget that I have the runny balsamic vinegar, not the sticky, glazy kind! Both would be delicious, but glazy would present neater)
and olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt.
Let me know what toppings you come up with when you make your own!