There’s something incredibly satisfying about making your own cheese. It feels a little Laura Ingalls Wilder. Sorta like you’re accomplishing something you thought could only be done on some far-away farm surrounded by grazing sheep, arcadian meadows, and rickety wooden fences…or in a cheese-making factory. But it doesn’t. And it’s really simple.
An easy cheese to start with is ricotta. People often think its only use is in lasagna, but it’s creamy, delicate flavor can be enhanced with any number of ingredients to be used in countless ways. It’s a blank canvas sort of cheese. You can make it sweet (stir in honey) or savory (add chopped herbs or smoked salt); use it as the star player (ricotta cheesecake) or include it in more of a supporting role (savory bread puddings); it can be baked, blended, or even broiled. It’s very essence is versatility. I made an avocado dip with it, a guacamole of sorts. It lightened up the traditional guacamole texture and made it even creamier. It’s insanely delicious and quite addicting…my son was begging for more! Happy cheese-making!
Ingredients: milk, vinegar, lemon juice, and salt
Juice some lemons (or use preserved juice)
Homemade Ricotta Cheese and Ricotta-mole Dip
(recipe/technique slightly adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
(makes about 2 – 2 1/2 cups)
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons distilled vinegar, plus more as needed
1/2 gallon whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
Line a colander with a triple layer of cheesecloth and place in the sink. Stir lemon juice and vinegar together in a small bowl, set aside. Heat the milk and salt in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Heat until temperature registers 190 degrees (takes about 15 – 20 minutes) then remove from heat and stir in lemon juice mixture until fully combined and milk begins to curdle (less than a minute). Let sit 10 minutes until mixture separates into curds and translucent whey. If there is still milky whey in the pot, gently stir in 1/2 tablespoon of vinegar at a time until curds fully separate, letting sit for 2 – 3 minutes between additions. It took me 4 additions of vinegar to reach this stage.
Carefully pour curds and whey into the lined colander and let drain for 10 – 40 minutes, until desired consistency is reached (drain longer if you want a thicker, drier ricotta or shorter if you want a wetter, looser texture; I let it drain for 40 minutes). Gently transfer to a bowl or jar and cover. Refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to two months.
Ricotta-mole (ricotta avocado dip)
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
salt and pepper
1 – 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
lime juice from 1 wedge (quarter) of lime
Scoop avocado flesh into a bowl and mash (I use one of the beaters from a hand-held electric mixer). Stir in ricotta until well combined. Add a couple dashes of cumin powder and garlic powder, a hefty pinch of salt and several grinds of freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in cilantro and lime juice. Serve with tortilla chips or raw veggies. Enjoy!