Lately we have been getting the most wonderful fresh milk from Dirie’s Farm, a small family-owned dairy farm near us. The milk has a whole melody of flavor, that clearly illustrates what people are talking about when they refer to the terroir in wine. You can taste this area. You can taste the differences in the seasons, and the grassy fields and hay on which these cows are feeding.
A few months ago I had an impromptu lunch out by myself (I mean, with my date, New York Magazine) at Veloce Pizzeria in the East Village of NYC. They have a divine ricotta crostini “spuntini” (Italian snacks). Superb rich ricotta slathered on crusty toasted bread with fresh black pepper. Heaven.
So craving that, this week’s farm milk became glorious ricotta. It’s easy, easy, easy. There are many recipes out there, using several different acidifying agents (vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk, and citric acid). I learned this from my culinary school, and Ricki the Cheese Queen, both using the exact same method with citric acid, so I’ll stick with that. Citric Acid is pretty widely available. It is often called for in canning tomatoes. I have seen it in my grocery store near canning supplies or products like Fruit Fresh. But you can also easily get it here, from the wonderful New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.
HOMEMADE FRESH RICOTTA
Makes about 2 cups
2 Liters whole milk
1/2 tsp citric acid
1/2 tsp salt (if you can get it, use cheese salt)
Combine milk, citric acid, and salt in a non-reactive pot (heavy bottomed if available), over medium-high heat. Stirring gently, making sure nothing is sticking or burning on the bottom, heat to just under a boil, to 195° F. At that point turn off the heat and let the milk sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.
Line a colander, over a large bowl (the whey that drains off can be used in place of buttermilk), with several layers of cheesecloth or a clean dish towel or floursack. After the 10 minutes, gently ladle the ricotta milk into the colander. Let drain for a few minutes, then carefully tie opposite corners of the cloth to made a bundle. Let ricotta continue to drain in colander, over the bowl, in the refrigerator for a 1/2 hour to overnight. If too thick for desired use, can be thinned with a little cream. Season with more salt to taste. Will keep for several days in refrigerator.