The long wait is over. Today we’re making Italian Mozzarella!

Yes, you’ve read that correctly. It took literally gallons of curdled milk to get us here and today I’ll show you how to make Italian Mozzarella. Prior to this, I’ve demonstrated how to make ricottagoat cheesecream cheesemascarponefeta, and American mozzarella. Hopefully, you’ve heeded my warnings and made one of these other, simpler cheeses, for this mozzarella is the trickiest cheese of them all to prepare. In fact, my success rate with ricotta is 100%; with American mozzarella the rate is about 75 – 80%; while I’m only successful making Italian mozzarella about a third of the time. So why bother? Well, Italian mozzarella is superior to the American, having a more delicate flavor and creamier consistency. It’s no Burrata but it is nonetheless a very good cheese.  It’s up to you to decide whether it is worth the effort.

NOTE: Because so much of this process is the same as that for American mozzarella, some of the following has been used in both posts. No sense re-inventing the Parmesan wheel.

As is the case with every cheese, before we get started, there are a few things to be discussed. First of all, mozzarella belongs to the pasta filata, “spun paste”, family of Italian cheese. Primarily made from buffalo or cow’s milk, provolone, scamorza, and caciocavallo are also members of this group. The curds of these cheeses are heated in water and spun before being pulled and stretched to make the cheese. If they aren’t spun or pulled properly, the cheese’s texture will not be right nor will the cheeses have that characteristic stretchy quality when melted.

Got milk?

Next, we need to look at the milk. Just like with its American cousin, when making Italian mozzarella you may not use calcium chloride (CaCl) to compensate for the effects of ultra-pasteurization upon milk. As a result, you must use raw or pasteurized milk. When choosing pasteurized, select a whole milk from a local dairy to reduce the chances of it being pasteurized at too high a temperature. Some brands will have the pasteurization temperature posted on the container’s label. Available at Whole Foods and health food stores, I use that milk because the pasteurization temperature is low compared to most and I know exactly what I am buying.

Most importantly, the curds must reach a certain level of acidity before mozzarella can be made — and herein lies the difference between American and Italian mozzarella. When we made American mozzarella, we used citric acid to create the acidity required. It enabled us to make mozzarella relatively quickly. There is no such ingredient for Italian mozzarella. These curds will acidify on their own if left undisturbed for about 10 hours or overnight. You can increase your odds of success by using pH test strips to insure that the correct acidity (5.2) has been achieved. (See Notes for more information about these strips.) Italian mozzarella’s superior flavor and texture are due to the fact that no additives are used to acidify its curds. There are no shortcuts when making this cheese.

You’ll see “Lipase” included among the list of ingredients. Lipase is an enzyme that is used to enhance the flavor of mozzarella, Asiago, provolone, feta and blue cheeses. It can be purchased from the cheese making sites listed on my Cheesy Stuff page. It is not a necessary ingredient, however, so don’t worry if you cannot find or purchase it. If you do use it, however, you’ll need to add more rennet, as indicated in the recipe below.

 *     *     *

Bruschetta

 *     *     *

Sorry about the quality of the photos to follow but this wasn’t an easy process to photograph while working alone and wearing gloves. If you have asbestos fingers, you may not need to wear gloves but I’ve found that they offer some protection from the heated curds. I’ve heard that it is customary for women in Italy to keep a bowl of ice water nearby. They dip their hands in it when the heat becomes too much to bear while they’re stretching the mozzarella. It’s not such a bad idea, even when wearing gloves.

Before beginning, please refer to my Cheesy Stuff page. Chock full of cheesy details, it provides information about ingredients, cleaning/sterilizing equipment, spices & seasonings, a few tips, and sources for supplies and information.

 *     *     *

How to Make Italian Mozzarella at Home

Ingredients

  • ½ gal (1.9 L) whole milk — NOT ultra-pasteurized
  • 1 tbsp plain yogurt, must include live cultures
  • 1 tbsp cultured buttermilk
  • ½ tablet rennet dissolved in a ¼ cup (60 ml) of cool distilled water
  • ¼ tsp Lipase dissolved in a ¼ cup (60 ml) of cool distilled water — optional but, if using Lipase, add another ¼ tablet of rennet
  • 1 tbsp table salt dissolved in 1 quart (.95 L) water

Directions

  1. In a small container, combine the yogurt, buttermilk, and a couple tbsp of milk. Stir until thoroughly mixed and set aside.
  2. Place the rest of the milk in a sterile, non-reactive pot with a lid. If using, add the dissolved Lipase and stir well. Gently heat the milk, uncovered, to 90˚F (32˚C), stirring occasionally to prevent scalding on the pan’s bottom. I’ll often fill my kitchen sink with hot water and use it, rather than my stove top, to gently heat the milk.
  3. Once the milk has reached 90˚, remove from heat and inoculate using the buttermilk/yogurt/milk mixture. Stir/whisk thoroughly.
  4. Place the pot in a warm spot (about 75˚F; 24˚C) where it will not be disturbed. Add the dissolved rennet, stir for 1 minute, and cover.
  5. Check for a clean break after 45 minutes. As was the case when we made feta and American mozzarella, you can not proceed until a clean break is achieved.  Once achieved, go to step 7.

 *     *     *

Clean break.

Bad Break

 *     *     *

6. If a clean break is not achieved, wait 30 minutes and test again. Still bad? Wait another 30 minutes before testing again. Still bad? Wait a final 30 minutes. If a clean break still eludes you, there’s nothing to be done but dump the dairy and start over. Of course, you may wish to wait longer and try again but that is up to you. I would seriously consider changing milk brands before trying again. This is why I use half-gallon quantities of milk and not the 2 or 3 gallons some suggest. If I ever make enough to become proficient, I’ll use larger quantities of milk.

*     *     *

7. Use a long knife or offset spatula, and starting at one side of the pot, cut a straight line through the curd. Once the opposite side has been reached, create another slice about ½ in front of the previous cut. Repeat until the entire curd has been cut into horizontal slices.

 *     *     *

8. Give the pot a quarter turn and, starting at one end of the pot, repeat the slicing process. When finished, the curd should be cut into ½ inch squares.

 *     *     *

9. Now take the knife or offset spatula and, with the blade on an angle, slice through the curds from side to side at ½ inch intervals. This will cut the curds beneath the surface. Repeat this step twice, turning the pot and cutting the curds on an angle each time.

*     *     *

10. Slowly re-warm the curds to 90˚F (32˚C), gently stirring the curds, and cutting any that are larger than 1/2 inch. Let sit for 15 minutes.

*     *     *

11. Gently pour the pot’s contents into a sieve, separating the curds while reserving the whey for ricotta. (See Notes below.)

*     *     *

12. Place curds in a quart of cold water to rinse and then drain again. Place curds into a container, cover, and set aside, allowing the curds to reach the proper pH. It is normal for whey to continue to separate during this resting period, as shown in the image.

*     *     *

Successful pH test

13.  If using pH test strips, begin testing the curds’ acidity levels after 8 hours. Once an acidity level of at least 5.2 is achieved, continue. If not using the test strips, better to wait 10 hours before proceeding.

*     *     *

14. Heat a large pot of water to 185˚F (85˚C). Once heated, use some of it to fill a small bowl and add to it a few pieces of curd, about the size of sugar cubes.

*     *     *

15. Gently stir the bowl’s contents and, after a few minutes, the cubes will begin to show trails or filaments, spinning, as they clump together.

 *     *     *

16. Use a slotted spoon to remove.

 *     *     *

17. See if the curds will stretch. If they do, without breaking, the curds are ready. To celebrate, I usually eat the test curds before continuing to Step 17. If they do not stretch, return the curds to the rest and set aside for another 2 hours before testing again. If they still do not stretch, set aside and test again. If still unsuccessful, it is up to you to decide how much longer and how many more times you’ll test the curds. It can be very frustrating.

 *     *     *

18. After a successful test, the rest of the curds need to be processed. Use a thin meshed sieve to drain off the whey. Meanwhile, begin re-heating the pot of water.

*     *     *

19. Place the now drained curds on a flat surface and slice into ½ inch cubes. Best to use a dish for this step, rather than a cutting board, since some whey may still be present.

 *     *     *

14. Separate the sliced curds into individual cubes.

 *     *     *

20. This is where the real trouble starts. If you read the books, scanned the websites, watch the videos, they will place the curds in a large bowl, pour the heated water over the curds, stir, and, voilà! Mozzarella ready to be stretched and pulled. Not for me. I’ve found I have greater success if I use smaller amounts of curd, resulting in smaller mozzarella balls. No matter which way you choose to go, you’ll need to pour the heated water (185˚F; 85˚C) over the curds and stir until they begin to spin. Do not rush this step. It should take a few minutes. Do not let the water temp fall below 135˚F (57˚C) but it should not remain higher than 140˚F (60˚C).

 *     *     *

21. (Yes, it’s the same photo as in 16 above.) Once you see evidence of spinning, use a slotted spoon to remove the curds. Begin to stretch the curds, fold on to themselves, and stretch again. Continue doing this a number of times, creating many layers, until the cheese is smooth and glossy.

 *     *     *

22. Form into a ball like you would bread dough for a dinner roll. Place in salted water. Congratulations! You’ve just made Italian mozzarella!

 *     *     *

Notes

As was mentioned, the key to making this mozzarella is the acidity of the curds. One day last Spring, I noticed pH test strips at a home brewery shop that I’d entered to purchase the calcium chloride (CaCl) needed to make feta cheese. Not all pH strips are created equal and each type is used to test specific levels of acidity/alkalinity. As luck would have it, these strips were used to test beer and were for the same range needed to test mozzarella curds. If you’re going to purchase pH strips, be sure that they are capable of testing substances with a pH of 5.2 otherwise they will be of no use whatsoever. See the image above (Step 13) for a sample of a correct pH scale and strip for testing curds. Remember that the lower the pH value, the more acidic the substance.

In Italy, only the whey from making mozzarella may be used to make ricotta. I’ve had varying levels of success trying to do so. Most recipes for making mozzarella call for at least 2 gallons of milk — sometimes 3 — to be used. When making American mozzarella, I use a gallon of milk and the resultant yield of ricotta is too little for me to use. Because of the high failure rate, I only use a half-gallon of milk when making Italian mozzarella. Once again, the ricotta yield is too far little to be of use. Now, you can add a quart of milk to Italian mozzarella’s whey to improve the yield but I’d rather use the milk to make ricotta like I’ve shown you HERE. I’ve never had a failure following that recipe and a half-gallon of milk gives me all the ricotta I need. Still, if you wish to try the more traditional approach, you can see how Dr. Fankhauser does it HERE or how our very own Miss Celi does it down on the farmy HERE. While you’re there, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out her blog. It is truly a delight to read and a great way to start your day.

No matter which mozzarella you choose to make, the cheese is best when freshest. Even so, Italian mozzarella does stay fresh longer than its American cousin. Some suggest leaving the cheese in its salt water bath until needed or transferring it to fresh water after a few hours for storage in the refrigerator. Others suggest using the brine bath for an hour before patting the cheese dry and storing in a sealed plastic bag. I’ve even heard of some freezing it for later use, something not possible with American mozzarella. I prefer to leave my Italian mozzarella in the salted water until ready for use and that’s always within 24 hours. When I remove it, I might have to rinse it to remove a soft coating that’s developed. The cheese is still very good but that coating is rather unappealing. One of these days, I’m going to make a batch, divide the cheese into thirds, and store a third in brine, a third, in fresh water, and the last third in a plastic bag. I need to feel more secure in my Italian mozzarella cheese making abilities before donating a batch to science.

And so ends our cheese making series. Now it’s your turn. Good luck!

*     *     *

Inspired by the Fankhauser Mozzarella webpage

and

“Home Cheese Making” by Ricki Carrol

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Magical Plum Cobbler

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Hard to believe that it was a year ago when I introduced you all to the Apple Thingamajig. Despite your numerous attempts to (correctly) identify it as a crostata, Zia and I have continued to call them Thingamajigs and I don’t see either of us changing anytime soon. Just click HERE if you wish to see the recipe, are feeling a bit nostalgic, or want to try your hand at helping us to remember that our Thingamajig is really a crostata. (Good luck with that!)

*     *     *

Hey, Bella! I’ve got Mozzarella!

All right, mozzarella fans. This is it. You’ve waited patiently while I demonstrated how to make ricotta, goat cheese, cream cheese, mascarpone, and feta. Now it’s your turn. Today I’ll show you how to make mozzarella. Hopefully, you’ve tried to make at least one of the earlier cheeses so that you’ve some idea about creating & handling curds, clean breaks, sterilizing equipment, etc., because you’re going to need all of this experience — plus another trick or two — to make today’s cheese. I have to say, though, having a taste of freshly made mozzarella when still warm makes it all worthwhile. And, if that’s not enough, imagine making an Insalata Caprese of freshly made mozzarella with sliced tomatoes & basil, both picked moments before from your garden. Cambierà la vostra vita!

Now, before we get into the nuts and bolts of making mozzarella, there are a few things that need mention. First of all, mozzarella belongs to the pasta filata, “spun paste”, family of Italian cheese. Primarily made from buffalo or cow’s milk, provolone, scamorza, and caciocavallo are also members of this group. The curds of these cheeses are heated in water and spun before being pulled and stretched to make the cheese. If they aren’t spun or pulled properly, the cheese’s texture will not be right nor will the cheeses have that characteristic stretchy quality when melted.

Rigatoni al Forno

Next, you may recall that in the feta post, I wrote that calcium chloride (CaCl) could be used to compensate for overly pasteurized dairy product and would result in firmer curds. While that is true and CaCl is used widely in cheese making, it can not be used when making any of the pasta filata cheeses. Using CaCl will toughen the curds, making that stretch impossible and  ruining the texture of the finished cheese. So, with no agent to counteract the effects of over or ultra-pasteurization, you must use raw or pasteurized milk. When choosing pasteurized, select a whole milk from a local dairy to minimize the chances of it being over pasteurized. Some milk will have the pasteurization temperature posted on the container’s label. I use that milk, when I can find it, because the pasteurization temperature is low compared to most. Try as I might, I’ve been unable to make mozzarella from ultra-pasteurized milk.

Another thing about mozzarella is that it requires a level of acidity in order to form the curds — and this is where the processes diverge when making American versus Italian Mozzarella. Today we’re making American Mozzarella and we’ll add granulated citric acid to create the acidity required. (When we make Italian Mozzarella, we’ll let the curds sit overnight to develop the necessary acidity.) Citric acid is commonly used when making wine at home, in canning, and in a multitude of food manufacturing processes. It is quite inexpensive and can be purchased anywhere home brewing or wine making supplies are sold, at some pharmacies, on Amazon, or through the sites listed on my Cheesy Stuff page. You will not be able to make American Mozzarella without it nor can you substitute fresh citrus juice for it.

You’ll see “Lipase” included among the list of ingredients. Lipase is an enzyme that is used to enhance the flavor of mozzarella, Asiago, provolone, feta and blue cheeses. It can be purchased from the cheese making sites listed on my Cheesy Stuff page. It is not a necessary ingredient, however, so don’t worry if you cannot find or purchase it. If you do use it, however, add another ¼ tablet of rennet for each gallon of milk.

 *     *     *

Simple salad of rocket, tomato, and mozzarella with red wine vinegar and olive oil.

 *     *     *

Sorry about the quality of the photos to follow but this wasn’t an easy process to photograph while working alone. I, also, missed a photo or two but none so important that you’ll get lost. Lastly, you’ll notice that I use gloves when handling the curds. If you have asbestos fingers, you may not need to use them. I’ve found that they do offer some protection from the heated curds while they’re being stretched. I’ve heard that it is customary for women in Italy to keep a bowl of ice water nearby. They dip their hands in it when the heat becomes too much to bear. It’s not such a bad idea, even when wearing gloves.

Before beginning, please refer to my Cheesy Stuff page. Chock full of cheesy details, it provides information about ingredients, cleaning/sterilizing equipment, spices & seasonings, a few tips, and sources for supplies and information.

OK. If no one has any objections, let’s get this show on the road …

 *     *     *

How to Make Mozzarella at Home

Ingredients

  • 1 gal (3.67 L) whole milk — NOT ultra-pasteurized
  • 1¼ tsp citric acid dissolved in a ¼ cup (60 ml) of cool distilled water
  • ½ tablet rennet dissolved in a ¼ cup (60 ml) of cool distilled water
  • ¼ tsp Lipase dissolved in a ¼ cup (60 ml) of cool distilled water — optional but, if using Lipase, add another ¼ tablet of rennet
  • 1 tsp table salt

Directions

  1. Place milk in a non-reactive pot with a lid. Gently heat the mixture until 88˚F (31˚C), stirring occasionally to prevent scalding on the pan’s bottom.
  2. Add diluted citric acid and mix well. If using Lipase, add it now and mix thoroughly.
  3. Place pot where it will not be disturbed. Add dissolved rennet, stir thoroughly,  and cover pot. Do not disturb for at least one hour. I wait two hours, if not a little more.
  4. As was done when making feta cheese, check for a clean break and, when achieved, go to step 6.

 *     *     *

Clean break.

 *     *     *

Bad break.

5. If a clean break is not achieved, wait an hour and test again. Still bad? Wait another hour. Still bad? Nothing to be done but dump the dairy and start over.

*     *     *

6. Use a long knife or offset spatula, and starting at one side of the pot, cut a straight line through the curd. Once the opposite side has been reached, create another slice about ½ in front of the previous cut. Repeat until the entire curd has been cut into horizontal slices.

 *     *     *

7. Give the pot a quarter turn and, starting at one end of the pot, repeat the slicing process. When finished, the curd should be cut into ½ inch squares.

 *     *     *

8. Now take the knife or offset spatula and, with the blade on an angle, slice through the curds from side to side at ½ inch intervals. This will cut the curds beneath the surface. Repeat this step twice, turning the pot and cutting the curds on an angle each time.

*     *     *

9. Gently stir the curds, cutting any that are larger than 1/2 inch.

*     *     *

10. Return the pot to the stove and gently heat the curds and whey until they reach 108˚F (42˚C), stirring frequently to prevent sticking on the pan’s bottom. Maintain that temperature for 35 minutes, stirring the curds occasionally to keep them separated.

*     *     *

11. Gently pour the pot’s contents into a sieve, separating the curds while reserving the whey. Allow to drain for 15 minutes. Break apart any large clumps of curds.

*     *     *

12. Place curds into a large bowl, season with salt, and mix thoroughly. Place ⅓ of the salted curds in a 2 cup measure and microwave on high for 45 seconds.

*     *     *

Curds straight from the microwave.

*     *     *

13. Use a spoon to combine the curds while distributing the heat, creating a single, large curd mass.

*     *     *

14. Once combined, remove but be careful. It’s hot. Note how dull it is.

 *     *     *

15. Slowly stretch the curd like you would salt water taffy. If it breaks instead of stretching, re-heat the curd for another 15 seconds before trying again.

*     *     *

16. Fold in half onto itself.

 *     *     *

17. Stretch it again. Continue to stretch & fold until the cheese is smooth and shines.

 *     *     *

18. Form into a ball like you would bread dough for a dinner roll. Best if used right away. See Notes for storage tips.

 *     *     *

1 gallon (3.67 L) of whole milk yields about 13 ounces (375 g) of mozzarella.

*     *     *

Notes

YouTube has a number of videos about making mozzarella. Often they begin with a cook pouring boiling water over curds that were either made or purchased off-camera. As you’ll learn in a few weeks, using boiling water to cook the curds is a part of the process when making Italian Mozzarella. Using a microwave, as indicated above, will work just fine for American Mozzarella.

According to Dr. Fankhauser, the whey reserved from above may be used to make ricotta. Similar to the traditional method of making ricotta, he directs that the whey be heated to 203˚F (95˚C), allowed to cool, and then filtered. I have never gotten an appreciable amount of ricotta from whey resulting from making American Mozzarella. I don’t even try anymore and just use some of the whey to store my mozzarella. If I want to make ricotta, I follow this recipe.

Mozzarella will remain good to eat for about 1 week but the sooner you use it, the better it will taste. It is at its peak when it is still warm after being stretched. If it is not to be used immediately, tightly wrap it in plastic wrap and set aside until needed. Do not refrigerate. If you’re not going to use it that day, do not wrap it but place it in some reserved whey, covered, and then refrigerate it. Be aware that once it is chilled, the texture — the creaminess — will change because the milk fats will harden.  Restaurants will make mozzarella in the morning and whatever is left at the end of the day will be refrigerated and used in pizza the following day. American Mozzarella can be made in a couple of hours and, believe me, once you taste the difference between freshly made and mozzarella that you’ve chilled, you’ll want to use it all the same day you make it. Now, I have read where some store it coated in salt or in a bath of (sometimes flavored) olive oil. I’ve not tried either approach and, because of that, I won’t recommend them.

*     *     *

Inspired by the Fankhauser American Mozzarella webpage

and

“Home Cheese Making” by Ricki Carrol

*     *     *

By any other name … 

“Judy Garland”

*     *     *

Makin’ feta? You betcha!

As promised, today we’ll look at the 5th cheese within our little series. Of those we’ve covered thus far, today’s cheese is the most complicated to make and, if that’s not enough, it’s also brined. All of this can add up to problems for the unaware — but that’s not us! No, my cheese making amici, you heeded my advice, making at least one of the “easier” cheeses in this series, and now you’re ready for a challenge. Today we’re making feta!

 *     *     *

It’s just a salad without feta.

*     *     *

Feta cheese is most closely associated with Greece and, according to European Union law, only cheese made in Greece may be labelled and sold as “feta.” Typically made with sheep’s milk alone, the Union will allow up to 30% of the milk to come from goats. Although first mentioned in the 15th century during the Byzantine Empire, it would be a mistake to think that feta was — and is — only produced in Greece. Brined cheeses have a longer shelf-life than many of the “soft” cheeses and, as such, are fairly common throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as other areas around the world. Depending upon availability, these cheeses can be made from the milk of cows, goats,  sheep, or some combination of the three.

During a recent broadcast of America’s Test Kitchens, various brands of feta were tested. They found that imported feta was stronger tasting than domestic. The blandest feta cheese came from cow’s milk. Goat’s milk produced cheese with a bit more flavor and sheep’s milk cheese was strongest of all. Bear in mind that virtually all store-bought feta uses raw milk and that isn’t always available to us rookies. We’re left with pasteurized or, worse yet, ultra-pasteurized milk and either process destroys many of the subtleties in flavor that distinguish the 3 milks. Now, you may be lucky enough to get raw milk for your cheese but, as I’ve already lamented, it’s illegal to sell raw milk in Illinois and there’s a dearth of lactating sheep in greater Chicagoland. I do know of one milk producing ewe but, distance aside, her milk is already spoken for. So, because we have to use pasteurized dairy products, don’t be surprised if your home-made feta tastes rather bland in comparison to your favorite imported feta made from sheep’s milk.

Greek tapas?

Thus far, we’ve made cheeses that were pretty straight-forward with mistakes a rarity. Many of the steps used for those cheeses will be repeated here, when making feta, but a few more have been added and there’s a greater chance for error. This will be a long post but if I don’t warn you of the pitfalls, you might end up dumping your dairy down the drain and starting over. Who wants that?

First off, we need to talk about the milk. In short, you cannot use ultra-pasteurized goat’s milk to make feta. As it is, goat’s milk creates softer curds than other dairy, so you’re already at a disadvantage. When I used ultra-pasteurized goat’s milk, I found it impossible to get a clean break or hard set. (More about clean break later.) According to my usual sources, ¼ tsp of calcium chloride (CaCl2) added to 64 oz (2 litres) of milk will help to overcome the effects of ultra-pasteurization. (CaCl2 is a salt commonly used in brewing and brining. Before you use this salt, be sure to read the Precautions below.) Well, I tested ultra-pasteurized goat’s milk 3 times, alone and with CaCl2, and never got a clean break. All of the dairy was dumped. Next I ran 2 tests of regular pasteurized goat’s milk, with and without CaCl2. Both gave me a clean break and I was able to make feta cheese with the curds.

Now, since some of you might not be able to get goat’s milk, I ran 3 tests using whole cow’s milk. In the first test, I used regular pasteurized milk, alone, and a clean break was achieved and feta made. In the second test, I used ultra-pasteurized milk to which ¼ tsp of CaCl2 was added and a clean break resulted and I made feta cheese. In the third and final test, I didn’t add anything to ultra-pasteurized cow’s milk and I did not achieve a clean break. The dairy was dumped.

So, the long and short of these tests is that you cannot use ultra-pasteurized milk, alone, to make feta. If your only choice available is ultra-pasteurized cow’s milk, you must add CaCl2 to mask the effects of the ultra-pasteurization process. CaCl2 will not work with ultra-pasteurized goat’s milk. Take the easy route: find and use regular pasteurized goat’s or cow’s milk and you’ll be fine. Of course, if you can get raw, unpasteurized milk, there’s no need to add anything. You’re good to go!

Once you’ve warmed the milk, inoculated it with yogurt cultures, added rennet, and let it sit overnight, you’ll need to see if it has set properly. This is the your first real hurdle. Unlike with the other cheeses, this process will form one large curd. Stick your finger, on an angle, into the curd and slowly bring the finger to the surface to test for a “clean break,” meaning the curd is firmly set from top to bottom. On the left is a picture showing a ‘bad break.” You can see that the curd hasn’t  formed and all you’ve got is a thickened dairy product or, perhaps, a very thin curd floating atop thickened dairy. On the right are examples of a “clean break,” where the curd is firmly set throughout. If a clean break hasn’t been achieved, let the dairy sit for another 2 hours and check again.  If still not a clean break, let it sit another 2 hours. If at this point, you’ve not received a clean break, you probably won’t and, as far as I know, all you can do is dump it and start over with fresh milk.

There are a number of causes for a bad break:

  • Use of ultra-pasteurized dairy products.
  • Failure to use live cultures to inoculate the dairy.
  • Using too much/little live cultures to inoculate the dairy.
  • Over-heating the dairy and thereby killing the live cultures.
  • Using rennet that’s too old or not using enough.
  • Not waiting long enough for the curd to form.
  • Once the rennet has been added, the dairy must not be disturbed. Even moving it slightly may prevent the curd from forming. My advice is to move the dairy to the spot where it will remain overnight and then add the rennet.
  • The Fates are messing with you.

One more area to watch involves brining the cheese. For starters, the brine will affect both the taste and texture of the cheese, as well as extend its shelf life. To be successful, you’ll need an acidic solution that is 12.5% salt and it’s easy enough to achieve. Whey is already mildly acidic and you want to reserve it when you strain out the curds. Add 5½ tbsp of kosher salt for every 20 fluid ounces of whey and mix it, dissolving as much of the salt as you can. Cut your feta into cubes and place them in the brine solution. The feta should remain there to pickle for a minimum of 5 days and, according to Still Tasty,  no more than 3 months. When you remove the feta, if the exterior is slimy to the touch, the brine solution didn’t contain enough salt. I don’t believe anything can be done to save the cheese and eventually it will completely dissolve. If the feta feels fine, it can be eaten after 5 days. Keep in mind that the longer it sits in the brine, the more flavorful it becomes and the easier it is to crumble. Most will prefer to rinse it gently with tap water before use.

Before beginning, please refer to my Cheesy Stuff page. Chock full of cheesy details, it provides information about ingredients, cleaning/sterilizing equipment, spices & seasonings, a few tips, and sources for supplies and information.

Still with me? Here we go …

 *     *     *

How to Make Feta Cheese

Ingredients

yield: approx ½ pound

  • ½ gal (64 oz or 2 liters) goat’s milk (cow or sheep’s milk may be used) – ultra-pasteurized goat’s milk cannot be used.
  • 1 tbsp live culture, plain yogurt mixed in 1 tbsp milk from above
  • ¼ rennet tablet dissolved in 3 oz distilled water at room temp
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • ¼ tsp calcium chloride (CaCl2) dissolved 3 oz distilled water at room temp (necessary if using ultra-pasteurized cow’s milk)

Directions

  1. (If necessary, add diluted calcium chloride to the milk and mix well.) Place milk in a non-reactive pot with a lid. Gently heat the mixture until 86˚F (30˚C), stirring occasionally to prevent scalding on the pan’s bottom.
  2. Remove from heat, add yogurt-milk mixture, stir well, cover, and let sit for 1 hour at room temperature.
  3. Move pot to where it will remain undisturbed, add dissolved rennet, stir quickly & well, cover, and leave overnight.
  4. The next morning, check for a clean break. (See above.)
  5. Once a clean break is achieved, take a long knife or, as I like to use, an offset spatula, and starting at on side of the pot, cut a straight line through the curd. Once the opposite side has been reached, create another slice about ½ in front of the previous cut. Repeat until the entire curd has been cut into horizontal slices.
  6. Give the pot a quarter turn and, starting at one end of the pot, repeat the slicing process. When finished, the curd should be cut into ½ squares.
  7. Now take the knife or offset spatula and, with the blade on an angle, slice through the curds from side to side at ½ inch intervals. This will cut the curds beneath the surface. Repeat this step twice, turning the pot and cutting the curds on an angle each time.
  8. Once the curds have been cut, gently stir the curds and check for curds larger than ½ inch cubes. If found, cut them to size.
  9. Let the curds rest for 15 minutes, gently stirring them 3 or 4 times that time period. The curds will shrink during this period as more whey separates from them.
  10. Next, line a strainer with cheesecloth or a hankie and place both over a large pot or bowl. Gently pour the curds and whey into the center of the cloth-lined strainer, saving the whey at the same time. Once all the curds have been poured, grab the cloth’s 4 corners, making a “packet”, of sorts. Tie the corners together and suspend the cheese over the bowl or a pan. Allow it to drain for 2 to 4 hours. If unusually warm, this may be done in the fridge.
  11. Remove the curds from the cloth and place in a large bowl. Season with ¼ tsp table salt and stir, breaking up the curds as you do. The cheese will resemble cottage cheese when  finished.
  12. Line a large can (open at both ends, one lid saved) or feta cheese mold with cheesecloth or another hankie. Place the curds into the form and cover the top with the ends of the cloth.
  13. Use the place the can lid atop the curds and place a heavy weight on top. This will force the remaining whey out of the curds, creating a block of feta. (See Notes.) Leave it overnight. If quite warm, place in the fridge.
  14. The following day, unwrap the cheese and cut it into cubes. Place them into the brine solution, cover, and refrigerate for at least 5 days.
  15. After 5 days, remove a bit of cheese and gently rinse it under running water before tasting it. Depending upon your preferences, you can either use it or return it to the brine to pickle further.
  16. Feta will keep for up to 3 months in the brine. As it ages in the brine, it will crumble more readily. If, at any time, mold appears on any of the feta, discard it and everything within that container.

*     *     *

Precautions

  1. Calcium chloride has a wide range of uses, from medical applications to keeping our paths clear of snow and ice. If you buy some, be sure it’s of a grade fit for human consumption. Buying it from a cheese making site or home brewery supply house should eliminate any concerns you might have.
  2. As calcium chloride is dissolved in water, a small amount of heat is released. This is of little concern, especially given the small amounts we’ll be using. Burns can result, however, if the dry crystals are ingested. Please, KEEP  CALCIUM  CHLORIDE  CRYSTALS  OUT  OF  CHILDREN’S  REACH  AND  AWAY  FROM  PETS.

*     *     *

Notes

The heavier the weight used to press the curds, the firmer the brick of feta will result and the quicker, too. With the right amount of weight (pressure), you should get a firm brick of feta if left overnight. You can buy cheese presses or find instructions for building your own on the internet. If you’re at all inventive, you can save yourself the money and rig something. I placed a filled bottle onto the curd-filled form and placed it all on my grill. It was tall enough so that when I attempted to close the grill cover, the lid rested atop the bottle and it’s weight supplied all the pressure needed. The next morning I had a firm brick of feta that I cut into the cubes that are pictured above.

Italian ορεκτικά?

Do not panic if you neglect to reserve the whey or do not have enough. You can use distilled water in addition to, or in place of, the whey. Just be sure to use 5½ tbsp of kosher salt for every 20 oz of distilled water. Although I’ve never used distilled water, a number of sources successfully pickle their feta with it. Even so, because of its acidity, I would strongly suggest using as much whey as possible before resorting to distilled water when making the brining solution.

If you have slimy cheese after pickling, there are a few things you can try with your next batch. The Curd Nerd website may be of help.

*     *     *

Coming Attractions

The next and final cheeses in the series will be mozzarella. You may not realize that there is more than one kind of mozzarella. There’s “American Mozzarella,” which you’ll find grated, in bags, and hanging in a display among assorted cheeses at your neighborhood grocery, and then there’s “Italian Mozzarella,” which you’ll find globe-shaped and packaged in liquid, normally whey. American Mozzarella is usually melted when served. (Think pizza.) Italian Mozzarella is served as-is or sliced. (Think Insalata Caprese.) Like feta, making them at home can be a bit of a challenge but, of the two, American Mozzarella is easiest. In fact, kits are sold for just that purpose. As always, we’ll take the easy route first and make American Mozzarella. A few weeks later, we’ll close out the cheese series when we make Italian Mozzarella.

*     *     *

Special Thanks

You may have noticed that 2 plates used above have a certain cosmopolitan flair. The plates, “Barcelona” and “Venice“, are 2 of 6 that I won, along with a very limited edition cookbook  (pictured, right), in a give-away sponsored by the Our Family Food Adventures blog. So, to Kristy, Mike, and my 2 favorite Sous Chefs in the whole, wide world, Miss A and Mr N, thank you very much for these generous prizes. Both cookbook and plates are sure to bring a smile whenever I use them.

*     *     *

Inspired by the Fankhauser Feta Cheese webpage

and

“Home Cheese Making” by Ricki Carrol

*     *     *

No baloney, it’s Mascarpone!

Hard to believe that this is already the 4th cheese of the series. We’re in the home stretch now but there’ll be no sprint to the finish line. No, I’ll continue to go slow so that any who want to jump on this cheesy bandwagon will have plenty of time to do so. If you’re thinking of giving it a go, I’ll repeat what I’ve said in the comments following each cheese post: start with the ricotta cheese recipe. It’s the easiest, there’s less chance for error, and the ricotta is the best you’ve ever tasted. Not only that, but working with ricotta gets you experience with handling curds, a must when making cheese. So, get yourself a couple quarts of whole milk, some white vinegar, and make a batch of ricotta. Once you do, you’ll realize that none of the cheeses I’ve covered thus far are at all difficult to prepare.

Those who have followed this series may notice the similarities between today’s recipe and that of my ricotta. The main difference between the 2 recipes is the amount of milk fat in the dairy products used. In the case of ricotta, warmed whole milk separates into ricotta & whey with the addition of white vinegar. To make mascarpone, combine equal amounts of heavy cream with half-and-half, warm, and use lemon juice to separate the mascarpone from the whey. In both instances, the curds are strained and the resulting cheeses are ready for use in your favorite recipes. Yes, it is that simple and those of you have made the ricotta know exactly what I mean. Best of all, it is far cheaper to make mascarpone at home than it is to purchase it from your grocer. For example, the dairy products I used cost about $4.50 and resulted in 16 oz. of cheese. An 8 oz. container of mascarpone costs about $7.00 at the same store. Needless to say, since coming across this recipe on the Fankenhauser Cheese Page, I’ve not bought a bit of mascarpone from any store.

So, what can you do with all of that homemade mascarpone in your refrigerator? Well, add a little confectioner’s sugar and heavy cream, whip it, and the result may be served with berries in a variety of ways or used as a luscious topping for your favorite dessert. Use mascarpone as the creamy base for a number of delicious pasta dishes, perfect as primi or secondi piatti. Combine it with your favorite cheeses (cheddar, Monterey Jack, Asiago, etc.) and use the mixture to stuff jalapeños to make poppers.  And of course, use it to prepare tiramisu, the quintessential Italian dessert. Given mascarpone’s creamy texture and relatively mild flavor, the only limit to its uses is your own imagination.

*     *     *

Hand-Cut Pappardelle with Spinach, Pecorino Romano, and Mascarpone

*     *     *

Before beginning, please refer to my Cheesy Stuff page. Chock full of cheesy details, it provides information about ingredients, cleaning/sterilizing equipment, spices & seasonings, a few tips, and sources for supplies and information.

*     *     *

Home-Made Mascarpone Cheese Recipe

yield: slightly more than 1 lb. (485g)

Ingredients

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 pint half-and-half
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. Place the cream and half-and-half into a clean, sterile pot with a lid and heat over low to med-low heat until it reaches 185˚. Stir frequently to prevent cream from scorching on the pot’s bottom. A double-boiler works fine, too.
  2. Add lemon juice and stir until thoroughly combined.
  3. Cover and maintain 185˚ temperature for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mixture should show signs of thickening.
  4. Remove from heat and place covered pot into the refrigerator overnight.
  5. The next morning, the mixture should have thickened more and you should see traces of the whey beginning to separate from the curds. .
  6. Cover a large strainer with a clean, sterile handkerchief.
  7. Gently pour the curds into the handkerchief.
  8. Grab the handkerchief’s 4 corners, tie them, and use them to hang like a sack over the sink or a large pot. If your kitchen is exceptionally warm or if it has drained a few hours and still not to your liking, place everything into the fridge to drain.
  9. Drain until the mascarpone is the consistency you prefer. To hurry the process, carefully twist the “sack” to force the whey out of the cheese.
  10. Place cheese into container(s) and refrigerate. The mascarpone will remain fresh for about 1 week but is best when used immediately.

*     *     *

Notes

Unlike some of the other cheeses, you can use ultra-pasteurized dairy products to make mascarpone — but I would avoid them if possible. You’ll get the best tasting cheese if you use raw dairy but it is illegal to sell raw milk in many States, including Illinois. With raw dairy products off of the table, you’re left with pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized products. Although both processes negatively affect the mascarpone’s taste, it’s worse with ultra-pasteurization. So, I only use ultra-pasteurized products when I’ve no choice.

Some sites and cheese recipes call for using tartaric acid instead of lemon juice to separate the curds from the whey when making mascarpone. This additive can be bought online and is available at a couple of the resources I’ve listed on my Cheesy Stuff page. I have never used it and am perfectly happy with the mascarpone that results from using lemon juice.

Coming Attractions

Here is the recipe for the Pappardelle with Spinach, Mascarpone and Pecorino Romano Cheeses dish pictured above. Recipes for the remaining pictured dishes, as well as Aunt Lil’s tiramisu, are forthcoming.

Feta cheese is next in this cheesy series.

*     *     *

Inspired by the Fankhauser Making Mascarpone At Home webpage.

*     *     *

Don’t tell Philadelphia that we’re making Cream Cheese

This is my 3rd, cheese-related post of the series. Unlike its predecessors, unlike almost all of my prior blog entries, there is no side story, no anecdote, to tell. Yes, Mom sometimes served us cream cheese but don’t all Moms do the same? Although it’s true I’ve made this cream cheese for Zia, it’s hard to build a story around her saying, “I like it.” Looking beyond the 2 Bartolini Girls, there just aren’t any cream cheese yarns to report coming from the old two-flat. Moving more to the Present, in all of my sleepless nights, cream cheese never played even the smallest of bit parts. To be honest, I don’t even recall a single instance where I snacked on cream cheese in the wee hours of the morning. Most shockingly — and, for once, disappointingly — Max has never done anything to disrupt or despoil my cream cheese operation nor its end-product. And Lucy doesn’t speak cheese, so, she is of no help whatsoever. As a result, I’ve got nothing. Nada. Butkis. So, then, how did I come to make cream cheese? One day about 2 year ago, while looking at the Fankenhauser Cheese Page, I clicked on the words Cream Cheese. Within days, the Bartolini kitchens were making cream cheese. Hardly the quaint tale of a bygone time that you’ve come to expect, now is it?

So, with no story to tell, I’ll get right to the business at hand. The ingredient list mentions that salt is optional but strongly recommended. I would definitely add salt should you decide to make this cheese. Not only will it prolong the cheese’s shelf-life, but it tastes so much better. Believe me, a salt-free cream cheese is one, extremely bland cheese. Beyond the salt issue, there’s but one thing more worthy of mentioning. While I was away, guest hosting for Jed at sports-glutton.com, I happened upon his post dedicated to the fine art of making NYC-style bagels. Thanks to Jed and that post, the Bartolini kitchens actually baked all the bagels pictured within this post.

By the way, home-made mascarpone is next on the cheesy schedule and, like today, I’ve got nothing.

Before attempting to make this cheese or any within my recipe collection, please refer to my Cheesy Stuff page. Chock full of cheesy details, it provides information about ingredients, cleaning/sterilizing equipment, spices & seasonings, a few tips, and sources for supplies and information.

*     *     *

Home-Made Cream Cheese Recipe

yield: 2 pounds

Ingredients

  • 1 quart whole milk – never ultra-pasteurized
  • 1 quart whipping cream – never ultra-pasteurized
  • 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk – no substitutes
  • 1/2 tablet Rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup distilled water
  • 1 to 2 tsp table salt, more or less to taste – optional but strongly recommended

Directions

  1. Place the milk and cream into a clean, sterile pot with a lid and heat over low to med-low heat until it reaches 70˚ . Stir frequently.
  2. Add buttermilk, mix thoroughly, cover, and set aside for 15 minutes.
  3. Add rennet, stir, set aside for at least 8 hours, or overnight, at a room temperature from 70 to 75˚.
  4. If properly prepared, the mixture should have gelled after waiting the specified time. Sprinkle the salt over the top of the gelled mixture. Briefly use a whisk to gently stir the mixture, creating pea-sized curds.
  5. Cover a large strainer with a clean, sterile handkerchief.
  6. Gently pour the curds into the handkerchief and let drain for 30 minutes.
  7. Grab the handkerchief’s 4 corners, tie them, and use them to hang like a sack over the sink or a large pot. If your kitchen is exceptionally warm, place everything into the fridge to drain.
  8. Drain until the cream cheese is the consistency you prefer. To hurry the process, carefully twist the “sack” to force the whey out of the cheese.
  9. Place cheese into container(s) and refrigerate. The cream cheese will remain fresh for about 1 week, less if unsalted.

*     *     *

Notes

Because of its relatively short shelf-life, I rarely mix other ingredients into my cream cheese unless it will be used up entirely within a day. To do otherwise, I feel, opens the door to contaminating the cheese because of a slightly over-ripe berry or piece of fruit.

I’ve tried cooking with this cream cheese and it “broke,” liquified, both times. I have used it successfully, however, in a variety of refrigerated cheesecakes and spreads.

*     *     *

Adapted from Emeril’s Homemade Creole Cream Cheese

and

     the Fankhauser Making Cream Cheese webpage.

*     *     *

You Milk The Goat, I Make The Cheese

I came to making my own cheeses by a rather indirect path. Almost 4 years ago, on some cooking show, I watched as labneh was made by straining plain yogurt using coffee filters. I tried it, liked the result and then, following their lead, seasoned it with some herbs. I was so pleased with the end-result that I served it that Thanksgiving and it was well-received. Shortly thereafter, on another sleepless night, I was searching the web looking for more things to do with labneh when I stumbled upon one of the many cheese making websites. Soon I was jumping from site to site, surprised to learn how relatively simple cheese is to create depending, of course, upon the type you’re making — and I’ve been making a few select cheeses ever since.

With the right equipment, supplies, and environment, you can make almost any cheese. Living in the city, however, I cannot get many of the dairy products needed to make some cheeses. Neither do I have, nor am I going to build, a temperature-controlled room to age the hard cheeses that require it. So, right off the bat, I’ve eliminated most types of cheese — and that’s just fine. I’m very satisfied making just goat cheese, cream cheese, ricotta, mascarpone, and mozzarella. Besides, no matter how good the home-made parmesan, I don’t use nearly enough to make it worth my while to make some. (The Bartolini kitchens prefer Pecorino Romano, anyway, but try to find lactating sheep in Chicago.)

*     *     *

Goat Cheese Prepared with Herbes des Provence

*     *     *

Recently, when I decided to share my cheese making experiences, I mapped out a game plan starting with the easiest cheese to make. In my opinion, ricotta is that cheese, especially since my recipe is non-traditional, meaning not made from the whey created when mozzarella is made.  (Having made ricotta both ways, I’ll stick with the recipe I posted for reasons of both taste and ease of preparation.) Somewhere along the way I had planned to talk about making butter at home but Celi did such a good job with it that I’ll just send you to her kitchen’s garden for a look-see. So, having already shared the ricotta recipe and with the butter instructions out-of-the-way, that brings us to the next cheese in the schedule: goat cheese.

To make goat cheese, you begin by adding a little rennet to a combination of goat’s milk and cultured buttermilk. That mixture is gently warmed and then set aside to allow the formation of curds. Once formed, the curds are separated from the whey and the resulting goat cheese is ready for use in your favorite recipe, or, once salted and possibly herbed, can be used as a tasty spread. It really is that easy, as you’ll soon see.

Before attempting to make this cheese or any within my recipe collection, please refer to my Cheesy Stuff page. Chock full of cheesy details, it provides information about ingredients, cleaning/sterilizing equipment, spices & seasonings, a few tips, and sources for supplies and information.

*     *     *

Home-Made Goat Cheese Recipe

yield: about 20 oz. of cheese

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon goat’s milk (never ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1 pint (2 cups) cultured buttermilk (no substitutions)
  • 1/2 tablet rennet, dissolved in 1/4 cup distilled water
  • salt (optional, though strongly recommended)
  • herbs (optional)
  • olive oil (optional)

Directions

  1. Place the goat’s milk, buttermilk, and rennet into a large, non-reactive pot. Over med-low heat, slowly raise the mixture’s temperature to 180˚, stirring occasionally to prevent its scorching on the pot’s bottom.
  2. Once it has reached 180˚, remove the mixture from the heat, pour it into a large glass bowl, cover it, and set it aside, undisturbed, for about 12 hours. If the curds have not yet formed, leave it undisturbed until they do. It could take as long as another 12 hours (although it has never taken that long for me).
  3. Take some sterilized cheesecloth or a handkerchief and use it to cover the inside of a strainer. Slowly pour the mixture into the cloth-lined strainer. Once most, if not all the liquid (whey) has passed through the strainer, gather the corners of the cloth and tie them together, forming a sack, of sorts, with the curds inside. Hang this sack over a bowl and refrigerate at least overnight.
  4. Remove the goat cheese from the cloth and season with salt, to taste, and whatever herbs and olive oil you prefer.

*     *     *

Goat Cheese Stuffed Shells

*     *     *

Variations

You can do many things with goat cheese and much depends upon how well it is drained. If you intend to use it as a spread, do not drain it fully and leave it a little on the moist side or, if you like, add a little olive oil. Season it with your favorite herbs and spices and you’ll have a delicious spread for crostini and crudités, or you may crumble it and use it in salads. Drain it more thoroughly and although you can still season it and use it as was already mentioned, you’ll find that you can, also, use it as you would ricotta in lasagna, cheesecake, or stuffed shells, or on top of pizza or bruschette.

Notes

There are any number of places where you can purchase molds used to press various cheeses into recognizable shapes. If I were to make more kinds of cheese, I would probably buy a few of them. Since I really don’t make enough cheese to warrant purchasing molds, I made do. Using a large can that had been used for pineapple rings, I removed the can’s top & bottom, saving one of the lids, and filled it with goat cheese. I placed a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet and covered it with a piece of waxed paper in which I’d punctured some holes in an area a little larger than the size of the can. I placed the cheese-filled can over the holes, replaced the lid, and placed a heavy can on top of the lid, thus applying pressure to force more whey out of the cheese. Everything was refrigerated overnight and the cheese was used later that day to make the stuffed shells pictured above.

*     *     *

Coming Soon

In the weeks ahead, look for my posts detailing the making of cream cheese, mascarpone, and mozzarella. Speaking of mozzarella, please let me know if you are aware of a nearby water buffalo herd.

*     *     *

Inspired by Fankhauser’s How to Make Farmer’s Cheese web page.

*     *     *

Here’s Flat Ruthie Now …

Flat Ruthie visited Chicago and stayed long enough to take part in my 2 day birthday celebration. Click on Day One to join us as we get the party started and to learn the story behind the picture below. The celebration continues on Day Two with a mini-tour of Chi-town and concludes that evening with my birthday dinner.

*     *     *

Home-Made Ricotta Cheese

One night in the Fall of 2009, I was having trouble sleeping so I did what I always do: I surfed the web. Eventually, I came across a cheese-making site, then another, and another. At the time, I had no idea that so many varieties of cheese could be made at home. While some – gorgonzola, cheddar, parmesan, etc. — are a bit too involved for me to attempt, I have made mozzarella, cream cheese, ricotta, mascarpone, and goat cheese, not to mention butter and herbed yogurt cheese. Although I’ve no intention of blogging about my cheesy exploits, earlier today I followed a recipe from a cooking show that produced a great batch of ricotta. Because of its simplicity and delicious results, I thought I’d devote today’s entry to the making of ricotta. For those interested in making cheese at home, I’ve listed below a few websites that I’ve used as sources for both information and supplies.

Yum!

Recently, I watched a program hosted by Boston’s Brass Sisters. They planned to make their special lasagna for the firemen of a nearby firehouse and needed to buy ricotta. They went to Capone Foods, where the owner, Albert Capone, not only sold them what they needed, he shared his recipe for making ricotta. I made some earlier today and it ranks among the best ricotta that I’ve ever tasted and is certainly the easiest to make.  Looks to me like it will be stuffed shells for dinner tomorrow night.

Before attempting to make this cheese or any within my recipe collection, please refer to my Cheesy Stuff page. Chock full of cheesy details, it provides information about ingredients, cleaning/sterilizing equipment, spices & seasonings, a few tips, and sources for supplies and information.

*     *     *

Albert Capone’s Homemade Ricotta Recipe

total time: 30 minutes to prepare, at least 2 hours to drain.

yield: about 2 lbs. – recipe may be halved easily

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp table salt
  • 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar

Directions

  1. Combine milk, cream, and salt in a large non-reactive pot over medium heat.
  2. Stir often to prevent scorching as you bring the temperature up to 185*.
  3. Add the vinegar, stir for 15 seconds, and heat for two more minutes before removing from heat.
  4. 15 – 20 minutes later, use a small sieve or slotted spoon to remove the floating curds and place them in a cheesecloth-lined colander to drain.  Place colander over a bowl in refrigerator and drain for at least a couple of hours or overnight.  The longer you allow it to drain, the more firm the results.
  5. Remove the ricotta from the cheesecloth, place in airtight containers, and refrigerate. Ricotta will last up to 2 weeks.

Note: Always be careful if you add fresh herbs to your newly made cheese. Although fine if served relatively soon, the fresh herbs may be a source of contamination and cause your cheese to spoil prematurely. Of course, if the freshly herbed cheese is then cooked, the “threat” is reduced.

*     *     *

Cheesy Stuff

*     *     *