Oh yes I did! Cheese making is actually waaaaaaaay easier than I ever imagined. I always kind of pictured it like butter making at the old pioneer fairs we had in grade school. Place cream into a jar, shake for an eternity, viola! Cheese! This is not the case. In fact, this cheese practically made itself. Now, I’m sure there more complex types of cheese that take more effort, but I learned that making ricotta is easy as pie! (Easier)
I kind of like the idea of knowing how to make simple basics like cheese. For my birthday this year, I got the book DIY Delicious by Vanessa Barrington which teaches you how to make everything from pickles, to salad dressing, to yogurt, to kombucha (!) Being a cheese fanatic, I was immediately drawn to this recipe. (Don’t worry, kombucha is also in the works) It literally could not have been easier. I dressed up my finished product with some olive oil, chopped herbs, and crushed red pepper. It was fantastic on crackers and sandwiches. I hope when I get home to make some more to use in pasta and quesadilla dishes. The possibilities are endless!
Fresh Whole Milk Cheese recipe from Vanessa Barrington
You can create your own particular style of fresh cheese by adjusting the time you drain the cheese and the thickness of your cheesecloth. The longer you drain, the drier it will be. When moist, this cheese is good for spreading and using as a dessert filling. Drain it longer and it’s perfect for pizza and pasta.
Makes about 1 1/4 pounds, depending on how much whey you drain out
- 1 gallon whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized as you may have trouble curdling it)
- 1/3 cup white or apple cider vinegar or 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Non-iodized salt, such as kosher or cheese salt
Pour the milk into a large nonreactive pot (stainless, ceramic, or enameled). Over medium-low heat, slowly bring the milk temperature up to 185 degrees F, stirring occasionally. Take your time, so you don’t scorch the milk. Stir occasionally and watch closely. This can take 45 minutes or longer.
While you wait, ready 2, 4, or 6 layers of cheesecloth, folded into a square of about 18 inches on each side. Place the cheesecloth in a strainer (the number of layers depends on how dry you want your cheese). Fewer layers will make the cheese drain more quickly and yield a drier, crumblier cheese.
If you don’t have an accurate thermometer, you can still make ricotta. The milk should be just short of boiling. Signs that the milk is almost ready include tiny bubbles on the sides of the pan and a shimmering, vibrating surface not yet broken by bubbles.
When the milk reaches the proper temperature, turn off the heat, pour in the lemon juice or vinegar and stir to distribute. Stop stirring and let the milk sit undisturbed for 5 to 8 minutes. You will see curds begin to form and separate from the whey.
Using a slotted spoon or small, hand-held strainer, spoon the curds out into the cheesecloth-lined strainer. It will look a little like wet biscuit dough. Work the cheese a little with a spoon to release some of the liquid.
Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together so you have a bundle of cheese and hang it from a wooden spoon set over a big pot until it reaches the desired consistency (5 to 10 minutes). Reserve the whey (see Note), transfer the cheese to a medium bowl, and add salt to taste, if desired. If using for desserts, you’ll want to add little or no salt. Will keep, refrigerated, 4 to 5 days.