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Oct 26, 2009 06:36 AM

Help with homemade Ricotta

I made homemade ricotta for the first time yesterday. It was quite easy but I think I may have taken out too much whey as it was very dense and not creamy- more like the consistancy of feta. Does anyone have tips on what to do next time?
Here is a picture of it hanging/draining.

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  1. You can add back liquid (milk or cream) by the spoonful until you have the consistency you like. Just add and stir with a fork.

    24 Replies
    1. re: mnosyne

      So adding milk/cream is better than just leaving some whey in there? Also, do you add salt?

      1. re: cassoulady

        Really good ricotta always has cream added back in at the end. [Dirty little secret.] I do add some salt since I find that the taste of the cheese is too flat without it. The amount of salt is dependent on the use of the cheese. For a savory dish, a little more than for sweet. And of course, I would never use table salt; instead opting for a higher quality, finely-ground salt.

        Did your cheese taste good?

        1. re: smtucker

          It was good but not what I expected, probably because I didnt add milk/cream. I have some left, so I will do that. It also really needed salt. It was so easy though. Do you make ricotta often?

          1. re: cassoulady

            I wish. I really can't eat too much cheese or I would need a new wardrobe, but when I need ricotta, I always make it at home. I don't generally add the cream [note wardrobe above] since the denser texture doesn't usually bother me. Example would be, making a pasta dish with ricotta and a tomato sauce. No reason to add cream to the cheese since the tomato sauce brings a little more moisture to the dish. But, a cannoli .... no question that I will add a little cream to get a smooth texture with a great mouth feel.

            1. re: smtucker

              good tips, thanks. I dont eat a lot of ricotta, but will be making it at home going forward. It was one of those, a-ha moments, I couldnt believe that it was that easy.

              1. re: smtucker

                How do you make ricotta, and is it worth the cost verse purchasing at the store??? I am very in make some myself, can you give us the method also with tips and tricks, special tools???

                Thank you

                1. re: heylids

                  Here's how I do mine. Heat in heavy bottomed pan to 180 degrees then add lemon juice by the tablespoonfuls until it curdles. Drain the whey off, feed it to the dogs, or make bread with it. Add salt, and apparently some cream! But I didn't feel like mine needed it, but it sure would be good. Drain in a fine mesh seive, or a colander with dishtowel.

                  I think it's cheaper and better making from scratch and it's not hard!

                  1. re: scuzzo

                    thank you scuzzo, I am wondering how much milk and is it whole milk, can you make it with 2%. more or less how many tbsp of lemon. can you add salt once it is curdled or after you strain it all. How long does the whey last in the refrig. and why made you have a gread bread recipe...

                    thanks again

                    1. re: heylids

                      I think any sort of milk works fine. I used 2%. The whey keeps pretty long in the fridge. You can use it in place of the water or milk in any recipe.

                      I use about 5tbs of lemon juice per half gallon, I think, but it varied depending on if I used fresh or bottled lemon juice. Just keep adding until you get good separation of curd and whey.

                      1. re: scuzzo

                        Scuzzo, can you be more specific on what types of recipes the whey is good in? I tossed mine, not realizing I could use it for anything.

                        1. re: cassoulady

                          It's been ages since I used a bread recipe! I just swap out whey for all the liquid. I've made a cheese bread and an herb bread using whey. I've only done it a couple times, as I've just recently begun making ricotta. It's also very good for the dogs.

                          1. re: cassoulady

                            I wonder if you could cook rice in it for rice pudding? For extra milky flavour - or does the whey have much of a milky taste, Scuzzo? Maybe all the milk flavour is in the ricotta? Or would it lemony?

                            1. re: cinnamon girl

                              It's more tangy, like a plain yogurt sort of flavor. It would be fun to try! Let me know!

                              1. re: scuzzo

                                mmm - thanks Scuzzo. It would be good in quick breads too then.

                                Did you find it necessary to line your sieve with cheesecloth or anything?

                                1. re: cinnamon girl

                                  No need to line a fine meshed sieve. I'd love to hear how the whey works in quick breads!

                                  1. re: scuzzo

                                    Thanks Scuzzo and Uvahustla below . . . I just tried making it (following Uva's specifics), and it didn't separate into curds. I've got a milky pot of stuff with whey sitting on top but no distinct curds. I've used all my lemons: 2 1/2 for 1 litre/quart of 2%. What's there would just go right through a sieve.

                                    I'm wondering if adding the salt before the lemon was a mistake. I wanted to make sure it dissolved but it might have interfered with the curds solidifying. I'll try again next week, adding the salt later, and report back.

                                    1. re: cinnamon girl


                                      After letting it sit even longer I appear to have ricotta after all! It's now draining in its sieve. I left my failure post in case anyone else has the same experience. Still next time I'll hold off on adding the salt till later.

                                      I don't have a heckuva lot but I think it's normal. More than half of it would be whey if you used 2% wouldn't it?

                                      1. re: cinnamon girl

                                        You can reheat what is left and go for another "pull". I've done it. I've also used vinegar...and it works fine too. I think the acid to milk ratio just varies. I keep adding until I get a good separation.

                                        1. re: scuzzo

                                          Thanks AGAIN Scuzzo! Vinegar did occur to me but not reheating. It turned out to be delicious and quite lemony so I just turned it into spinachy spread to have with nice bread. Sorry for the delay in responding; I was around this weekend.

                      2. re: scuzzo

                        Dumb question from me.
                        Are you using a candy thermometer for the temperature. I really want to try this too!
                        Since its so fresh about how long does it last refrigerated?

                        1. re: scuzzo

                          Whole milk
                          5 T of fresh lemon juice ( do you prefer fresh lemon juice?)
                          heat to 180 degrees
                          then once it begins to curdle, strain or drain the whey off - is this where you get the mesh out and then add the salt and milk after?
                          add salt (sea salt or kosher - ok?)
                          add some cream back into the ricotta - just making sure the steps are in the right sequence...

                          Do you have favorite way to use the fresh ricotta?
                          Goodness this sounds so good! I've been wanting to make this for the longest time.
                          I really am hoping that this is next weeks project.

                          1. re: chef chicklet

                            I essentially did this. Except I used fresh lemon juice and it was not strong enough to curdle, so I had to add more. And I hadn't heard about adding cream, which I will try next time! But I did add olive oi and herbs to one batch.

                            I did use a candy thermometer the first time, but in future batches, I just eyeballed it until it looked just ready to simmer. Both times it worked fine.

                            1. re: scuzzo

                              Thanks, I just remembered that I broke the candy thermometer last winter making candy. I'm okay using eyeball method. Thanks!!

            2. I added some olive oil to one batch of ricotta I made, per some recipe from Emeril, I think. It was a good addition, but not for every use of ricotta. I also added chopped herbs and molded little rounds. They were fun to have on hand, and would make a nice gift.

              1. You can also make ricotta from goat's milk! It was good too, but not like fresh goat cheese, as it seemed to lack the tang.

                1. I used one gallon of milk and it yielded about a lb of ricotta.

                  1. Looks like you got some solid advice here. After reading through several recipes for homemade ricotta I see find there are several methods to separate curds from whey. Many acidic liquids to choose from. Lemon juice, white vinegar and buttermilk are some of the most common acids

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: scubadoo97

                      A very good general rule of thumb is the juice of 5 normal lemons per gallon of milk. Whole milk will give you the richest flavor. Some key quality factors I have found.

                      1. The slower you heat the milk up the better......I got the best result in a crockpot.
                      2. Never let the mixture boil or get past 185F. The curd becomes too tough.
                      3. Stir as you're adding the lemon juice, turn off the heat and let it set for 15 minutes
                      4. LADLE the curds with a big spoon into the colander gently rather than pouring.
                      * If you pour all the delicious butter fat gets leaked out into the whey.
                      5. Hang it. The longer u hang it the firmer it will be. Then season it how u like adding cream if u want.

                      ** If you're curd was too tough it was either heated too quickly, not drained gently, or there was too much lemon juice/acid added.

                      1. re: uvahustla

                        The Crock Pot is a great idea! And the rest is great advice. I'm by no means an expert yet, but it's been fun so far.

                        1. re: uvahustla

                          Thanks for the pointers. I'm planning on trying this in a day or two. Many recipes including one referenced to Mario Batali's called for boiling the milk.

                          1. re: scubadoo97

                            I've also seen references to boiling. I've stopped just short of a boil though.

                          2. re: uvahustla

                            I agree... partially.

                            Yes to whole milk (I've heard whole milk + some cream is good too). Yes, to not boiling, although the heat is less important to the pre-curdled milk than it is to the curds. Heat toughens curds. As does excess acid. You can note how much acid a recipe recommends, but it's important to remember that it's just a ballpark. The goal is to use JUST enough acid. If 4 lemons curdles your milk, don't use 5. If 5 isn't producing a result, go with 6. When adding acid, never add it all at once. Add a little, stir and wait. Add a little more, stir and wait. Once the curds are formed, get them out of the whey as quickly as possible. Every second curds sit in the hot whey the tougher they become. I don't do it myself, but some chefs swear by adding ice to the curd/whey mixture or rinsing the fresh curds with cold water. No matter which way you go with, heat is bad for curds.

                            Cassoulady, ricotta, if done right, shouldn't need cream to be creamy. Lack of creaminess is just tough curds from too much acid or too much heat.

                            As far as a crockpot producing great results. It has nothing to do with the rate of heating. It's the fact that you're putting the milk in a bacteria friendly zone for an extended period of time. You're basically accelerating spoilage. Staler milk curdles at lower temperatures and with less acid. You can achieve pretty much the same results by leaving the milk on the counter for a few hours. This being said, I'm not 100% certain that purposely spoiling milk by heating it very slowly is the best idea. The food safety nerd in me is saying 'whoah.' Or at least whispering it. Another part of me is saying 'hey, if it makes better cheese, go for it.' :)