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Homemade Ricotta Failure

Help.

I just attempted my first batch of homemade ricotta cheese. I basically used Ina Garten's recipe with a couple of variations:

3 C whole milk
1/2 C heavy cream
1/8 t salt
3 T lemon juice
I put everything together in a plastic measuring cup for 4 minutes in the microwave until it was bubbling a bit at the edges. I didn't measure the temperature. I did stir it briefly.

Then I poured it into a strainer lined with 4 layers of cheesecloth. The milk liquid went right through and the few curds that were there got caught in the strainer. There wasn't much.

I put the milk through the strainer a second and a third time in the hopes that it would work, but ... nothing.

What did I do wrong? I'm throwing this batch away, but I will try it again. What was missing?

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  1. Well, I don't know Ina's recipe.

    I use 3C whole milk, 1C heavy cream and 1/2 tsp sea salt brought up to bubbling/almost boil on the stove (that is 190º) while stirring constantly.

    Take off the stove and THEN add the lemon juice, (stir once or twice), which will cause the hot mix to curdle. Then let stand for 5 minutes undisturbed and THEN strain.

    This way has always worked.

    1. So the recipe calls for fresh lemon juice and a microwave?
      Also, did you let the mixture sit a few minutes?

      I would have boiled the milk first before adding the vinegar.

      The thing about fresh lemon juice is the acidity could be unpredictable depending upon the lemon. Bottled lemon juice would be okay.

      I would not throw out the current batch. I would heat to a boil in a pan, add vinegar or more lemon and let rest a few before straining.

      1. I wouldn't use the microwave. When I made ricotta on the stovetop, I find it important to gage the whey and carefully extract the curds when the whey becomes clear. I ladle the curds into cheesecloth and drain slowly by hanging it over a bowl.

        1. you don't need to throw it away. you just didn't do enough damage to the milk to break it. I think this easier to control on the stove top, btw. Try more heat next time and some white vinegar, the acidity in lemons is just not consistent.

          1. I think another problem with the microwave is not knowing what the temperature is. When I make ricotta, I shoot for below boiling, around 190-205, depending.
            Again, try this stovetop with a thermometer.
            Best of luck!

            2 Replies
            1. re: monavano

              I use the microwave for this all the time - the first time I did it, I used a thermometer until the milk reached the right range of temperature (putting it back in for 30 more seconds if too cool), and now I know how long it takes in my microwave on high. It's so fast and has so much less clean up (I hate hate hate heating milk on the stove top). I use white vinegar generally, though I have used lemon too.

              This is the recipe I follow:
              http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

              And this is the long discussion of the technique:
              http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/02/ho...

              1. re: kazhound

                Thanks for the links!

            2. Thank you to everyone. I tried it again - this time on the stove so I could measure temperature and with vinegar - and came out with a gorgeous white cloud of ricotta. To try it I put a little on lightly toasted bruchetta - some with black Hawaiian salt, some with olive oil, s&p, some with honey and some with reduced balsamic. Heaven.

              3 Replies
              1. re: chicgail

                Congrats!

                Where you able to salvage the first batch or did you start a fresh batch?

                1. re: dave_c

                  Fresh batch. I had already tossed the first one before I saw your responses.

                2. re: chicgail

                  Yay! I like Ina, but she's got some duds in her repertoire ;-(

                3. Isn't ricotta made from whey? It sounds like you made something like paneer.

                  It's pretty easy to make but I would not use the method Ina does. Here's a better way:

                  Put the milk (cream optional) in a pan on the stove and bring to a boil, turn heat to low then add lemon juice. Stir gently until milk curdles and whey is cloudy (it looks sort of greenish). Strain and rinse to get rid of lemon-y taste. Do not keep it on the heat longer than necessary as this can make the curds tough. By the way an even better way is to use slightly soured yoghurt (leave it out for a day) to curdle the milk. This increases the yield of paneer, makes it tastier and also leaves no lemon-y taste.