Troubleshooting Homemade Ricotta
The other day I was making the ultimate lasagna bolognese. Bolognese simmered for 6 hours, homemade pasta, besciamella etc. The only thing I didn't make by hand was the mozzarella. I also made my own fresh ricotta based on this:
First of all, you need a ton of milk to get not much ricotta. I was microwaving about 3 cups of milk at a time until it got to the 165-185 degree range with my instant read thermometer (My Thermapen changed my life). At that point you are supposed to stir a bit. It never became real curds enough so I could scoop out with a slotted spoon to put in the paper towel lined strainer. I did the best I could but I'm sure I lost a lot of the curd when trying to strain it.
Second round I did the exact same way but larger clumps came together (sort of like cottage cheese) so scooping them out was a lot easier and I got a lot more final product.
Third round turned out exactly like the first. Any idea what could be going wrong? After 9 cups or so milk I ended up with about 1.5 cups of ricotta. It was a fun experiment but unless I can get a better outcome, I'll be buying ricotta from here on out.
Sidenote: Homemade Ricotta was delicious, esp with some sea salt. Husband thought I was quite strange. I think he said "You're making cheese.... at home??". I'm always up for a new challenge. Any thoughts appreciated.
Making cheese and butter at home isn't always 'cost effective' for just that reason...you need a goodish amount of milk for a smallish amount of cheese. That being said, I usually have plenty of milk, and I don't always keep things like ricotta in the house, so I find it is easier to make it rather than go out to the store to buy it at the last minute. I, too, had some times when I got a big old pan full of curds, and some times when I had just a few small curds. I found a blog that suggested that all milk is not created equal, and so the amount of acid you should add is not necessarily the same for every batch. The blog told me to keep adding small increments of acid until the whey was REALLY yellow and translucent, and this seems to work for me. I keep tasting to make sure I'm not ending up with something that tastes too vinegary, but that hasn't happened yet, and I have more than doubled the acid in some batches. I don't use a microwave, I prefer to be staring into the pot as my milk heats up, so I can keep messing with it. And I do think the homemade ricotta tastes wonderful. (I just tried mascarpone...you wouldn't believe how easy it is to make...I could kick myself for every eight dollar tub of it I've bought over the years. I'm making it with a two dollar container of Aldi heavy cream, and it works beautifully).
Glad it tasted good! The yield of this kind of cheese is disappointing, but not as much as a dish made with a gelatin and stabilizer filled ricotta!
What type of acid did you use? The acidity of lemon juice will vary depending on the lemon so that might have affected your yield.
Use cheesecloth in a colander next time-- the whey will pour right through. Keep the whey for another use (e.g., with butter and salt, it'll make a great simple sauce for any unused strips of pasta leftover).