I have a whole compartment in my fridge dedicated to dairy - if you have a child, you might understand. Most kids love cheese and creamy cheese is my way of hiding all the good vegetables in Grace's meals.
Some people argue we don't need to eat dairy as we can get the same nutrients from other more sustainable sources. My answer to that is 'moderation' and 'quality'. You should know by now that quality matters for me over anything; unfortunately, most times, quality equals to more money. A container of ricotta cheese (fresh creamy cheese) could cost you up to $10 and it's not guaranteed organic. Also, I'm going to tell you something that could make you think twice before spending so much money on ricotta specifically... The word 'ricotta' means in Italian 'cooked again'. As matter of fact, it is cheese made of the leftovers of other cheeses; when cheese is made only the fat part of the milk will go into the finished product, while the watery bit is boiled and an amount of acid is added (generally vinegar or lemon) to coagulate the little bit of fat left in the water.
If you and your family are cheese lovers, but also don't want to compromise quality and your bank account, this is the post for you! For a fraction of the price and with very little time, you'll make the tastiest fresh cheese you can spread on bread, add on vegetables, frittatas or just eat with fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey. You only need two ingredients: milk and the acidic source and you're set! The ricotta I make is a lot more nutrient dense than what you might find at the supermarket as it's made it directly from unaltered milk. For this reason, you could find it a little harder ricotta than what you're used to, but don't worry as you can control the degree of creaminess you prefer.
Just a few notes:
Always use fresh whole milk: you'll get more cheese out of it compared to the lower fat options.
if you can get hold of raw milk, use that. It's even more delicious and it's more compact.
Because it's so natural and there's no preservative, it won't last for more than 3 days in the fridge, so I suggest making little batches.
Ingredients and equipment:
Half a gallon of high quality whole milk
Apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
A medium size colander or a fresh cheese mold
A cheese cloth or a clean cotton handkerchief
A deep pan
Pour the milk into the pan on the stove and heat it up to almost boiling temperature: turn off just before the milk foam rises.
Add a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice into the pan. Slowly stir and wait few seconds: you should see that the milk curdles. Add the acidic source little by little until the liquid matter has turned almost into dirty water (the color is like a very light green). For my batch in the photos I used 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Don't over stir as you want to keep the curdles as more intact as possible.
Position the sieve/cheese mold covered by the cheese cloth in a clean kitchen sink or suspended on top of a bigger empty bowl. With the help of a ladle, spoon the curdles and the liquid into the sieve. The cloth and the sieve will retain the hard matter and filter off the rest. With the back of a spoon gently press onto the curdles to speed up the process. If you like your cheese to be a bit salty or aromatic, add salts and herbs while you're layering the curdled milk into the sieve. Leave it for a couple of hours until the ricotta is hard enough to be taken out of the mold. You can leave it for less than two hours if you prefer a creamier consistency, but it might not keep the original shape for long.
Voila'..your ricotta is ready to eat and can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.