I think it’s pretty much impossible to screw up making ricotta cheese. This is because, if you screw up making other cheeses, you end up with ricotta cheese! Rather than having ricotta be the end result of some failed cheese attempt, I decided that this time around I’d make the end goal be ricotta, for guaranteed satisfaction.
So, to make most cheeses, you generally need some sort of special ingredient (usually rennet, or a starter culture of some sort). Not so with ricotta! All you need are these four ingredients that are most likely chillaxing in your kitchen as you read these very words.
-1 gallon o’ milk (whole milk, ideally)
-1/4 cup vinegar (regular or apple cider)
-3 tbsp melted butter
-1/2 tsp baking soda
So you pour your milk in a pot and heat it to 195 degrees F.
By the way, if you start with cold milk and heat as slowly as I did, this might take awhile. You’re not supposed to boil the milk, so I was super paranoid about heating it at too high of a temperature. It eventually made it up that high, at which point you add in your vinegar slowly, stirring as you do it.
In theory, your milk should be separating by now. If it still looks a bit too much like milk, try heating the milk up to 205 F. It should look something like this:
Once your milk is no longer milk, but resembles squishy chunks of goo floating in yellowish water, you’re good to drain! Take a colander and line it with muslin – you can totally use netting of the sort that you can buy in fabric stores to make tutus. Or I bet pantyhose would totally work as well. Actually, if you were really desperate you might just be able to use your colander naked (rawr!) though you could potentially lose some cheesy goodness this way.
Stick the colander in a container (assuming you want to catch the whey), and, using a slotted spoon or similar orifice-lined utensil, scoop the curds on in. Let drain for a minute. I sorta roll the curds around for a bit as it drains, just to help get a bit more of the liquid out.
Dump the curd mound back into a bowl. Mix in the butter and baking soda. If you’re feeling saucy (err, salty?) you can also mix in a bit of salt for flavor. Aand, voila! Cheese. Refrigerate it, and use within a week or so. Or, stick a spoon in and eat straight until gone, and be constipated for a week or so. The discomfort is worth it, I promise!
By the whey (see what I did there?), if you saved your whey, you can totally use it for…things! Actually, every time I’ve made cheese, I’ve ended up having to throw out whey. I’ve made bread with it (yum!), boiled rice in it (kinda worked?), still need to try making pasta with it, but there’s always some left over. Rumor has it that dogs and cats dig it. I’d try to water my plants with it but they might hate me. Alas!