WHOLE MILK RICOTTA
KIDDOCJJ HINTS, HACKS & TIPS:
1. If you don't have citric acid powder, you can use lemon juice or distilled white vinegar to coagulate the milk. Use regular thick skinned lemons, not thin-skinned Meyers. Why? the pH (acid content) of thicker skinned lemons is lower. For each gallon of milk, you'll need 2/3 cup strained lemon juice or 2/3 cup white vinegar.
2. I've made this cheese with lemon juice, and right before putting into a mold, I fold in a tsp or 2 of grated lemon zest.
3. Wetter cheese is useful in lasagne and pizza. Drier Ricotta is great for schmearing on toast, for cannoli, and other Italian desserts.
4. Use whole or 2% milk (you'll have less yield of cheese, due to less fat). Skim/Non-Fat simply won't work - not enough fat to make curds. Remember to avoid homogenized milk, and also UHT Milk (pasteurized at ultra high temperatures for longer shelf stability).
5. An molded ricotta can act as a beautiful centerpiece for a charcuterie platter - drizzle with olive oil and herbs, surround it with sun dried tomatoes, nuts and other goodies, and prepare for praise. Alternately before molding, you can mix in some chopped herbs along with some finely chopped scallions or shallots. For a sweet version, mix in chopped dried fruit, some cinnamon, a little honey, and your ricotta will be the star of breakfast or brunch.
6. What to do with the leftover whey? You can freeze it for later, or use, instead of water, in any baked good, soup, or even a smoothie. It is protein rich, and so it can enrich anything you cook or blend.
7. Cheesecloth is very loosely woven material, and when used to drain a fine curd cheese, may let a lot of the smaller curds slip through. So use a triple layer if straining. Alternately, butter muslin is tightly woven, so a layer or two easily holds in the curds. It's typically labelled "ultra-fine", "grade 90", or "tightly woven." All can be washed and re-used: rinse out any curds under cold running water, then submerge in a bowl of hot soapy water and wash by hand. Rinse thoroughly and hang to air dry. Store in a zip lock bag that indicates that it is for cheesemaking.
8. My nut milk bag is my favorite for draining curds - it's so easy to use, washes like a dream, and is inexpensive, given the multiple uses it has (you can even use it in the washer to hold delicates).