As part of my Christmas present last year, Jack so graciously gave to me (and him!), cheese making classes with none other than the Cheese Queen herself, Ricki Carroll. The gift involved a 6 hour class at Ricki's beautiful and eclectic home in Western Mass. We started with making a farmer's cheese, which we unfortunately did not get to taste. However, throughout the day, we sampled various types of yogurt, two types of ricotta cheese, queso blanco, and her beloved 30 minute mozzarella.
If you have never made cheese, the task itself can seem quite daunting, however, after watching Ricki work her magic, the craft of cheese making seems much easier than originally thought. After leaving class, and picking up numerous supplies, Jack and I set out to find "good" milk. Good milk is defined as milk that has been pasteurized at a temperature that is less than 180 degrees F. Believe it or not, finding milk that has been pasteurized at less than 180 degrees is extremely difficult, even at Whole Foods. We tested out a few brands, and decided that either Sky Top Farms or High Lawn Farms milk are the best available at our grocery stores. It should be noted that there are a few local dairies near Boston that will deliver to your door that more than likely have good milk, however I have yet to try them out.
I have to admit that Jack was the first of us to try to make cheese. He successfully made both mozzarella and queso blanco cheese, and they both tasted terrific! I finally took decided to try to make ricotta cheese, as it was both simple to make and easy to use in so many recipes.
The method for making ricotta cheese is fairly simple. Bring a mixture of milk and citric acid to a temperature of 190 degrees, make sure the milk starts to separate from the whey, and turn off the stove and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes. After the resting period, drain the mixture into a cheesecloth lined strainer. Gather the cheesecloth and tie into a knot and let hang to drip for at least 30 minutes, and up to overnight. See, it's simple!
I used the ricotta cheese in a Zucchini and Ricotta cheese galette. I have to admit, it certainly took a plain old galette to the next level. The homemade cheese really makes a difference in the taste of all of the foods that it is used in.
Here is the link to Ricki's website, which also includes the recipe for Ricotta cheese, amongst many others.