Homemade ricotta? Really?
That smooth, beautiful layer of yum in lasagna?
Yes, dear students, it’s possible. And it’s as easy as kindergarten. The Damsel suspects you have everything you need, at this moment, in your kitchen. You could be five minutes away from ravishing ricotta. (Technically, this is called paneer. Ricotta is properly made from whey instead of milk. But it tastes the same to the Damsel.)
At the Old School, the Damsel likes to teach things they used to know by heart in the olden days, and put a new twist on them when she can. Hence the name “New Old School.” So today, she’ll teach you how to make ricotta cheese, an old skill indeed…but with a microwave.
First, set a colander over a dish. It needn’t be big. Line it with two layers of cheesecloth or paper towel.
Measure 2 cups of milk (the higher the fat content, the higher your yield) into a glass bowl or other microwavable vessel.
Add two tablespoons of plain white vinegar, or, in other words, one tablespoon per cup of milk. (This is the same thing you do when you need to “make” buttermilk in an emergency.) Add some salt if you like…the Damsel added 1/4 tsp.
Microwave this for 2-4 minutes, or until you see it start to bubble around the edges.
Stir gently. The milk should separate into solids vs. translucent liquid. Microwave another 30 seconds if needed and check again. The Damsel thought something was busted, because there was only a small amount of solids. But this is normal–the reason for the small yield was she used 1% milk.
Scoop the solids into the colander and let it drain until it reaches the desired consistency. Only a few minutes is usually necessary.
The resulting cheese is soft and sort of like cream cheese, but less firm. You’ll end up with anywhere between 2 tablespoons and 1/2 cup of cheese.
The Damsel loved its fresh taste. There was no hope of lasagna, so she spread it on a bit of crusty bread and thought it was delicioso. You can add herbs, which would be quite lovely. Or go sweet, with honey and fruit.
The Damsel remembers crying to Grandma one day as a newlywed, because a precious gallon of milk had gone sour. Grandma heated it on the stove until it separated, just like this. She may or may not have added more sourness with extra vinegar–the memory isn’t too clear. She drained it well, till the curds were a bit firm. To this she added salt and a bit of cream, and called it cottage cheese. Whether or not it should be called cottage cheese, or ricotta, or paneer, it’s a brilliant idea…a way to use up and not waste.
Speaking of that, the leftover liquid could be used for a baking project that calls for water or milk, adding nutrition.
Thanks, Kenji, for the microwave method.