This recipe/technique comes from Mollie Katzen's "Sunlight Cafe," and excellent book full of both unique and tried-and-true breakfast/brunch recipes. The recipe is very simple and an excellent way to use up an abundance of milk. It is a bit on the time-consuming side, but it is mostly all "passive" time, waiting for the milk to reach desired temperature, waiting for curds to separate, waiting for whey to drain off, etc. .
The final product was far different from other fresh cheese I have made (which tends to be more on the rubbery side), I think in part from the addition of yogurt. I also think using whole milk is important, both to the flavor and the texture. The end result is creamy and delicious, unlike any storebought ricotta I've ever tasted. There is a very subtle lemon taste to it from the lemon juice used to curdle the milk, but it is oh-so-slight and was not, in my opinion, undesireable. And, you can adjust the salt (and really any other seasoning you might want) to your tasteIt lasted in the fridge for several days (4 or 5?) without any problem.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese (Mollie Katzen):
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
Pour milk and yogurt into a non-reactive pot and whisk until combined. Heat over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edges of the mixture, but do not boil. Remove pan from heat and pour in lemon juice without mixing. Let stand one hour to curdle.
Layer 4 layers of cheesecloth over a fine-mesh strainer (minimum 2-cup capacity) or colander over a large bowl (at least 2 quart capacity), allowing edges of cheesecloth to drape over the sides. Slowly pour the curdled milk mixture onto the cloth, allowing the whey to drain into the bowl and the solids (curds) to stay in the cloth. Katzen recommends NOT pressing or squeezing or hurrying the draining process along at all, which helps keep the texture of the cheese fluffier, and reduces the amount of solids that will make their way through the cloth. Allow the whey to drain off at its natural pace. After about an hour, lift the corners of the cloth gently coaxing the cheese into the middle a bit, and lay the corners over the top of the cheese. Let it stand and continue draining for up to 3 more hours, checking it every hour or so for desired consistency.
Remove the cheesecloth from the colander and carefully turn cheese into an airtight container. Stir in salt to taste and refrigerate.