Wish Upon A Dish: Homemade Ricotta, Mascarpone and Creme Fraiche

February 13, 2011

Homemade Ricotta, Mascarpone and Creme Fraiche

I am making ricotta cheese today. I have a quart of milk that is about to expire and buttermilk I have to use (I either have none and need it or don't need it and eventually throw it out. Now I know to make creme fraiche when I have too much).

Making your own ricotta, mascarpone, creme fraiche and even yogurt is soooooo easy.

I love to buy the non-pasteurized milk and cream from Whole Foods. Makes the best cheeses. If it says ultra pasteurized on the carton, use it as milk.

Besides the right milk or cream you need lemon juice, fresh please, not bottles. Some people use vinegar, I prefer the lemon for taste. If you generally do not have lemons in your fridge on an everyday basis, you can buy citric acid powder and have it on hand all the time. Works just as well as lemons at a fraction of the price. Lemons by me are $.79 each (yuck).
Once again, do not use bottled lemon juice, it has preservatives in it and will not curdle the dairy.

How to make ricotta cheese:
Heat a quart of whole milk and 1 cup of either cream or buttermilk to 180 degrees. Using a very clean linen kitchen towel, get your bowl and strainer ready.

Stir in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and let it sit in the pot for a few minutes.

Pour through towel lined sieve and let it drain until it is cool to the touch. If you drain it longer it gets really thick which is good for the spinach and ricotta dumplings I am making for dinner tomorrow night, so I will leave it on the counter until it is cooled completely.

If you want it creamier, drain it less. Store in a plastic container in the fridge for 3 days. I make just enough to use for my recipes for the week.

Homemade Mascarpone
* 2 cups (1 pint) of whipping cream preferably unhomogenized (Whole Foods sells it).
* 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Bring 1" of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190F. It will take about 15-20 minutes of delicate heating.

Add lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently until the cream curdles. The whipping cream will become thicker and should evenly and thickly cover the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove the bowl from the water and cool for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, line a sieve with 4 layers of washed cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined space. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface. Once cooled completely, cover the bowl with wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours. The next day, remove mixture from the bowl and sieve, transferring it to another bowl. Your mascarpone will be removable as one solid piece. Stir it to reveal it's creamy consistency.

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