The other day I posted some pictures of my gigantic handmade lasagna, and mentioned that the cheese encased within its bubbly layers was totally handmade. I promised to drop the skinny on you, so here it is, the story of my big cheesy adventure.
Would you believe everything you need to make cheese is pictured above? For serious. That's all there is to it! Of course, if you get into some more serious kinds of cheese, you'll probably need more ingredients. But for Ricotta and a simple Paneer, these staples will do you. According to some rumors I've heard you may even be able to make Queso Fresco from these simple ingredients. (Be still my heart!)
- 1 gallon Whole Milk
- 2 Cups Cream
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 6 teaspoons Lemon Juice
I got my Ricotta recipe and instructions from this very thorough article posted on the foodie blog, Eggs On Sunday. Though the recipe originated on Epicurious, Eggs on Sunday provides some valuable insight and tips to make your Ricotta come out perfectly on the very first shot. Eggs on Sunday opted to half the original recipe, but because I am totally nuts, I decided to double it. The process is very simple: Gently heat the milk, salt, and cream to a simmer, carefully stirring the entire time to keep the milk from scalding. At simmer, add the lemon juice (all at once), give it one quick stir, then let it sit for one minute. Stir again, sit another minute, then stir and simmer for two more minutes. Immediately drain the pot into a cheesecloth and colander and allow it to drain for an hour. Once the curds have cooled you can squeeze some of the excess water out of the cheese cloth. Boom! You have a batch of fresh, handmade Ricotta, the creamiest, richest Ricotta you probably have ever tasted. This stuff would make INCREDIBLE canolis.
Here is a shot of my Ricotta. This is roughly half of the cheese I made. The other half I reserved for making Paneer.
Paneer begins where the Ricotta enters the colander to drain. After the cheese entered the colander, I carefully spooned out the portion I was using for my Ricotta and drained it separately. I allowed my Paneer curds to cool slightly, then began squeezing out the moisture through the cheesecloth. Squeeze, squeeze squeeze. This was sort of messy, so I suggest doing this over the sink. After I was done squeezing, I wrapped my cheese into a bundle, and squished it onto a dish, making it about 1 inch thick. I topped the bundle with another dish, and weighed it down with a giant can of tomatoes. This helps to squeeze out the last of the water. I let the cheese drain for about an hour, then removed the cheese cloth. Neato completo, my cheese was finished.
While my Paneer came out pretty well, there are a couple of things I will do differently next time. Firstly, I plan to have two colanders and two cheesecloths on hand to drain the pot of cheese. This will make separating the two portions of cheese easier. Instead of spooning away, I'll simply pour half into each colander. Second, I plan on salting the curds after they enter the colander. The cheese was rich and creamy, but a little bland for Paneer. I am also playing with the idea of spicing the curds. You can check out the original recipe for Paneer posted by Emma on The Kitchn. Check out the comments, as there are some great tips avaialble.