This was the first cheese I made after getting the crazy idea to make cheese put in my head when reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I got a hard cheese kit for Christmas that year, but I guess I hadn’t realized how long it took to make hard cheeses, so I punked out and did the 30-Minute Mozzarella instead.
I remember we followed the microwave instructions, and the first time, we ended up with this strange rubbery mess. We tossed that, tried again, and got something slightly less rubbery to slice and serve on pizza. Ultimately, though, I ended this day deciding that homemade mozzarella was more trouble than it was worth, especially when the pricey (good, local, organic, etc., but expensive as hell) milk we used cost more than just going to the store and buying fresh mozzarella.
Fresh ricotta, however, completely justified the entire mozzarella-making process. During the first batch, we misread the instructions and didn’t realize we could make even more delicious cheese from our mozzarella leftovers — a huge mistake. The second time around, we ended up with a very, very small amount of ricotta (…I suspect we did something wrong, because by all accounts we should have had more), that we mixed with fresh rosemary snipped from our friend’s garden. It was lovely, and I swore right then that I’d go straight to the ricotta step next time.
Technically I’m not sure this should count as either “making” or “cheese,” but dang, it’s so easy. I mean, the instructions amount to: 1) buy yogurt. 2) dump yogurt into a dish towel. 3) drain. I like to use a quart of whole-milk yogurt, place it in a thin kitchen towel, tie it to my kitchen faucet overnight to drain, and mix it with chives and black pepper, but after I bought cilantro-chive dip from Trader Joe’s and realized it was basically just this, I think I’ll be adding cilantro to my next batch.
If you perhaps aren’t sure what is and is not technically ricotta, the nearly 500 comments on this Smitten Kitchen post are a fascinating read. But whatever you want to call this easy cheese, I made it the other night, and it was delicious and virtually effort-free. I used 3.5 cups of whole milk, a half-cup of cream, some sea salt, and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and drained it for about 1.5 hours. The cheese tastes surprisingly lemon-y (OK, maybe it shouldn’t have been surprising), but it added a lovely touch to homemade tomato sauce and held its own on crackers (… and green peppers, and pretzels, and virtually anything else that could be dipped in it).
This one is fun mostly because I get to use a cheese press. So my “cheese press” is just an empty 28-oz. can with the top and bottom lids cut off, but whatever, it’s a cheese press, OK? Making this is pretty much the same as making the fake ricotta linked above, but with 1/4 c. vinegar to every 8 c. milk (I’ve always used cider vinegar because Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It told me to) and transferring the curds to the cheese press to make a pretty disc instead of just draining over a bowl. I still haven’t found a great way to store it and therefore never eat it all before it goes bad, but it’s one of the most satisfying, simple, yet impressive-sounding kitchen projects I’ve done to date.