Whole-milk ricotta (cheesepalooza challenge 1)

Despite not being gainfully employed at the moment, and therefore having lots of leisure time, I suddenly realised it is already half way through August and I still hadn’t made my ricotta for cheesepalooza. So, here it is.

I still have all my cheese-making bits and pieces packed away, but luckily I’m housesitting for another cheese-making friend, so could use all her equipment. Having only made whey ricotta in the past, it feels much more successful making it with whole-milk as the yield is much bigger. Although I followed Mary Karlin’s recipe, I adjusted the volume of milk involved to avoid wastage – so instead of 1 US Gallon (roughly 3.7 Litres), I used 2L of milk (in this case, unhomogenised jersey cow milk) and 300 ml of double cream, but pretty much the same amount of citric acid and salt (1 teaspoon each).

The basic process involved was really easy, and quite different from other methods I’ve used before. You simply  combine your milk, cream, citric acid and salt all together, then heat slowly to 85-95C. Once it is there, make sure the curds are forming and then remove from the heat. The pot then needs to be covered and still for 10 minutes before scooping the curds into a cloth-line colander/draining device.Mary says to salt at this point but I forgot (this has some impacts on taste that I mention below).

You can then tie them up, hang and leave to drain for as long as you like (ie. depending on how dry you like your ricotta).

I removed half my curds after 30 minutes (Mary’s correction notes of her website suggest 15 minutes would be enough, but I like a little less wetness). These curds were still quite moist, but after about 2 hours in the fridge they had firmed up nicely. I mixed in a little salt to make up for forgetting earlier and left the other half of the curds hanging for 2 more hours, so they became slightly dryer.

Tasting both of these later, I think I actually much prefer the second lot, although I think this may have more to do with the salt content that the texture. Surprisingly, after a few hours in the fridge, the  structure of both batches  seemed very similar  – soft and spreadable but not wet. The taste was different though. The salty one had actually ended up a bit sweet. The second lot was much more savory and creamy, perfect on sourdough toast.

It’s so good to be back making cheese. I’m looking forward to next month’s challenge, but in the meantime I’m off to Mudgee next weekend for a cheese-making course. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Cheese and Wine Festival at Southbank

I like cheese and I like festivals (especially free ones), so after work today I cycled home via a Cheese and Wine Festival at Southbank. It was a nice diversion on the way home although it was more like a small  market than a festival really. There are about 20 stalls, a mixture of food stands, cheese shops and wineries, with an emphasis on European cheeses more than UK ones.

The best thing for me was  that Moorlands Cheesemakers had a stall, so I got to ask lots of questions I’d been saving up about cheese making (thank you Kathrin) and  see the different kinds of molds and presses that I can buy (although I’d also like to try and make some at home).

I would have liked to stay longer and try more of the cheeses and wine but I had to get home as I’m off to Stuttgart to play roller derby really early tomorrow. This means no chance to make any cheese this weekend. But, I did get to try a new one . I bought a wedge of Toma Maccagno at the festival from the Gastronomica stall. This is a semi-soft raw cows milk cheese from Italy that is aged for about 4 months. It is quite creamy and with a strong enough flavour to eat on its own. I would have included a photo but I only remembered after it was all gone – I really should have bought more!

Overcooked chevre

If someone would pay me to do anything I’d run film festivals or I’d be a cheesemaker. The first is really not going to happen at this point in my life, and based on tonight’s effort, the second is also seeming pretty unlikely – I might better off sticking to just eating cheese.

I’m trying to make at least one new thing each week, so tonight I tried to make chevre . This should have been really easy – as other than making simple soft cheese, its really the easiest cheese to make. But, I managed  to overheat the milk by about 10 degrees  and have probably now wasted about 4 litres of goats milk. Given its 9pm, I can’t really be bothered heading back to Tesco, so I’m going for the more experimental approach of cooling it down and adding in the starter culture anyway.  I suspect it’ll be a disaster but I may as well try and in 12 hours or so I’ll see if any cheese has emerged. I’ll put some photos up tomorrow if I have any success – otherwise, it’ll be a new batch over the weekend. I also want to try making rosemary focaccia this weekend if I’m not in Devon surfing, so maybe the cheese is just waiting for the bread.