What if I told you that you were about 60 minutes away from fresh, homemade ricotta, including the clean up? Would you say I was full of cheese? Well, it turns out I am. Full of it. And it’s delicious.
As most of you know from reading My New Roots, I am not a huge dairy lover, but there are exceptions – those of which include most dairy of the goat persuasion. Once in a while, a girl just needs a little cheese in her life. I was inspired to make ricotta at home from a video I saw kicking around the web about Salvatore Brooklyn, an artisanal cheese producer in New York. A wife-and-wife team of exceptionally enthusiastic foodies, created their own successful business making the best ricotta this side of Italy. I was so moved by these two that I ran out, bought some milk and headed for the kitchen, only to be sitting down to a gourmet lunch about an hour later. Unheard of! I was almost disappointed that it was so easy. Almost. All pretend upset was quickly forgotten upon the moment my lips graced yet another bite of rich, creamy, delicate cheese that I had in fact, made all by myself.
Ricotta hails from Italy, where it is traditionally made from the leftover whey from cheese production. The ladies from Salvatore Brooklyn however, make theirs from whole milk, making it far richer than the traditional type. I followed suit.
Homogenized milk: A threat to our health?
Homogenization is the process by which cow’s milk is treated under extremely high amounts of pressure so that it does not separate into its respective fat layers when it is stored. For those of you that remember the milk man coming around to deliver the day’s supply, you may recall the extremely rich “cream layer” that formed at the top, as the milk at that time was not yet homogenized. This seemed to be an issue for people, the whole “shaking the bottle” ordeal. If only we’d known we were asking for trouble when doing away with this inconvenience – but isn’t this always the case when we mess with Mother Nature?
Although it may not seem like a big deal, homogenization changes the milk’s normal, natural, and healthy fat structure into microscopic spheres of fat containing a powerful digestive enzyme called xanthine oxidase (XO). Kurt A. Oster, M.D., who worked during the 1960s through the 1980s, hypothesized that homogenization posed a threat to our health, as these teeny spheres of fat are small enough to pass right through the stomach and intestines, without being digested first, leaving XO to float freely around in the blood and lymphatic systems. When XO breaks free from its fat envelope, it attacks the inner wall of whatever vessel it is in. This creates a wound. The wound then signals the body to send a sort of patching “plaster” to seal off the wound, bringing a number of plaque-forming substances, including cholesterol, to the site of the damage.  You can imagine what happens after years of this process going on in the body, patching injured arterial walls over and over again: atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries”, leading to heart attack and stroke. Although Oster’s theories have been criticized, his work is continually published in regards to this subject and highly regarded among respected natural health practitioners.
Where am I getting at with all this? Well, it’s just one more reason to carefully consider giving cows milk the boot and introducing a little goat dairy into your life. The fat globules in goat’s milk are smaller, allowing it to remain naturally homogenized and needing no mechanical processing. I repeat: goat’s milk is naturally homogenized, easier to digest and comes without the potential dangers associated with homogenized cow’s milk.
Homemade Goat’s Milk Ricotta Cheese
Recipe from Honest Cooking
Makes about 1 cup
4 cups / 1 liter goat’s milk
1 tsp. sea salt
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 stainless steel or ceramic pot (non-reactive material, like aluminum)
1 large piece cheesecloth
1. In a large pot, add the goat’s milk and salt. Heat gently on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally to keep the milk from scorching on the bottom.
2. Just before the milk boils (no need for a thermometer, just watch carefully), take it off the heat, add the lemon juice and give it a gentle stir (you should see the milk split almost instantly). Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.
3. While you’re waiting for the milk to become cheese, line a bowl with cheesecloth.
4. Pour the milk mixture gently into the bowl. Pick up the sides of the cloth, tie a string around the top and hang, leaving the curds inside the cloth, and letting the whey drip out into the bowl.
5. After 45 minutes to 1 hour, your ricotta should be ready to eat. If you prefer a richer, thicker cheese, let it hang for another hour or so. Remember the longer hanging time, the denser cheese. Store leftovers in a glass container in the fridge.
I just know that someone is going to ask what to do with the leftover whey, because you’re all such fantastically aware, non-food-wasters. Whey makes an excellent smoothie base, as it contains high-quality protein. You can also add it to soups, stews, or use it bread baking instead of water. And although I have not tried it yet, use whey to boil rice or other grains in place of water or broth.
Ricotta on Toasts with Roasted Fruit
Inspired by the recipe in Real Simple, September 2011 (couldn’t find direct link)
1 pear, sliced
a couple handfuls of grapes
coconut oil or ghee, melted
whole grain sourdough bread, sliced
Homemade Goat’s Milk Ricotta
1. Preheat oven to 450°F / 230 °C
2. Toss fruits in oil just to lightly coat. Roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes until grapes skins split and pears are lightly caramelized.
3. Meanwhile toast some bread and smear it with your fresh ricotta. Add roasted fruits, drizzle with honey, sea salt, black pepper and serve.
Making this cheese is such a dramatic and empowering process that you will undoubtedly be dazzled by your culinary abilities. Kids will also love to get involved with this, and because it is so simple they will not only achieve a successful product, but feel a sense of accomplished and connection to their food. If you have never had the pleasure of creating something from scratch that you previously thought you had to purchase, I urge you to give this a try.
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I am receiving a lot of questions about where I am working these days, the Nordic Food Lab, so if you are curious, have a look at this video put out by The Guardian.
Bonus recipe! Check out my Quinoa Salad with Peas and Cashews at Bon Appetit.
source:  Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 2003.
Copyright 2012 My New Roots at mynewroots.blogspot.com