Traditional Ricotta is made by reheating the whey from a previous batch of rennet cheese, such as pecorino or mozzarella. The recipes that you’ll find smattered all over the internet are a variation on that tradition: milk acidified and heated with vinegars and lemon juice. My favorite recipe for ricotta uses buttermilk to acidify and coagulate the milk. The reasons are in the flavor and the texture. The flavor is more nuanced because of the diverse array of cultures that buttermilk contains. The texture is fluffier and creamier than the quick acid set counterparts. The great fact about ricotta is that you can dress it up quite simply and it comes to life as something entirely different. In this circumstance, I sprinkled fennel salt and freshly torn mint over the top of the ricotta plate.
Recipe (Adapted from Kathy Farrell-Kingsley)
- 1 gallon whole milk
- 4 cups cultured buttermilk
- B< teaspoon salt
- Prep time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
- Total time: 30 minutes to 2 hours
- Makes approximately 1.5 pounds of cheese
Combine milk and buttermilk in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and heat it until it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Check with a thermometer, stirring occasionally. Once it has reached 180 degrees, remove the pot from heat and let it sit anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes in order to allow the curds to form. Do not stir the milk mixture or the ricotta will have a grainy, thin texture.
Line a colander with a double layer of butter muslin. Pour or ladle the curds into the colander carefully and let drain anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how dry you want your ricotta. Reserve the whey (water, protein, and minerals) for soup stock, lacto-fermentation pickling, smoothies, or as a rich plant feeder.
When the ricotta has drained, transfer it to a bowl, break it up, and stir. Add salt to taste. Use right away or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.