My children and I are participants of the WIC program which helps mothers and children buy basic groceries when they can’t afford to get them. Each month I get WIC checks that I use for bread, milk, cheese, eggs, etc. It is a wonderful program and has been such a blessing to my little family. Each month they supply us with 6 gallons of milk, 6 gallons! My youngest has recently turned out to be Lactose Intolerant and so I have been wondering what to do with all the extra milk we have in the house.
I started looking online for ideas and stumbled across someone who made their own cheese. Since our local supermarket doesn’t carry rennet, I couldn’t make Mozzarella. I will be though as soon as I get some rennet tablets. I decided I would try my hand at Ricotta cheese instead. A few attempts later and I found a simple way to make this already simple cheese that doesn’t even involve a thermometer.
Pour 1/2 gallon whole milk into a large pot, mix in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. You can use 2% or white water too (1% or skim), but it doesn’t produce nearly the amount of cheese and you will get a lot more whey.
Heat the milk slowly until it is just about to boil, make sure to keep stirring it when it starts getting hot so it doesn’t burn at the bottom of the pan. Once it is starting to froth up and is just about to start boiling. Turn off the heat and add 1/2 cup of vinegar straight to the milk.
Do a quick run through with a spoon just to make sure that it gets to the bottom of the pot but don’t stir it. AT ALL. Let it set for 10-15 minutes while the milk curdles into wispy little white curds. You will be able to see this happening before your eyes, it is really neat. If your milk is not separating DO NOT STIR IT, add 1/4 cup more vinegar.
Once the milk has curdled it will be fully separated into curds (the thick little white clumps) and whey (the yellow liquid that’s left). Using a slotted spoon, lift the curds out of the whey are set them into a cheesecloth lined colander. You can drain the whey into a bowl to pour on your garden later, or let it drain down the sink.
Once the cheese is fully separated, tie the cheesecloth closed, don’t squeeze it or you will squish the curds out, let gravity do the work for you. Tie the cloth to a wooden spoon over a bowl or the drain (I used the faucet in the kitchen and drained into a bowl). Let it rest for an hour or so, until it is no longer dripping whey and feels firm to the touch.
Untie and open the cheesecloth and you will have a neat little ball of Ricotta cheese right there. Place it into an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to a week or freeze it to use later.
My Ricotta Cheese went right into lasagna, then into the freezer for supper next week. I had a little left so I just added a little minced garlic to it and spread it on crackers. I almost made more just so I could keep eating it. It is so good!