Say Cheese

Last year my wife and I both read Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and loved it. We were intrigued by the account of her family’s quest to eat only homegrown or locally grown food for a whole year. And the descriptions of their cheese making experiences inspired us to try to make cheese ourselves.

With all that in mind, it made perfect sense to me to get my wife a book on cheese making for her birthday, Cheese Queen Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheese Making. I also got her one of Ricki’s cheese making kits that has basic supplies plus ingredients to make both mozzarella and ricotta cheeses. The side of the box proclaimed “All you need is the milk!” I am so lucky to have a wife that appreciates such gifts!

We made our first batch of cheese this week, a whole milk ricotta. This is an easy cheese for beginners like us, which is a good thing because we wanted to start out easy and work our way gradually into harder cheese recipes (no pun intended). And making ricotta also made sense because I had plans for a recipe that called for ricotta.

We’ve yet to source local milk, so we made it with organic milk from the grocery. From start to finish it took about an hour to make. A gallon of milk yielded about 1.5 pounds of cheese. I won’t put the full recipe here, because detailed instructions are in the book, as well as available in many places on the web. But generally speaking, here are the steps to making the cheese – which my wife photographed while helping with the cheese.

First, I added citric acid to whole milk and heated it to 185-195F.

When the mixture curdled, and the curds separated from the whey, I turned off the heat and let it all sit for 10 minutes. Then I ladled the mixture into a cheesecloth lined strainer.

Then I tied off the cheesecloth and let it drain for 20-30 minutes.

The finished cheese is removed from the cheesecloth and refrigerated. It will keep for up to one week, and can be frozen for longer term storage.

The ricotta is mild, and tasted great on a toasted slice of my wife’s HBinFive Carrot Bread.

We’ll use the ricotta fresh for a few days, then try freezing the leftovers for later. Based on this first experience making cheese, we are excited and ready to try another recipe, so stay tuned for further adventures!

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9 Responses to Say Cheese

  1. Kimberly says:

    Funny, I read the same book and got the same cheese kit over a year ago. Particularly interesting is I just had my brother-in-law bring me some raw milk from the country, as I’m showing my daughter’s community group how to make cheese tomorrow morning.
    I also make it with my fourth graders. The whole fourth stomach of a ruminating animal rennett thing first disgusts, then fascinates them. They proclaim it the best cheese ever!
    Happy Cheesing!

  2. Momma_S says:

    That looks wonderful! Making cheese is on my never-ending bucket list LOL.
    I’ve read that ricotta may loose some of it’s silky texture if frozen. Does your book give advice on freezing cheeses?

    • Villager says:

      The ricotta will surely suffer from freezing, but we hope to use most of it beforehand. The freezing will be a test. Most hard cheeses freeze well, but I’m not sure about any others.

  3. I’m so impressed. You make your own soap…and now your own cheese! Of course, I’d rather eat the cheese. Would love to try making fresh goat’s milk cheese someday. Your ricotta looks wonderful though. A little spinach, and it would go wonderfully in our home-made ravioli. In fact, it would be a way to freeze your ricotta. Fresh ravioli freezes very well. Just need a dough roller and a pizza wheel to cut it. (We just make ours free-hand). I know you’re growing lots of greens!

  4. easygardener says:

    Mouthwatering – and it looks very appetising spread on the slice of bread. I am not sure I could be motivated to make my own but I applaud you for giving it a go!

  5. Meredith says:

    Yum. I can just imagine it in ravioli. 🙂 We made our own cream cheese from raw milk last summer, mostly so I could get a supply of whey for other projects (fermented pickling experiments), and my husband loved it, while I just found it so-so, needing something extra to make it worth all that effort. I did love the sight of the hanging cheesecloth bag in the kitchen, though, so old-fashioned and homey. Glad it was a success for you both!

  6. LynnS says:

    Congrats on making your first cheese. I was so surprised to read that you can freeze ricotta at all. I’m not sure if it would be worth freezing it as-is, maybe instead made into Manicotti or another dish, as a cheese-filled stuffing? Maybe the quality would not suffer as much.

    • Villager says:

      We are planning on making spinach and ricotta stuffed ravioli tomorrow, so I’m not sure how much ricotta will be left anyway. The texture won’t be the same after freezing, but we only plan on using it in cooked dishes anyway, so that won’t matter.

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