Homemade ricotta cheese

Yield: 1 Servings

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Unlike most other fresh cheeses - cottage and cream cheese, for example - the curd of this bland, light cheese is formed by the direct addition of acid to the milk, not by fermentation; the time required to make it is generally short. If you haven't used this Italian favorite before, try it in place of cottage cheese, as well as in Italian recipes for such dishes as lasagne and manicotti.

For a pleasant light milk dessert, sweeten ricotta slightly/ top with a sprinkling of grated chocolate or cinnamon. 1- 2 qts regular milk, 3 tbsp distilled white vinegar OR ¼ cup strained fresh lemon juice, Salt, if desired. Pour the milk into a heavy stainless-steel or enameled saucepan and stir in the vinegar or lemon juice; set the pot over very low heat and bring the milk very slowly to a simmer ( 200F on a thermometer). There will be fine beads around the edge of the milk, which will look foamy but will not appear to be boiling; remove the pot from the heat and set it, covered, in a spot where the temperature will remain fairly uniform; between 80 and 100 degrees; (an unheated oven, without a pilot light, is a good spot) let the milk stand for about 6 hours or until a solid curd floats above the liquid (the whey); more or less time may be required, depending on the temperature of the environment and the characteristics of the milk; line a fine sieve with doubled dampened cheesecloth (or better, two layers of very fine-meshed nylon curtain netting, dampened) and set it over a bowl; dump the curds and whey into the sieve and allow the whey to drain off until the ricotta is yogurtlike; if you want a firmer cheese, tie the corners of the cloth to form a bag and hang it up to drain further; (in warm weather, the draining might be completed in the refrigerator; when the texture of the cheese is to your liking, add a little salt (from ¼ to ½ teaspoon) if you wish; store the cheese, covered, in the refrigerator; it will be at its best after it has chilled for 24 hours, and it will keep well for 4 or 5 days. Makes about 1 pound.

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