Ricotta Salata – A Simple Pressed & Salted Cheese

In this post we’ll cover a simple semi-firm pressed cheese – ricotta salata. This is a great recipe for your first adventures in pressed cheese since the ricotta is so simple to make and the final product can be made using very basic equipment. You don’t need a cheese press and you don’t even need to cut any curds!To make this cheese you can use the ricotta recipe posted earlier one this site, and if you choose, your handmade mold from this post.

As the name implies ricotta salata is a salty cheese from Italy that uses ricotta as its base. It can be used fresh or aged for an extended time. When it’s young, ricotta salata is similar in taste to a Greek style feta. It works well served in an antipasto or as a garnish for pasta. Try substituting ricotta salata in any recipe that calls for feta. If you age it long enough it can be used as a grating cheese – sort of a poor man’s Parmesan. If you make several at a time you can sample the cheese at different stages of aging and see which you like best.

Like feta (which many of you have probably made) whey is sweated from the pressed ricotta using salt. This helps create a drier cheese while also imparting a salty tang. And, like feta this recipe is pretty forgiving. However, unlike feta it is not cultured and requires no rennet.

Supplies

  • Ricotta – yield from ½ gallon will fill 1 mold
  • Non-iodized salt
  • 1 or more molds – fresh or ricotta style, or ones you made yourself

Instructions

  1. Make ricotta. Use your tried and true recipe or the one previously posted here.
  2. Line mold(s) with a damp cheese cloth. Ladle the curds into the mold(s).
  3. Fold cheese cloth over curds trying to keep it flat as possible. Add follower if you have one. Press at 10lbs for at least 12 hours or overnight, flipping once. Depending on the temperature and humidity in your kitchen you may need to press it at a slightly higher weight or for a longer time for the curds to knit together properly. It’s ready when it is a semi-solid brick.IMG_3143IMG_6588
  4. Generously salt all sides of the cheese and transfer to a storage container and refrigerate (in a cheese cave if possible).  Ideally the cheese should be raised off the bottom of the container so it’s not sitting in the whey, but if you drain the whey off every day it will be fine.IMG_2588
  5. Continue salting, draining and flipping the cheese every other day until you have repeated this 7 times.
  6. Rub off an extra salt and pat dry. Wrap in cheese paper and store in your fridge for the desired length of time.
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Quick Fix – Milk too Hot

If, while making cheese, you accidentally heat the milk too high there’s a quick fix – add a few ice cubes. Only add a couple cubes at a time, and keep checking the temp as you go. If you add them too quickly you might drop the temperature too much. Don’t worry about the extra water the ice cubes are adding – this small volume will simply be expelled with the whey. Only do this if the milk is too warm by a reasonable amount – this isn’t a good solution if, for example, you went 60F over your mark. For a large temperature discrepancy you’re better just letting it cool or using a cool water bath.

Switching to Animal Rennet

I need to place a new culture order soon, including rennet. While I haven’t been disappointed with my double strength vegetable rennet, I feel it’s a little lacking. It just doesn’t seem to coagulant quite as efficiently as I would like, and I think the animal rennet might do a better job. Also, it will be an interesting comparison/experience for the cheese nerd in me.

I’ve been using vegetable rennet out of deference to any vegetarians in my classes. But, so far no one has said they were actually vegetarian or asked about making 100% vegetarian cheese, so I might have imagined a problem where there wasn’t one. Of course, in my classes I explain where rennet originated from and that most cheese is not technically vegetarian (I say technically because it’s such a small amount.) Also, I use lipase, which has no vegetarian alternative, in a number of my cheeses so, to some extent, it’s an unavoidable problem.

If my theory proves correct, I’ll of course make a post about it. If you have any personal experiences or opinions about the difference please share in the comments!

Veal Rennet at Get Culture.

Fool Proof Home Made Ricotta at a Glance

 

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• 1 Gallon whole raw or pasteurized milk
• ¼ White vinegar
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• Salt to taste (optional)

1. In a 6qt+ non-reactive pot slowly bring 1 gallon whole milk to between 185-195 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir frequently to prevent scorching. This should take 15 minutes or more.
2. Add ¼ cup white vinegar.  Stir once and let stand for 10 minutes. You should see the curds start separating from the whey. Check periodically. If the curds are not separating enough add 1 tablespoon of vinegar at time until whey is not milky looking.
3. While you’re waiting, line a colander with damp cheesecloth (depending on the weave you may need to fold it a few times) and set colander over a pot or in a sanitized sink.
4. Drain ricotta into colander. Don’t scrape the bottom! It will get scorched bits in your beautiful ricotta. Let drain briefly – the longer it drains the thicker and drier it will be.
5. Transfer to container and whisk in baking soda.
6. Add salt if desired, then refrigerate.

Washing Cheese Cloths

I plan on doing a more in-depth look at cheese cloths (types, where to buy, etc.) in the future, but since I often get asked “how do I clean them” in my classes, I thought I’d post on the topic now.

I only buy hemmed flour sacking. If your cloths are not hemmed, the flowing method may destroy them. However, it is THE BEST way to get them truly clean and also the least labor intensive. Which, long story short is why I recommend flour sacking.

  1. In cold water rinse all the cheese bits and gunk off (or at least as much as you possibly can.)
  2. If you are not washing them immediately, store them in a pot with a generous squirt of dish soap, a generous splash of bleach and top with water until cloths are covered. If you do not wash them with in 3-ish days they will get funky!
  3. Wash them in your washing machine. That’s right! Strictly speaking a metal drum is better, but for the home cheese maker plastic is fine.
    1. Put the size setting on 1 larger than your load. Usually cloths only equal a small load but to wash them set it on medium so there’s plenty of water and agitation to thoroughly clean them.
    2. Use the hottest water setting.
    3. Add a small amount of dye and perfume free detergent.
    4. Add 1 cup of bleach.
    5. If your machine has an extra rinse cycle it’s good to use, or, particularity  if your clothes were fairly dirty, manually run the rinse+spin cycle again. This helps ensure your cloths and machine are totally clean. Depending on the load I don’t always do this as it’s no very eco-friendly.
  4. Dry the cloths in the dryer, without fabric softener, on the highest setting until dry.
  5. Fold and store clean cloths in a clean covered container.

Home Cheese Making

Private classes & parties available.

For tips, recipes, and class updates visit http://www.fermenton.wordpress.com

Goggle Works: Reading, PA                                   www.goggleworks.org

Greek Yogurt & Cheese           2 Days: Tuesdays, April 29 & May 6, 6-9pm

All About Chevre                                   1 Day: Monday, May 5, 6-9pm

The Cheese Maker’s Pantry: Cultured Sour Cream   June 11, 6-9pm

Cheeses of Italy                            2 Days:  Tuesdays May 20 & 27, 6-9pm

More details and registration with their spring/summer catalog.

Cooking Spotlight: Phoenixville, PA                   www.cookingspotlight.com

Art of Cheese Making — Italian Style         February 25– 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Learn to make two simple and delicious Italian cheeses in your own kitchen using mostly supplies you already own! We will cover how to make a heavenly ricotta and a decadent mascarpone, then show you how to use them in two different dishes. Register early as space is limited. (Online enrolment on their site.)

Using Whey in the Garden

Like, most home cheese makers I’m always in the pursuit of productive ways to use up that plentiful cheese byproduct – whey. After making a hard cheese you have roughly 2 gallons of whey – that’s a substantial amount to try an use! A great solution is to put your whey to work in your yard or garden as either a plant enhancer or killer.

As many of you probably already know, whey is acidic. In the garden this can be helpful or harmful depending on what kind of plants you have. Acid loving plants can benefit greatly from a whey amendment (i.e. pour whey around the base of the plant.) Essentially your acidifying the soil. In fact, some plants require acidic soil to thrive. If you’ve ever planted or tried to grow a blueberry bush, you probably acidified the soil in the desired location before you planted it. If plants that require acid do not have the proper soil ph they can fail to thrive or  become sickly. In addition to blueberries, pine trees, azaleas, rhododendrons and hydrangeas all prefer acidic soil and can benefit from whey. Hydrangeas are the most noticeably affected by whey as the blooms become a bright beautiful blue with sufficient acid. To do this, pour the whey on the soil around your plant where the roots would be. Don’t get it on, or to close to, the plant itself, as this may damage delicate plants. Don’t go overboard, and do it too often, as  too much acid can be just as bad as too little. If you’re in doubt about a specific plant or overloading on the acid, I’d advise doing some research and ph testing your soil.

Whey can also be a great organic plant killer. For neutral or alkaline soil dwellers, whey can sufficiently affect the soil ph to make it inhospitable to the point of death (there’s more chemistry, microorganisms, etc. to it, but I’m not a horticulturalist.) All you do is pour the whey directly on and around the plants you want to kill. The effect might not be be immediately noticeable (after all, we’re talking about whey, not Roundup), but with enough applications you can kill a lot plants. First plants will change to a yellow color – that means it’s working. They will continue to look more sickly and weak if you keep adding whey. Hardy weeds might not be killed completely but they will be greatly weakened and stop spreadingI have a spot in my backyard between my fence and the neighbor’s that is very weed prone but difficult to get at, so I’ve  been whey bombing it. I grow veggies near by so non-organic solutions are out of the question and I have a lot leftover whey, so it’s win-win (albeit a little slow.) Be careful as you pour the whey or you will become sticky where it splashes. Keep in mind you’re not just killing the plant itself, you’re also changing the ph of the soil which will affect what can and will grow there in the future.

Ricotta Salata – Hoegger Article

Ricotta Salata – Hoegger Article

This month for the Hoegger cheese blog I wrote about making ricotta salata. It’s a simple pressed cheese made from ricotta that can be used fresh or aged to make a grating cheese (sort of a poor man’s parmigiano). It’s a great intro to pressed cheeses since it requires no cultures or rennet, has minimal aging requirements and can be pressed in a homemade mold. Check out my previous ricotta post for the base and my guide to homemade cheese molds to finish it.

http://hoeggerfarmyard.com/how-to-make-ricotta-salata-a-simple-pressed-cheese/

Draining the Curds

Draining the Curds

Cheese Making Outside of Philly Feb 25

If there’s anyone in the greater Philly area interested in cheese making I have a class on Feb 25 at the wonderful cooking spotlight in Phoenixville PA. In class we will cover basic cheese making principles by covering two Italian cheeses – ricotta & mascarpone. Students will leave being able to confidently make a variety of soft cheeses at home using mostly supplies you already own. For a full description and to sign up follow their link:

http://www.cookingspotlight.com/ai1ec_event/art-of-cheese-making-italian-style/?instance_id=1513

Making Your Own Cheese Molds

Do you want to make one gallon batches when the recipe calls for two? Want to try making Brie but don’t want to buy an expensive mold yet? Try making your own molds out of recycled food containers!

Making cheese molds is an easy and economical way to diversify your mold selection. By making your molds, you can cater to your cheese making preferences and experiment with new styles without the commitment. This is also a great way for beginner cheese makers to test the waters of molded cheese making without a large initial investment. All you need is a clean empty container and a nail. Homemade molds are particularly good for drained curd cheeses like chevre, and semi-firm cheese like feta or ricotta salata.

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Your molds will probably not be compatible with a press. However, you can make semi-firm cheeses that require light pressing by creating your own weights. Water bottles, vases, really anything you can accurately weigh and sterilize will work! If you keep the container lid, you can even fashion a serviceable follower by cutting away the extra plastic. You can also create Brie style molds by cutting off the bottom of the container.

Choose your container based on what recipe you plan on making. It may be helpful to look at pictures online of the mold you wish to emulate to get a better idea of the dimensions and hole pattern. Or, just make what you think will work best for your project. Remember, as your curds release whey they shrink, so choose you container/mold appropriately. You don’t want to end with a very wide but pancake thin cheese – it will dry out too quickly and be difficult to get out in one piece. Chinese takeout containers are a great choice. The plastic is a little more durable and they come in standard sizes. Remember thicker/stronger plastic will be harder to pierce. I have a weakness for the local olive bar so I keep my leftover containers, and since they are identical I can create identical molds.

For some recipes you will need more than one mold. When making multiple molds, make sure to use containers with similar or equal volumes and similar shapes (e.g. there are can be many height diameter combinations for the same volume).  If they are slightly different, try to compensate by pouring equal amounts into each. If the curd volumes are different they will not progress at the same speed.

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In addition to the container you will need a new  clean nail. Choose the nail diameter based on what size hole you wish to create. Length is up to you. Using a shorter nail can be a little harder to control, but I feel it’s safer for my fingers. You may want to experiment with a few sizes to find what feels best. I use a salvaged wine bottle cork to drive the nail into. This allows you to apply a more concentrated pressure on the nail and it absorbs the pointy end instead. If you like you can wear work gloves to prevent the nail from catching you and giving you a better grip. I wrap the head of the nail in a dishcloth to keep it from digging into my skin.

To make the holes hold the cork by its bottom in your non-dominant hand. It’s important you don’t hold the top of the cork – the nail will sometimes come out the side! Place it firmly against the bottom of the container where you’d like to make a hole. Line the nail up with the center of the cork, and slowly but firmly force it through the plastic. Try to push the nail all the way through so the hole isn’t jagged or at least so the extra plastic points out. Repeat until you have a decent number of holes.  Don’t make the holes too close together or you might crack the plastic. The smaller the whole size the more you’ll need to make. If you experiment with making your own molds you will probably find a hole size and configuration that works best for your favorite recipes.

I’m a firm believer in buying quality supplies. If you’re going to be doing a lot a pressed cheese few quality molds in versatile sizes and shapes is a good investment!

Let me know what molds you make in the comments section.

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