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.

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.

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.)

Here is a raw milk Gruyere I made at 1.5 months old. I’m posting the picture because it has developed an orange/yellow color. This is from b. linens bacteria. I did not inoculate the milk with b. linens, but it is a naturally occurring bacteria found in (raw) milk. If you use pasteurized milk you generally don’t encounter it unless you add b. linens. In addition to the characteristic color, b. linens creates a sticky texture on the exterior. I’m rubbing the cheese with a brine solution every few days to prevent other mold growth, but I’m excited for this good bacteria.

Spinach Cream Cheese Pie

I recently made a batch of “real” cream cheese for a demo and had a fair amount left over. It’s good on bagels and there’s many many deserts that use cream cheese, but I wanted to create main dish that featured it. I love the synergy of spinach and cheese (as my posted recipes suggest) so I combined them in a savory pie along with garlic and dill. Feel free to adjust the seasoning (or any of it) to your taste. For as few ingredients as this has, it comes out surprisingly hearty yet very refined.

Real cream cheese is about 1000x better than then the store bought variety and very simple to make, so you should use it for this recipe if possible. Store bought cream cheese will obviously work, but it’s won’t be nearly as luscious and decadent. I did use store bought pie crust though (only so much time in the day). I also opted for frozen spinach, but fresh spinach will work if you chop and steam/saute/etc it.

I’m not vegetarian in the slightest,  but the richness of the cheese and the mineral/irony quality of the spinach makes for a filling and very satisfying meatless dish. Originally I planned on adding canned salmon but changed my mind, and I’m glad I did. I think any animal protein will make the dish overwhelming/just too rich. If you do want to add meat any fish, lamb or beef could work, but make sure to cut back the cream cheese.

  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dry dill
  • salt to taste
  • 1 lb frozen chopped spinach (defrosted and thoroughly drained)
  • 2 pie crusts brought to room temp.
  • 8 oz (ish) fresh homemade cream cheese (room temp is better)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400F.
  2. Mix all ingredients together. Make sure the cream cheese is thoroughly blended.
  3. Line glass pie plate with first pie crust. Pour in filling. Place top crust on and seal by pinching the the edges together and trim off excess. Make a few punctures on top for steam to escape.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is bubbling in the center. You may want to wrap foil around the edges partially through cooking to prevent them from getting too dark.
  5. Enjoy!

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.

Cheese Making Parties

Interested in learning how to make cheese? Want to host a unique part? Why not have a cheese making party!

Imagine beautiful chevre logs of every variety proudly displayed on your cheese boards, or bowls of crumbly and tangy marinated feta set as an antipasto. Cheese making is easier and more rewarding than you might think!

You and your friends will learn the principles of cheese making, and will be able to successfully make a variety of basic cheese by the end of class using mostly supplies you already own. I have a number of lesson plans available, or I can cater to your preferences. Noshing on the cheeses being made is included. I can travel to Philadelphia and its suburbs, Reading, Quakertown and Allentown areas.

For more information contact me via the comments section or  the contact section below:

Trying to find a gift for a cheese maker or lover in you life? Here’s some lust worthy items.

Classic looking cow and goat themed labels for you cheese wheels. Identify you cheese through the wax while looking good.

Set designed to properly store your beautiful cheese. Includes wooden trays, paper bags, and sticker labels. Cute enough to gift cheese with!

 

 Cheese markers you can write on (and reuse) for severing your home made cheese. Never be confined by pre-labeled markers again!

What’s better than home made brie? Gooey baked brie!

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