Making cheese may sound complicated, but it’s not! Combine the right equipment and ingredients with a little patience, and you’ll quickly master the technique required to make this savory dairy item. If you’re ready to get started, these easy steps will guide your way:
Assemble the Equipment
Before you begin, make sure you have this basic equipment:
- Double Boiler – Using a water bath prevents the milk from scalding. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can easily make one with a large and small pot as long as the inner one is made of stainless steel.
- Cheese Cloth
- Cooking surface
- Small Notebook – Keeping notes can help you refine your skills with each batch of cheese.
Gather the Ingredients
Fresh, wholesome ingredients are the most important part of the process. Here’s what you’ll need to turn out a high-quality cheese:
- Milk – For the best results, buy farm fresh milk when it’s available. Otherwise, choose full-cream pasteurized milk, but don’t attempt to make cheese with homogenized milk. If using skim milk, you may need to add cream to create a firm, rich curd. Soy milk can also be used, but it doesn’t require a coagulating agent like vinegar or rennet.
- White Vinegar – This ingredient coagulates and sets the milk.
- Salt and butter for seasoning is optional.
Everything you will use should be sterilized before you begin. Use a bleach-based, all-purpose cleaner and paper towels to sanitize the work surface, run your equipment through a hot dishwasher or soak in a sink full of water with one tablespoon of bleach, and use hand sanitizer to sterilize your hands. Don’t forget to re-sterilize your hands after each break from the cheese-making process.
Basic Recipe for Ricotta Cheese
Follow these simple steps to make your first batch of cheese:
- Line the sieve with cheesecloth and set aside.
- Fill the bottom portion of the double boiler with water until it’s about half full.
- Heat 2.5 gallons of full-cream pasteurized milk in the double boiler until it reaches 195 degrees Fahrenheit stirring the entire time
- As soon as the milk reaches 195 degrees, poor in ½ cup white vinegar. Stir gently as the milk coagulates.
- Pour the curd into the lined sieve and allow it to drain for about five minutes.
- Poor the drained curd into a bowl and season with butter and salt if desired.
- Place in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use the ricotta.