Monticello hosts the Heritage Harvest Festival each year and with that they offer classes. Last year I sat in the class on how to make ricotta cheese taught by JQ Dickinson’s Salt Works. It seemed like it would be a quick and easy thing to replicate at home and it sure tasted good. Almost a year later I finally got my butt in gear and made a batch.
To start, gather these ingredients and these kitchen items:
-½ gallon of whole milk (raw, or low heat pasteurization work best per Dickinson Salt Works)
-½ tsp J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works salt, plus more to finish
-1 tsp of J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works nigari (this amount may vary depending on your milk)
-Heavy bottomed, straight sided sauce pan
-Measuring spoons: ½ tsp and 1 tsp
NOTE: I used Maple View Farms whole milk. You don’t have to use the JQ Dickinson’s Salt Works salt, but the nigari is the coagulant used to make the cheese curdle and I don’t know a good substitute for it, so I recommend using it for this recipe. You can buy it online at http://www.jqdsalt.com/
Let’s get started!
1) Pour ½ gallon of milk in a heavy bottomed, straight sided sauce pan. Add ½ tsp of salt. Stir gently to dissolve the salt. Heat over medium-high until it reaches 190 degrees. Turn off the heat.
2) Add 1 tsp of nigari and stir well with a slotted spoon. Watch for the milk to start curdling. If nothing happens after 15 seconds or so, then add an additional ½ tsp of nigari and stir well. I added two extra ½ tsp of nigari to get the right consistency. Continue adding additional nigari as needed by the ½ tsp until the milk curdles. Once the milk curdles, cover the pot for 10 minutes until the curds separate fully from the whey.
NOTE: The type (pasteurization method), freshness of the milk, and whether or not it is homogenized will all affect the amount of nigari needed.
3) Line a strainer with 3 layers of damp cheesecloth over a large bowl.
4) Use your slotted spoon to move the curds into the strainer. Pour the whey through the cheesecloth and strainer. Try not to break up the curds. Let the curds drain for 20 minutes.
5) Either eat immediately (my recommendation!) or refrigerate for up to 3 days. It is best served warm over toasted crusty bread with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
The recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups, depending on the milk used.
Save your whey (the yellow liquid stuff). Why? I’m still working that one out, but I think you can do more stuff with it. More to follow!