Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cheese #1: Meyer Lemon Ricotta

After more time than I intended had passed, the stars aligned and I finally had everything I needed and could take the time to make the first "actual" cheese in the book. 

This recipe was for Meyer Lemon Ricotta. Traditionally ricotta is made with whey (the leftover liquid from milk after you separate the curds during cheesemaking), but you would need a ridiculous amount of whey to make even a slightly significant amount of ricotta. So, this recipe uses milk and cream, and Meyer lemon as the acid.

Mmm. Ever try those Miracle Fruit Tablets? To me, Meyer lemons taste how real lemons taste when you're "on" a miracle fruit tab, haha. Delightful. 

Anyway, the instructions were to combine all three ingredients and gently heat it, stirring here and there to prevent a skin from forming on top and the milk from scorching on the bottom. Once steam was rising from the top I continued stirring and temped the mixture every few minutes until it reached 190 degrees. During this time coagulation was occurring. Theoretically, at least.

Unfortunately, the amount of coagulation you see above is pretty much the most I got. I guess this could have been a temperature issue, or a milk issue. Or maybe my lemon wasn't quite acidic enough? 

Once the mixture reached 190, I removed the pan from the heat and let it sit undisturbed for 10 minutes, This allows the curds to release more whey. After the 10 minutes passed, I poured everything into a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a bowl and let it drain some more. Luckily during the 10-minute sit there was a tad more separation, so that was a bonus for me and my cheese.

In the background you can see D's grain mill, loudly grinding away. I was also making chicken stock, so it was a pretty food-hippie day.

After 10 minutes of draining, I had to gather the cheese up in the cheesecloth and give it a squeeze to get out any addition whey. 

What. A. Debacle. 

I had a few issues with this for various reasons. First, the cheesecloth. I stupidly didn't listen to the author and tried to use regular cheesecloth, not fine cheesecloth for cheesemaking. I just doubled it over and crisscrossed two pieces, but in doing that it not only made the cloth not porous enough, but cheese was oozing out of the areas where the cloth was crisscrossed and doubled (but really, quadrupled) over. Uuuugh. So with much annoyance and mess, I managed to get the ricotta into a new piece of cloth. But because I had coagulation woes, the fine curd of the ricotta was just passing through the larger holes of the cloth in big plops. What the heck. Finally, I was able to just double over some cheesecloth and basically get some whey out. Whew! 

Note to self: Do not make more cheese before correct cheesecloth is acquired. Also, get a thermometer better suited to cheesemaking.

Next, I gently stirred in some sea salt and there I had it, Meyer Lemon Ricotta cheese (kinda)! 

As you can see, the cheese is still pretty wet and is a bit too creamy, but I've got to say, it tastes pretty good. The ricotta is fairly sweet and very rich. I have another lemon and plan on zesting it into the cheese to give it a little zing and maybe cut the richness.

So, not a huge success, but it wasn't a total let down. I may try this recipe one more time to see if I can get better results. 

Again, the book I'm working my way through is One-Hour Cheese by Claudia Lucero.