Homemade Ricotta Cheese

First I’m going to apologize for being a little lazy with the blogging about school.  I still have a lot of stories saved up so as class starts to wind down I hope to get them all up soon – 3 more weeks!  Now on to this.

We made ricotta cheese in school.  Well after several attempts and two days we made ricotta cheese. This was a huge victory for me for a couple of reasons.  The first reason – I love cheese.  All cheese (except swiss and cottage).  I can and do eat ricotta by the spoonful just because it’s delicious.

The second reason – I got to show off my smarty pants in class.  A little backstory first, one Saturday afternoon I was walking around Union Market in DC (one of my new favorite places) and I came across a cookbook “THE FOOD LAB” and I bought it.  When I got home I started to read through the book out of curiosity – little did I know that I was storing all of page 153 “Pasteurized Milk” in a little box, in the back of my brain, only to be used a few days later…

In class we learned that when milk is heated and lemon juice (or any acid to be technically correct) is added the dairy separates into curds and whey – think little miss muffet & science.  THIS IS HOW RICOTTA IS MADE – well this is the culinary way to do it, actual cheesemakers have a more advanced approach.

Chef J went through his demonstration – the curds and whey never separated.  Chef J seemed perplexed because he never had this problem before so as a class we started thinking out loud.  A quick google search mentioned that the milk had to reach  170 degrees, check.  Was the lemon a strong enough acid? –  we added vinegar too, check. What could it be?…

BAM IT HITS ME…page 153.

I raise my hand and I ask Chef J if the milk was ultra pasteurized? Unsure we checked out the milk jug – it was.  I explained to Chef J that I had just read that ultra pasteurized milk couldn’t be used for ricotta cheese.  We learned that it will not produce the curds and whey for ricotta because the milk is heated to a much higher temperature during the pasteurization process that it breaks down the milk protein even further than regular milk making the proteins unable to curd when acid is added.  Lesson Learned. Science.

Side note – I was buying ultra pasteurized milk without even noticing because the expiration date lasts longer and let me just say I love it.  I think it tastes way better if you’re drinking it by the glass like I do.

So after the mystery was solved Chef J went to buy regular milk and the next day we all successfully made ricotta cheese.

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Of course the fun didn’t stop there.  We also learned how to make spinach pasta.  Then we stuffed the homemade ricotta cheese into the pasta and formed tortellini.

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AND I successfully for the first time ever (after many attempts at home before culinary school) made a brown butter sauce with just the right about of brown.

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Good Eats.