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Whey Cool

March 21, 2014

It’s a revelation to think you can make ricotta at home simply by cooking milk and cream, adding a little lemon juice, and letting the result drain in cheesecloth. From pot to plate, it takes under one hour to achieve remarkable flavor and freshness. Keep reading for step-by-step instructions on producing fresh, creamy ricotta in your own kitchen.

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Fresh Ricotta Recipe

Fresh ricotta is best the day it’s made but can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to four days. Don’t waste the protein-rich whey that drains out of the ricotta curds. Freeze it in ice-cube trays and use in smoothies, or simply enjoy it as is, poured over ice.

8 cups (1/2 gallon) best-quality whole milk
1 1/2 cups best-quality heavy cream
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons), strained to remove pulp

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1. Bring to Temperature

Combine milk, cream, and salt in a 4- to 5-quart pot, and warm mixture over medium-high heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent scorching, until mixture registers 195 degrees on a candy thermometer. It should take about 15 minutes.

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2. Coagulation

Add lemon juice, gently stirring until just combined. Remove pot from heat and let stand 5 minutes. The combination of the acid and the residual heat in the mixture will cause it to coagulate, or curdle — separating into a soft mass (curds) and a cloudy liquid (whey).

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3. Curds and Whey

After lining a mesh colander with a triple layer of cheesecloth and placing it inside a deeper, slightly larger bowl, gently pour curds and whey into colander. Let mixture stand, pouring off whey occasionally, until most of whey has drained from still-wet curds, 20 minutes.

4. Almost Done

Gather up ricotta in cheesecloth and turn it out into a bowl. Serve within a few hours, or refrigerate up to 4 days. For a denser ricotta, which can be preferable for baking, hang it to drain for another hour. Repurpose whey or discard it.

5. Say Cheese

Fresh ricotta may be an uncomplicated cheese, but it’s far from plain. Serve a fluffy mound of it (instead of butter) with bread, or add it to a bowl of pasta. And combined with honey and figs, it yields an all-in-one fruit-and-cheese plate. Brilliant.

More from Martha Stewart:
Delicious Desserts in 15 Minutes or Less
14 New, Lighter Comfort Food Ideas

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