Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sur La Table - Cheese Making Class

Do you see those Pinterest posts about making your own ricotta, mozzarella cheese, etc? Or how dreamy do all those pictures of burratta look? I am obsessed with cheese by the way.

Since I was moving out of Boston's North End to North Carolina I was determined to learn how to make my own mozzarella/burrata and pasta (pasta post to come!!), since I wouldn't be able to run across the street to one of the amazing shops. My favorite shop was Monica's. This place was amazing. My husband wants to open one in Charlotte one day. The people working there are so incredibly nice and they have the best homemade cheeses, pastas, italian meats, etc. They also have 2 restaurants in the North End. My favorite is Monica's Trattoria which is diagonally across the street. It is really small and cozy but the food is delicious. It is a neighborhood gem. Definitely try out there risottos of the day, or if they have the squid ink pasta!!

Anyway, the point of this blog post is to talk about how easy it is to make homemade ricotta! The mozzarella and burrata aren't hard but definitely take more time and you need to get the stretching technique down before you get store quality mozzarella.

During the Homemade Cheese Workshop class at Sur La Table they gave us the following overview of the process, basics, tips and how to make ricotta which I wanted to share! These classes are awesome. They are about 3 hours long but that also includes sampling of what you are making. In this case we not only had our yummy ricotta, mozzarella and burrata, but we also had pasta to go with it!!

These directions were adapted from the Sur La Table Homemade Cheese Workshop pamphlet, and they used Ricki Carroll Home Cheese Making book as a reference.

Don't be scared by the process or technique tips. I just included them because I thought they were interesting and I can be a slight food nerd!

Cheese making Process: 

  • Cheese making is basically the process of removing water from dairy milk
  • First characteristic of cheese is based on how much water is removed (ex. Soft cheeses contain more water, while parmesan hardly contains any water)
  • Milk is mostly water, and what remains is fat, protein, lactose and minerals. 
  • You can use lemon juice or vinegar which is the simplest method to create an acid, or you can use a bacteria to create an acid in the milk. The preferred method is bacteria since it provides flavor and character. Both ways to use the acid cause the milk to coagulate into curds. 
  • Basic ingredients for making cheese are milk, start culture/or natural acts, and an enzyme like rennet to aid in separating portends from water. 
  • Sur La Table, William Sonoma and other stores actually sell cheese making kits where all you have to buy is milk. But you can also buy the ingredients on Amazon if you have a good and reliable instant-read thermometer. 
Cheese making Tips/Basics: 
  • Sterilize all tools and make sure that everything is clean including your counter tops and cheesecloth. 
  • Make sure to use the best quality dairy products. 
  • Pasteurized milk or cream works well but don't use ultra-pasteurized. You can usually find pasteurized milk at Whole Foods. Best way to tell if your milk is ultra-pasteurized is by the "sell by" date, if the date is 3 or more weeks from purchase date then it is most likely ultra-pasteurized. 
  • Pay special attention to time and temperature! A few degrees off and it can totally make a difference. I learned this when we were making our mozzarella. 
  • Definitely invest in a reliable instant-read thermometer. You need to know the exact temperature! 
  • Use a large, heavy bottomed, high quality pot for heating milk. This will help to prevent scorching and ensure even heating. 
Homemade Ricotta: 

In Italian, "ricotta" means "re-cooked", which refers to the process from which it was made. The whey drained from making mozzarella was reheated and strained again to make ricotta cheese. For a richer, creamier cheese, replace party of the milk with 1/2 to 1 cup cream or half-and-half. 

Recipe Yield: 10 to 12 ounces
  • 8 cups whole milk (no ultra pasteurized)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cheese salt (could also use very fine sea salt)
  • 2 cups buttermilk, preferably whole milk (remember the flavor comes from the richer ingredients!)
Place the milk in a large, heavy saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until the milk comes to a frothing boil. Turn off the head and, as the bubbling subsides, stir in the salt and buttermilk. Continue gently stirring in one direction until the curds and whey separate. The mixture will slightly resemble thickened buttermilk. The why will still look milky and the curds will be very small. Remove from the stove and let sit, completely undisturbed for about 5 minutes. 

Carefully pour the curds and whey through a cheesecloth. Leave the curds in the strainer for about 15 to 30 minutes depending on how dry you would like your ricotta. 

Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in a sealed container.

Isn't that super simple? I think this is perfect if you are making any salads with fresh ricotta, or any dishes that feature ricotta. If you are making baked ziti I would still stick to the store bought. This is fun if you can make the ricotta the star of your meal!

Don't be afraid of the make your own recipes on Pinterest. Definitely test these out and who knows they may be better then what you buy at the store. 

Happy Pinning!
By Jennifer Shelton