I love a good challenge. But the laugh was on me when this provoking project of “cheese making” turned out to be painless, yet yielded surprising results. The invitation to engage in one of my favorite indulgences came from fellow blogger Andrew Wilder of “Eating Rules” as he participates in a year-long “urban homesteading” challenge on Annette Cottrell’s blog “Sustainable Eats”.
Andrew suggested Lemon Cheese (a ricotta-like cheese) as a great place to start. All you need is milk, lemon juice, and salt.
For those of you who know me, I can’t simply let things be. I have to “alter it” for my control creative outbursts. So I thought Truffle Salt Ricotta sounded more exotic than Lemon Cheese.
Ricotta is a creamy curd, not a cheese. That was news to me. “Ricotta” meaning “re-cooked” in Italian is traditionally made from reheating the whey, the by-product of making mozzarella.
This recipe is a simplified version of making fresh cheese. I am taking creative license with the name, as I don’t have any Italian grandmothers that will come after me with a wooden spoon.
I start by squeezing three lemons from my Aunt Betty’s tree. (Thanks, mom for collecting them for me!)
The milk is heated to 175 °F and stirred frequently. Mixture will be removed from the heat, lemon juice added, and then we wait.
All the time, anticipating the remarkable ways I’m going to use this.
I lined a colander with cheesecloth, then poured the curd into it.
The corners of the cheesecloth are tied together to form a bag, then hung from my kitchen faucet.
After waiting some more… I opened my gorgeous creation and added some truffle salt. I could have stopped right there and eaten the whole thing, but I was late for meeting my Italian girlfriend, Terese at our local Italian trattoria OlivA for the real taste test.
Before I could stop her, Terese invited the chef to taste my creation. He was impressed, and suggested it would be wonderful in a sauce over linguine. As if on cue, I handed my homemade creation over with a “sounds perfect for dinner tonight.” A grin broke out across his face, and off Chef Angelo dashed into the kitchen, returning shortly thereafter with Linguine al limone e tartufo formaggio – divine! Thanks Chef Angelo for being such a great sport and chef!
Click here for a similar recipe.
Other inspirational uses…
The next day I stuffed some Medjool dates from the Studio City Farmer’s Market.
The sweet and salty combination makes this appetizer a showstopper in my book.
- ½ gallon whole milk (2% will work, but produce a drier cheese)
- Juice of 2-3 lemons, approximately ¼ to ½ cup
- Approx. ¼ – ½ tsp. truffle salt (any salt will work)
- Optional: Finely chopped herbs, such as chives, oregano, or lavender
- In a large pot over medium-low heat, gently bring the milk to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to stir frequently to keep from scalding the milk.
- Turn off the heat. Add about ¼ cup of lemon juice and stir well. Let sit for 15 minutes.
- After waiting, the milk should be curdled, and the whey (the liquid) should be clear. If it’s still milky/cloudy, add more lemon juice, stir gently, and give it a few more minutes. Depending on the acidity of the lemon juice, it may take quite a bit more. It won’t hurt to use more, but if you use more than necessary, the final result will have a stronger lemon flavor.
- Line a colander with butter muslin and gently pour the curds into it. Allow it to drain for a few minutes, and then tie the corners of the muslin together to form a bag.
- Hang the curds to drain. I use a twist-tie and rubber-band combination to hook the bag over the kitchen faucet.
- Allow to drain for 1-2 hours, until it stops dripping and has firmed up a bit. (If you’re in a hurry you can speed the process somewhat by squeezing the bag gently from the top down).
- Remove the cheese and mix in the salt and herbs to taste.
- Ricki says to store the cheese in the fridge for 1-2 weeks, but I guarantee it’ll be gone long before then.
Quote of the Day:
“You have to be a romantic to invest yourself, your money, and your time in cheese.”
― Anthony Bourdain, American chef, author and television personality
“You have to be crazy or dairy-intolerant to go a day without eating cheese.”
―Cathy Arkle, Fan of Anthony Bourdain and Italian cheese/curd
My next investment will be mozzarella. When I’m feeling really confident I’ll attempt Burrata, which upgrades my status to romantic maniac.
…and then she paused for thought.