ittle miss Muffet was on to something ya’ll…sitting there on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey. If you’ve made cheese before, you’re very familiar with curds and whey. The curds are formed into cheese, and the whey…well, what does the whey become?
Italian for “to cook again” or “twice cooked”, Ricotta is a soft, smooth, unripened cheese made from cow, sheep, goat or Italian water buffalo milk whey left over from the production of cheese. The Hubs gets excited whenever I make Ricotta because that means we’ll be having lasagna or manicotti in the near future!
If you were brave enough to try my homemade 60-minute-mozzarella recipe, then you have plenty of whey on your hands. Hopefully you didn’t throw it out because it has almost as many uses as coconut oil!
Whey is the yellowish-green liquid left over from curdled milk after the curds are removed. It’s a complete protein and contains all 9 essential amino acids. It’s full of water-soluble proteins, vitamins and minerals and a total shame to pour down the drain. It has so many uses like soaking grains/flour for baking, cooking your pasta or beans (increase the cooking time just a bit), making ferments (fruits/veggies) and adding to smoothies for an extra nutritional boost. If you have farm animals, you can feed whey to your chickens or pigs. You can even use it to water your acid-loving house/garden plants.
Nut Milk Bag (or butter muslin)
Please note: Because Ricotta is made from the albumin protein left over in the whey from making cheese, you will not be able to make Ricotta from acid precipitated cheeses like Panir/Queso Blanco or whole milk Ricotta because there will not be any albumin protein left.
To Make Ricotta:
Step 1: Pour whey into large pot and heat to 200°F.
As it comes up to temperature, you’ll notice small white particles (the albumin protein) floating to the surface. Once it reaches 200°F, much more albumin will surface and it will begin to look like a white foam floating on top of the whey. Congratulations! The acid from the ripe whey and the heat have precipitated the protein!
Step 2 (optional): If your whey has reached 200°F and you aren’t seeing much of this white protein floating around, you can add a little vinegar (about 2 Tbs). This isn’t necessary, but won’t hurt the Ricotta if you choose to do so. Different cheeses “ripen” at different rates, leaving different acidity levels in the whey. If you made a “quick” cheese, the vinegar will be a helpful addition for the precipitation of the protein. I have used both methods successfully!
Step 3: Using a nut-milk bag, clean pillowcase or very fine cheesecloth (called “butter muslin”) carefully pour the whey into the bag over your colander/bowl (you don’t want that whey to go down the drain!).
Be careful! The liquid is hot! Having an extra set of hands to hold your bag/pillowcase may be helpful.
Step 4: Allow the Ricotta to drain for a couple of hours. Once your whey cools to room temperature it’s ready for its next use!
Step 5: Check the consistency of your Ricotta (this is preferential, but you’re looking for a thick, cottage cheese-like consistency). Once your Ricotta is the consistency you prefer, place it in a bowl and add salt to taste.
- Ricotta made from the whey of different cheeses will have different tastes. We prefer Ricotta made from Mozzarella because it’s nice and mild.
- Ricotta can be subbed in most recipes that call for cottage cheese.
- Ricotta is a delicious substitute for cream cheese in cheesecake.
- Season your Ricotta with herbs and use it as a dip for veggies and crackers.