Life is better with cheese! It is one of those ingredients that rarely gets to be the star of the dish but without it so many of our favorite dishes would be mediocre. Sometimes cheese has a supporting role like with cheese burgers or pizza, and sometimes it is the secret ingredient that you hardly notice but would be the world of difference if it wasn’t there. That is the case with ricotta cheese. At the Blue Goose Inn, one of the favorite breakfasts is Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. We know it is a guest favorite because in an online poll it had a high score and also because we are often asked for the recipe, but here is a little known fact, ricotta cheese is a simple cheese to make fresh in your kitchen.
The ingredients are simple. Whole milk, yes whole milk not 2% or skim but whole. Heavy cream, not half and half, salt, and fresh lemon juice. The better your ingredients the better the ricotta so use the freshest local dairy products, a good sea salt and fresh squeezed lemon juice.
You will also want to have a colander lined with cheese cloth resting on a bowl that will be available when you are ready to strain the cheese.
Mix the milk, cream and salt in a heavy saucepan. The pan is important, it needs to be a heavy, thick bottomed pan so that the milk and cream will cook evenly. Turn the heat to medium and stir occasionally. Stir it enough that the milk doesn’t burn and bring to a rolling boil. A rolling boil is a vigorous boil that does not stop when it is stirred.
At this point, it is time to add the fresh lemon juice. Continue stirring and after a minute or two you will notice the cheese curds separating from the whey. You have now made ricotta cheese.
The last step is to carefully dump it into the colander and let it sit for about an hour to drain. If you are not going to use the cheese immediately make sure you store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
There are many fun ways to use your homemade ricotta from appetizers to main courses but one of our favorite ways is in Lemon Ricotta Pancakes served fresh at The Blue Goose Inn.
Homemade ricotta cheese from whole milk and cream
- 2 quarts whole milk
- 1 C. heavy cream
- ½ tsp. good quality salt I use Himalayan sea salt
- 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
For the Ricotta:
Line a large sieve with a layer of fine-mesh cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl.
Slowly bring milk, cream, and salt to a rolling boil in a 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes.
Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let drain for 1 hour.
After discarding the liquid, chill the ricotta, covered.
Ricotta can store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.