This post has been a long time in the making. Eighteen months ago the Daring Baker's Challenge for November 2009 was Cannoli. At the same time I had a telephone call from my sister inviting me along to a ricotta making lesson. Well, the two went hand in hand, didn't they? The cannoli with the ricotta filling were a winner and I have made them on many occasions since. But what about the ricotta making lesson?
My sister took me along to the home of a lovely Italian lady who has been making ricotta at least once a week since she arrive from Italy over half a century ago using the same recipe and techniques. This is the recipe I give to you today exactly as Mrs G proudly showed us. I'm sure there is a scientific reason as to what is going on in this recipe but that was of no interest to our instructor.
Ricotta means "recooked". True ricotta is made from the whey leftover from cheese making which is then allowed to acidify for 12-24 hours at room temperature. This acidified whey is reheated and the proteins in the whey form a fine curd.
This ricotta is made from whole milk and cream to which an acidulant is added in the form of calcium lactate to form the curds. I have seen other recipes using vinegar or lemon juice. Unlike true ricotta, this version is not low in fat but creamy and luscious. The calcium lactate was easily obtained from my local pharmacist, just ask!
Mrs G's Homemade Ricotta
2 teaspoons calcium lactate
2 litre whole milk
300ml pure cream
1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
Mix 1/2 cup of lukewarm water with the calcium lactate and stir to dissolve.
In a non reactive pan mix the milk, cream and salt. Stir in the water/calcium lactate mixture and place over medium heat. Do not stir. Have ready a bowl of water and a ladle this will be used to control the temperature of the milk. I assume this was used before there ever was thermometers to measure that the temperature was correct. It just goes to show we don't need fancy equipment to make good food.
As you see a bubble rise to surface pour a little ladleful of water to cool it. You will see the curds forming. It will not take long. Do not allow it to boil or heat for too long or your ricotta will be tough.
When all the ricotta has come to the surface turn off the heat and ladle out the curds into a fine strainer. You can line it with cheese cloth but Mrs G never bothers.
Allow it to drain well - over night if you are using it for cannoli or as a filling for ravioli.
This ricotta is delicious served with crusty bread, salty crackers or mixed through hot pasta with a little Parmesan and herbs.