Homemade Ricotta

I know I have mentioned this before, but if you didn’t know, we have easy access to raw milk. In SC, raw milk is legal to sell. We hadn’t even tasted raw milk prior to moving here. In CO, you had to buy a share (upwards of $150) of a farm and then buy a gallon (upwards of $10). I had read a lot about the tasty, nutritious, mysterious raw milk, but it had never passed my lips. A neighbor told us about a little family farm, really close to us, Harmony Dairy. I’ll have to do a post in the future, just so you can see pictures of where I go to buy my milk. It’s literally the farm your parents told you that “Rover” went to when he got too old. I get out of my jeep after going through multiple chained gates (free roaming animals are happy, but also dangerous for cars!) and pull up to a refrigerated cooler that says, “Drink Milk.” I put my $5 in a little tool box and grab my delicious raw, un-homogenized, full-fat, cream on the top milk. On my way out, I usually pet a calf or two, whisper to a pig of give a loving nudge to a dog or chicken. Are you in love yet?

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We aren’t big milk drinkers. My milk usually ends up fermented in some variety (yogurt or kefir), in a roux, and I use it in my coffee every morning. I usually get a gallon every two weeks. Except recently I’ve been buying more and more, ever since making homemade ricotta! I’ve never been a big ricotta fan. I mean I buy it once a year when I make lasagna and never think much of it. That has definitely changed.

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While it takes some time (not much though compared to any other cheese), it is definitely worth it. You have a few minutes while the milk heats. Go nuts. Me? I play with this beauty.

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I’m shameless. Sorry. I couldn’t let one post go by without a pic!

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I heat the milk with the acid (lemon juice) and the curds and whey separate and just before it erupts into a boil is when I shut off the heat. You can see the bubbles about to surface and the temp is around 200-205.

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And then the straining begins. It takes a little while for me as I only have this little sieve. Quadrupled lined with cheesecloth, it’s ready to go. I pour and drain and pour some more and drain some more.

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Almost there…

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You can stop the straining process when it looks and feels like ricotta to you. I like mine a little on the wet side. Then I liberally sprinkle with sea salt. And eat it. And occasionally it makes it into a beautiful dish like this one.

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Summer squash and ricotta galette. Divine.

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Or on a plate alongside crackers and fig jam for an elegant snack.

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Or on top of a plate full of pasta instead of parmesan for a rich, creamy addition. So, go ahead, make some ricotta. I promise you’ll find ways to use it!

Homemade Ricotta

Adapted from: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/06/how-to-make-ricotta-cheese-from-scratch.html

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk (DO NOT use ultra-pasteurized milk, which is basically any organic milk sold at the grocery store. It will not curdle, I learned this the hard way a long time ago! If you don’t have access to fresh milk, look in the store for a low-pasteurized alternative. For instance, I know Publix’s whole milk is low-pasteurized).
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (From 1-3 lemons. I had super juicy lemons and only needed 1.)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup heavy cream (you might need this addition if using whole milk from the store), salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large, heavy-bottom pot (dutch oven or cast iron is great here), add milk and lemon juice, stir briefly.
  2. Set heat to medium-low heat. Heat milk until it reaches 175 degrees at this setting. This take about 30-50 minutes.
  3. After it hits 175 degrees, raise the heat to medium-high and watch closely. You will see the curds begin to separate from the whey (pictured above) and the whole thing will look like it’s about to erupt into a rolling boil. Shut the heat off before this happens. Let it sit for a few minutes while you get the straining station set up.
  4. Over a large bowl, set your sieve and quadruple line it with cheesecloth. Pour the curds and whey into the bowl and let it drain. I keep adding liquid as it drains down. It takes me about three dumps. I get in there with a spatula (pictured above) and help the liquid get under the curds by lifting and folding with the spatula.
  5. Once it looks and feels like ricotta to you, it’s done! Again, I liberally sprinkle with sea salt, but do your to your taste preference. Yes, this means start eating it now.
  6. Keep in air-tight container in fridge for over a week.

Tomato Coconut Curry Soup

Music: Cat Power, You are Free – This album is perfect for a lazy night of cooking.  As you will see in the recipe, there is a lot of down time.  I spent this time soaking in this album and enjoying Marshall’s sultry voice and poetic lyrics. There’s even some surprise vocals from Eddie Vedder on this album.  Anyone else into Cat Power? Any other album recommendations??

Menu: Soup topped with lime cilantro roasted chickpeas

Recently, we went out to eat at Watercourse Foods (yummm) with some super friends.  I have recently taken up this “gluten-free thing” to see if it helps with some other health issues.  As you may have inferred from the previous sentence, I’m not too thrilled about this “thing”.  For those of you who know me personally, know that I love my gluten.  Possibly my most favorite food item in the whole wide world is garlic bread.  I haven’t had garlic bread…in a really long time…sigh. 

So, when I had this tomato soup at Watercourse, I thought, “now this is a soup that doesn’t need garlic bread!” I must say it is heart-breaking to make tomato soup with out a hunk of crunchy, garlicky bread to soak it up. A few of us at the table got this soup and we all fell in love.  So much so, that one of us asked the waiter what was in it. His response was something like, “ummm tomato, curry, and coconut milk (duh was implied).” And of course, I thought I can’t wait to make this at home with whole spices to try to really boost the flavor.  That is precisely what I did!

You can see the seeds toasting: I selected cumin, coriander, fenugreek, and a touch of mustard seeds.  You can grind them in a spice or coffee grinder or have fun with your hands and do it with a mortar and pestle (courtesy of the husband for xmas!). I made my base of aromatics with the classic Indian/curry mixture – onion, chile, garlic, and ginger.  I browned the onions very deeply (this isn’t a good picture, sorry!).  This is the start of all the flavor.  If you have the time, spend a good 25 minutes browning the onions.  Then add the rest of your aromatics. 

Sometimes, I use a small food processor when cooking Indian to help reduce the time chopping.  However, if I have the time, I love to chop and mince ingredients.  It’s part of the reason I think cooking is so relaxing.  Many people report that running is relaxing because of the repetition of footsteps (along with many of other things…), and I think that’s what cooking does for me.  Once you become comfortable in the kitchen, it is repetition, especially knife skills.  Just writing this is making my wrists ache to get back in the kitchen and do some chopping…

Anyways, back to the soup!  The crunchy cabbage really adds to the soup and is part of the reason garlic bread is not entirely necessary for this tomato soup.  That doesn’t mean I wasn’t aching for it the entire time I cooked this soup. I did, however, come up with the brilliant idea to top this soup with something equally as crunchy as garlic bread…roasted chickpeas! So, I took what I planned on topping the soup with, lime juice and cilantro, and tossed that with very crunchy, roasted chickpeas, for a supremely satisfying crunch.

By the way, who needs cream when you have coconut milk?!?!  The coconut milk was such a perfect addition to this soup.  It made the spicy,  flavorful tomato soup base, rich, creamy, and slightly sweet. 

Funny side story about how awesome this soup is: We had to leave for the weekend and my sister came over to dog and chicken-sit for a few days. One of the mentioned perks of pet sitting for us is that I try to leave lots of good food stocked 🙂 So, I got a text soon after we left that went something like this, “what the hell is in the soup?!? it’s rocking my world!!!!” I took it as a compliment that my rip-off of this Watercourse soup was a complete success 🙂

Tomato Coconut Curry Soup
Inspired by Watercourse Foods, Denver, CO

Ingredients:

  • 1 TB cumin seeds
  • 1 TB coriander seeds
  • 1 tspn. fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tspn. brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tspn. tumeric
  • OR sub the whole toasted seeds for 2  – 3 TB curry powder
  • Ghee or coconut oil (around 2 TB)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large serrano pepper, minced (or hot pepper of your choice)
  • 5 – 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 – 1 1/2 piece of ginger, large gnarly spots, peeled, minced (I like to keep most of the skin on)
  • 2 – 28 oz. cans of tomatoes (your choice of type – I think I did one crushed and one diced)
  • 1 small head of cabbage, thinly sliced (I like it chunkier, but feel free to shred for a thinner result)
  • 1 can coconut milk (full fat is just better)
  • 1 batch of lime-cilantro roasted chickpeas

Directions:

  1. Place all seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Toast for about 5 minutes, until fragrant and seeds have darkened. Remove from heat and ground spices.  You can do this by spice/coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Add tumeric and stir to combine.
  2. In large dutch oven, heat ghee or oil over medium-high heat.  Add onions and  cook until brown and smelling delicious, at least 10 minutes and up to 35 minutes. 
  3. Add pepper, garlic, and ginger.  Stir to incorporate and cook for 2 minutes. 
  4. Add ground spices (or curry powder).  Stir to incorporate and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes.  Stir to incorporate.  Once mixture comes to a simmer, turn heat down to medium-low and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes.  You can speed this process up if on a time crunch, but the longer it simmers, the more time the flavors have to come together.  
  6. Once soup has simmered for a while, add cabbage.  Stir in and let cabbage soften in soup.  If you like your cabbage still pretty crunchy, this will only take 3 minutes or so.  If you like the cabbage a bit more soft, you can allow it to simmer in the soup for up to 15 minutes.  
  7. When the cabbage is done to your liking.  Turn heat off and add coconut milk.  Stir until soup is creamy and milk is completely dispersed in soup. Taste and season with S &P, if needed.
  8. Top with chickpeas (or garlic bread if you are so lucky, but please don’t tell me if you do…) and devour.