Where there’s a will (and lots of spinach) there’s a whey

Mad_Millie_ricotta

We’ve been eating a lot of spinach lately. It’s growing like a weed in the veggie patch. The more I harvest, the more it grows. We’ve been eating a lot of ricotta too; they’re perfect bedfellows. So when I heard about a cheese making demonstration that would teach the intricacies of making ricotta, mozzarella and mascarpone, I booked myself a seat. I was spurred on by the $9.80 price tag on a single ball of buffalo mozzarella I’d bought at my local delicatessen a few days prior. It was an expensive topping on spinach and ricotta cannelloni (a Jamie Oliver recipe that’s totally worth a road test) and the thought of making both cheeses and growing my own spinach for the dish was a challenge I couldn’t pass up.

The Mad Millie cheese making kit I purchased as part of the demonstration deal – Beginners’ Italian Cheeses – contains all the equipment including thermometer, ricotta basket, cheese salt and citric acid – the latter is used to curdle the milk and create curds and whey. The only additional ingredient I had to invest in to make ricotta was two litres of homogenised milk (homogenised milk – the standard stuff found in supermarkets – has been heat treated and pressurised to break up the fat globules).

Making ricotta is pretty much a four-step process

  1. Add salt to milk and heat to 90°C.
  2. Remove pan from heat and add citric acid. The ricotta should curdle immediately.
  3. Leave ricotta to cool (between 1 and 4 hours).
  4. Scoop into draining basket.

Okay – so it’s an easy cheese to make. But that doesn’t diminish the personal satisfaction of psyching up your inner domestic goddess and mastering a traditional culinary skill.

The Mad Millie recipe booklet could include better instructions – or tips about what to look for at certain stages. For example, I was convinced my batch hadn’t curdled sufficiently, there seemed to be lots of whey and a meagre amount of crumb-sized pieces of curd. I expected the curds to be bigger and nearly threw it away as a failure. And at two different points the recipe calls for different quantities of water within which to dissolve the citric acid.

Despite this the ricotta turned out creamy and light. The cheese was moist and it beat effortlessly into creamed butter, sugar and egg yolks to create a rich batter for ricotta lemon cake.

I’ll definitely make it again – next time possibly a double batch. I’m not so sure about the mozzarella. All the stretching, folding – not breaking – then shaping and into smooth ping-pong sized balls looked easy in the hands of professional demonstrators but I know it will tax my novice cheese making skills. But it does make a scrumptious toasted topping for spinach and ricotta cannelloni. And for as long as the spinach flourishes, there will be plenty of that in fridge.

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14 Comments

Filed under Produce

14 responses to “Where there’s a will (and lots of spinach) there’s a whey

  1. Wonderful, thank you! I haven’t made ricotta for a long time and I love that you shared the link to Mad Millie supplies! Love your web site.

    • Thanks Lizzy. Mad Millie have sausage making kits coming soon, apparently. And some trickier cheese making kits if you are an old hand at ricotta. Thanks for your follow on Twitter.
      See you about…

  2. Well done Rachel – I made some ricotta myself this weekend and felt quite pleased with myself. Mine also found it’s way into a spinach dish (and some brownies).
    Instead of citric acid, I just used 50 mls of vinegar added to milk heated to 90C and strained it immediately through a couple of Chux cloths – really couldn’t have been easier. I’m going to use the whey in some bread dough next time around.

  3. I’ve also cooked some Jamie Oliver recipes – the cannelloni and a tomato and eggplant pasta, that I thought would be economical, fast and fabulous mid-week family meals until I went out to purchase the ingredients and had to choke on the price of the buffalo mozzarella. Congrats on mastering making ricotta – that’s something I’ve never done but must try.

    • Making ricotta is pretty easy – i was surprised at how easy. Mozzarella i’m not so sure about – but Jamie does like to throw it in his recipes. Can be a killer at the check-out!

  4. Wow thanks for this, I hadn’t realized ricotta was so easy to make either. Glad we have connected on twitter, keep the great posts coming :)

  5. cheeseyjan

    Hi everyone, you may like to look at Cheeselinks web site…..they also have cheesemaking kits and workshops I’ve been making great camemberts at home since attending a course earlier this year, check it out as I think they are cheaper than Mad Millie and they have are very helpful if you have problems or dramas

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