Love ricotta? Homemade ricotta and (or small-curd cottage cheese) is EASY to make, only needs a few ingredients, and is ready in less than 30 minutes.
This year, I had a goal.
A food goal.
What was it? I wanted to see how many pre-made, processed milk products I could cut out of my life. I didn’t want to stop eating them– I wanted to STOP BUYING them.
Or at the very least, stop buying them as often.
For one thing– the fresh, homemade dairy products taste better than the store-bought versions.
Store-bought versions also tend to have thickeners, additives and stabilizers added. You can check this out for yourself the next time you’re at the grocery store.
Was it worth it?
YES– no question! And the best part is– homemade ricotta is EASY to make and delicious!
What is Homemade Ricotta?
Traditionally, ricotta is made from the whey that’s leftover from making certain hard cheeses (like Romano). In other words, the watery byproduct from some cheese-making processes is turned into the delicious, short-lived ricotta.
Unfortunately, the exact type of whey used in commercially made ricotta is really difficult to find in stores, because it has a short shelf life.
But that’s okay! Why is it okay?
You can make delicious, homemade ricotta with just milk and fresh lemon juice or vinegar.
Why Is Homemade Ricotta Like Small-Curd Cottage Cheese?
Homemade ricotta is (almost) the exact same thing as small-curd cottage cheese.
Let me explain.
If you buy cottage cheese at the grocery store, you’ve probably noticed cottage cheese comes in both small-curd and large-curd varieties.
The difference isn’t just the size of the curds. The cheese-making process for small-curd is different than for large-curd.
Small-curd cottage cheese is made using the EXACT SAME PROCESS as homemade ricotta cheese.
That means that when you follow this recipe, you can use this homemade cheese in recipes that call for either ricotta or small-curd cottage cheese. Things just got exciting, am I right?
What’s the deal with large-curd cottage cheese?
Large-curd cottage cheese is slightly more complicated to make, and requires rennet (or a rennet substitute), and cutting the cheese (no pun intended).
Large-curd cottage cheese is a project for another day.
Can I Use the Leftover Whey?
During the cheese-making process, you’ll strain off the whey. If you want to save and use the whey, you can!
Since you’ll be curdling the milk with an acid (either lemon juice or vinegar), the resulting whey will be acid whey (or sour whey).
Acid whey is a little less versatile than sweet whey (the byproduct from making hard cheese or yogurt), but it’s definitely usable. Here are a few ways to use acid or sweet whey.
And in case you’re wondering, the whey that’s traditionally used to make ricotta (the one you can’t buy at the store), is a type of sweet whey.
Is Ricotta a Fermented Cheese?
It’s a fresh cheese that is not left to ferment.
Should I Use Vinegar or Lemon Juice to Ferment the Milk?
You can use either.
If you prefer a sweeter cheese (like traditional ricotta), I recommend using lemon juice.
For a more savory cheese (like traditional small-curd cottage cheese), use white distilled vinegar.
How to Make Homemade Ricotta
To make homemade ricotta or cottage cheese, start by bringing milk to a boil.
Next, add the lemon juice or vinegar.
The milk will immediately curdle.
Then, you’ll strain off the whey– and voila!
That’s all there is to it!
Stir in a little salt, add cream if you want to, and then you’re done!
Enjoy your homemade cheese on its own, spread it on toasted bread, add a little fruit and honey– or simply add it to your favorite ricotta cheese recipe.
Homemade Ricotta (Small-Curd Cottage Cheese)
- 4 cups milk (whole milk preferred) No ultra-pasteurized milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
For Small Curd Cottage Cheese:
- ⅓ cup distilled white vinegar
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- salt + pepper
- Bring milk to a simmer or soft boil. (Approximately 180°F.)Tip: Microwave milk for about 9 minutes instead of cooking it on the stovetop for faster cook time and easier clean-up.
- Add lemon juice or vinegar to the hot milk. Milk will immediately begin to curdle.Tip: Lemon juice will make the cheese sweet like ricotta. White vinegar will yield a more neutral-tasting cheese.
- Let mixture cool for about 10 minutes. The solid curds will begin to separate from the watery-whey.
- Pour the mixture into a fine mesh strainer. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 5 minutes, or up to an hour for a drier cheese.Tip: No fine mesh strainer? You can line a colander with butter cheesecloth or butter muslin, or multiple layers of regular cheesecloth or muslin.
- Add the salt, plus more salt to taste if desired. For a creamier cheese, stir in the heavy cream.
- Store cheese in a sealed container in the fridge, and use within a week.
- Serve on sliced, toasted French bread as crostini. Add fruit, herbs, + honey as desired.
- Serve as a side dish, topped with peaches, salt, + pepper
- Serve as a side dish with berries and honey
- Use in place of store-bought ricotta or cottage cheese in any recipe