Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Still Afraid of Cheese?

Try this:

Accidental Ricotta

1 gallon whole goat milk
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or 1/8 cup lemon juice)
1 Tbs. Kosher salt

The equipment: stainless steel or ceramic pot to hold the milk, a larger pot to act as the double broiler, stainless steel spoon, candy thermometer, colander, cheese cloth

How to:
Prior to the process place cheese cloth in a colander and place colander in the sink.

1) Place milk in a double broiler and heat until almost boiling (approximately 195 degrees F).

2) Slowly add the cider vinegar while stirring.

You will see a change in the milk when enough vinegar is added. The liquid whey will separate from the solid curds. The curds will look like very small globules (a little like cottage cheese) floating in a yellowy liquid. If this does not happen after 1/4 cup of vinegar is added, slowly add another 1/8 cup.

3) Pour the contents of the pot into the cheese cloth and let drain 2 to 3 minutes

4) Add salt (or other spices of your choice) and gently stir into the ricotta

5) Knot the ends of the cheesecloth and hang the "bag" over the sink for an hour or two to continue draining.

Plan on pasta for dinner and use that fresh ricotta! Try this Accidental Ricotta with a little cilantro and parsley and an olive oil drizzle over fusilli.

Learning From Our Food

Okay, okay, if making cheese still intimidates you, remember this: short of setting it on fire, almost everything you do with milk is edible (as long as you, your stuff, and your milk are clean).

Dealing with fresh from the animal milk and making fresh from the press cheese is fairly exacting if you are expecting a specific result. If you are distracted and miss a temperature here and there, you need a little creative thinking to save the day. The milk itself is fairly flexible. It's the expectations that are unforgiving, as in expecting mozzarella and ending up with a dull tasting but tolerable spread. You'll have to jazz it up somehow before it's something you'd choose as a snack. On the other hand, some missteps can lead to pleasant surprises.

Accidental Ricotta usually gets its start with multitasking. I get too busy doing too many things when I am pasteurizing the milk from our goats. Sometimes the distraction involves the children, but other times (I confess!) it involves Facebook.

Pasteurizing is pretty simple. To kill the unwanted bugs in the milk, if any, you bring the milk up to 161 degrees Fahrenheit, then cool it down rapidly. It's an easy to follow procedure involving a double broiler, a thermometer, and ice water. What could go wrong? Well, too much heat (and too many friends online). It makes the milk flat, dull, and dead tasting. It's "good" for coffee and cooking with, but even that is questionable when there is a better option available in the next milking. How do we turn something that's tolerable into something that's good?

Transform it.

If it's not quite at 195 degrees yet, add some heat, then the vinegar, and voila! Accidental Ricotta. If it's boiled, let it cool down to the 195.

So how is life like this cheese? You may have thwarted expectations to begin with, but with some flexibility and extra effort, you can be pleasantly surprised.

Now really, Chris, was that last sentence necessary?

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