Wednesday, January 16

How to Make Your Own Ricotta Cheese and the Bad Side of Ultra-Pasteurized Milk

For a couple of years now, I have been passively searching for a way to get my hands on raw milk. You would think living minutes away from huge dairy farms, that this wouldn't be that difficult. It has been though. I'm not the type of person to go knocking on barn doors or cold calling farmers. I've made a few calls and emails to the contacts listed in online directories that are supposed to help connect farmers and customers, but nothing has amounted from that.
I always buy organic milk, but everything available in the stores has been ultra pasteurized. This is a shame because a good chunk of what's so beneficial in organic milk gets destroyed in that process, including the very enzymes needed to aid in digestion of it. Did you know, once milk has been ultra-pasteurized, it can sit on a shelf, unrefrigerated for days, even weeks and it won't go bad? It's not on a shelf though, because stores and their big-wigs know we wouldn't buy it if we knew how long it could sit. I won't go off on a rant, but this is part of my driving force to educate my children about whole, real food. It's one of the reasons teaching them to grow their own food and appreciate their local farmers is so important to me.
Anyway, back to the cheese. You can't make any sort of cheese with ultra-pasteurized milk for the reasons I listed above. It just won't curdle.
Can I tell you how excited I was when I found organic low-vat temperature pasteurized milk? People in the store probably thought I was crazy - seeing some weird lady squealing about milk. My reaction must have rubbed off on Stella too because she hugged that jug of milk all the way out the door. Thankfully I bought two half gallons so I didn't have to pry the jug out of her fingers. The lady checking us out got a good laugh from it too. This may just be the closest I will ever get to raw milk, and I'm good with that.
For local readers, I found the milk at Joesph's in Crystal Lake for $4.50 per half-gallon. Try it, it's sooo good!
On to the ricotta!
I had no idea how easy it is to make ricotta cheese. If you can pour milk and lemon juice in a pot, you can make it, seriously.
I followed the instructions listed in the book The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making and I let it hang a bit longer. 
It really was as easy as putting the milk and lemon juice in a pot and attaching a candy thermometer. I only stirred it twice the entire time.
It looks a little funky at the end of the cooking process, but this is normal. The curds are separating from the whey.
I draped a large cloth napkin over a colander that was nested in a pot and just poured everything in. The above picture is what was left.
I wanted a drier ricotta so I attached it to my faucet to drip dry for about an hour.
And this is what I got! So easy! You end up with A LOT of whey after making ricotta cheese. I couldn't just throw this away, or I would have felt like I was throwing money away. I had about three cups of it, so I used it instead of water to make two loafs of this Grandmother Bread. It was the first time making this bread, and I think I just might have a new favorite. My kids alone finished off almost an entire loaf in one day.

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