It's a revelation to think you can make ricotta at home simply by cooking milk and cream, adding a little lemon juice, and letting the result drain in cheesecloth. From pot to plate, it takes under one hour to achieve remarkable flavor and freshness. Keep reading for step-by-step instructions on producing fresh, creamy ricotta in your own kitchen.
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Combine milk, cream, and salt in a 4- to 5-quart pot, and warm mixture over medium-high heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent scorching, until mixture registers 195 degrees on a candy thermometer. It should take about 15 minutes.
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Add lemon juice, gently stirring until just combined. Remove pot from heat and let stand 5 minutes. The combination of the acid and the residual heat in the mixture will cause it to coagulate, or curdle -- separating into a soft mass (curds) and a cloudy liquid (whey).
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After lining a mesh colander with a triple layer of cheesecloth and placing it inside a deeper, slightly larger bowl, gently pour curds and whey into colander. Let mixture stand, pouring off whey occasionally, until most of whey has drained from still-wet curds, 20 minutes.
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Gather up ricotta in cheesecloth and turn it out into a bowl. Serve within a few hours, or refrigerate up to 4 days. For a denser ricotta, which can be preferable for baking, hang it to drain for another hour. Repurpose whey or discard it.
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Fresh ricotta may be an uncomplicated cheese, but it's far from plain. Serve a fluffy mound of it (instead of butter) with bread, or add it to a bowl of pasta. And combined with honey and figs, it yields an all-in-one fruit-and-cheese plate. Brilliant.
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