Fresh ricotta is best the day it's made but can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to four days. Don't waste the protein-rich whey that drains out of the ricotta curds. Freeze it in ice-cube trays and use in smoothies, or simply enjoy it as is, poured over ice.
- 8 cups (1/2 gallon) best-quality whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups best-quality heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons), strained to remove pulp
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.
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).
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.
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.