- 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.
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.