[caption id="attachment_1909" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="Served with homemade crackers and wilted zucchini ribbons."][/caption]

I like to make things from scratch, especially when they involve learning about a new process or technique that I didn’t know about before. I have a great, reliable cracker recipe from Alton Brown, and I was looking for another course for an Italian-ish meal I was making for friends in New York. So, I figured this would be a good opportunity to try making ricotta cheese.

[caption id="attachment_1907" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="Bringing the milk up to 190 degrees F."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1908" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="Using cheesecloth to catch the curds. This is relatively early in the process, but note the texture of the ricotta. It firms up as it continues to strain."][/caption]

According to the Wikipedia article I’ve linked there, ricotta is not technically a cheese since it’s not formed by coagulating the protein casein (the name of which literally comes from the Latin for cheese, caseus; compare German Kaese, and indeed the English word cheese).

Instead, ricotta is made - traditionally - by coagulating other proteins that are in the milk whey left over after true cheese is made. So, you:

  1. Curdle milk with rennet

  2. Make “true” cheese from the curds

  3. Catch the leftover liquid

  4. Make a_ second cheese_ from the other proteins left over (mostly albumin and globulin).

Perhaps this is why ricotta has its name - ricotta means “cooked again” in Italian (though I suppose it’s never really cooked).

However, the homemade ricotta recipe that I used is used is indeed a cheese, since I didn’t make it from whey. Instead, the recipe calls for whole milk to be heated to 190 degrees. I also added lemon juice. Taking these two steps causes the proteins in the milk (all or most of them, I assume, including the casein) to coagulate.

The resulting liquid is then passed through a cheesecloth and allowed to strain for a couple hours. And then you’re done.

This may be one of the best things I’ve made as far as easiness to tastiness ratio.┬áThe resulting cheese is easily spreadable and has a mild, sweet taste that went well with the seedy, hard crackers that I make. Using lemon juice as a coagulant also adds a very clear lemon flavor to the resulting cheese, which is refreshing. The recipe suggests serving it alongside zucchini ribbons, which I made by aggressively peeling zucchini and then allowing the resulting ribbons to macerate in salt.