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Ricotta

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Ricotta is a byproduct of the cheese-making process. The word translates as “re-cooked”, and refers to the re-heating of the remaining whey after the curds have been removed for cheese. Sheep’s milk has a higher fat content than cow’s milk and the same is true of cheese made from whole versions of those milks, but sheep’s milk ricotta has a lower fat content than cow’s milk ricotta. Some producers, in addition to heating, add acid to the whey to aid in the coagulation of the protein. In my experience ricotta made without the addition of acid is superior to that made with it.

This is the process as done by Carmella with the whey from her sheep’s milk:

After making the cheese, Carmella transfers all of the whey into a stainless steel vat. She submerges a large steam pipe (exactly like a giant version of the steaming wand used to froth milk for cappuccino) into the whey and turns the steam on. Carmella carefully monitors its rising temperature. At 80 degrees Celsius she turns the steam off. Protein suspended in the whey coagulates at this point and floats to the surface: this is the ricotta. When she is sure that all of the ricotta has surfaced, Carmella skims it off with extreme gentleness. Too much of a disturbance and the floating mass will sink irretrievably to the bottom of the whey. The ricotta is left to drain in plastic baskets, and according to Carmella is best on its second day.

Checking the Whey's Rising Temperature to Make Ricotta, Molise
Checking the Whey’s Rising Temperature to Make Ricotta, Molise
Carefully Skimming the Ricotta off the Surface, Molise
Carefully Skimming the Ricotta off the Surface, Molise

We scoop large chunks off at mealtime and eat it alone, or with bread, or drizzled with honey as a dessert. The baker in the nearby town has told me that Carmella’s ricotta is the finest she has ever tasted; it is certainly the best I have ever tried.

On our first day on the farm Carmella served us her ricotta at lunch. Trying to be polite Vanessa and I made sure not to eat all of it even though we wanted to. Later that day I looked in the dogs’ food bucket and saw that Carmella had tossed the remainder in. I swear to never let the ricotta go to the dogs again while I am here.

2 Responses to “Ricotta”

  1. on 17 Sep 2007 at 9:37 pmPaula from Only Cookware

    What a great blog. I am just sitting here fascinated by the things you experienced. I haven’t got to the post yet to see why you are on a farm in Italy but I am sure I will find that eventually. Hope you can check out my blog by the way: http://www.only-cookware.com/blog/

  2. on 18 Mar 2010 at 2:23 pmElaine From Cokware Help

    Hi Daniel,

    It’s been a while since you posted I hope you get back to it soon as I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts.

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