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Ricotta will be my resting pose

Posted May 25 2009 12:00am

I know this title must sound confusing or at the very least ‘cute.’ I also know that I am posting at 3:30 am so you will have to take my word for it that it is not an early morning hair brained idea and that it will all make sense in a minute…I promise.

Anyway, back to my story. :-) As anyone who knows me well can confess I have a bit of an obsession with cheese, so much so that when I participated in VeganMoFo the month was not complete without a successful attempt at homemade vegan cheese. Since I am actually an omni I knew it was only a matter of time before I dabbled in the real deal. And when my boyfriend bought me a cheese making book and kit for Christmas it pretty much sealed the deal. The only thing I was waiting for a was a good source of raw milk. I solved that Saturday when the dog and I, armed with an ice-packed cooler and cheddar hot dog slices (for his training sessions along the way) drove 45 minutes South to an idyllic dairy farm of around 18 cows. After a short orientation I went on my way with 2 gallons of creamy raw milk. (I recognize the raw part of the equation will raise some questions so I will address it more in a follow up post, one that I am not coherent enough to write at 3:30 am.)
Before leaping into the world of Camembert and Brie I wanted to take baby steps with a simpler recipe. Ricotta seemed like a no brainer except that I under estimated how impossible it would be to find Citric Acid at a regular grocery store. I often wander around aisle after aisle for something I’m convinced that Whole Foods must have (i.e. pickling salt or seasoning, pretzel salt, etc.) only to turn up disappointed. For a moment the friendly associate in Whole Body had me convinced ascorbic acid would work, but a little iPhone googling and a hunch told me to hold out for the real thing. Sadly I didn’t find it.
Plan B was to google incessantly for a recipe that would use something else as a curdling agent, preferably something I already had. Excitedly, I landed on this recipe. It sounded too good to be true but it was 9:00 pm at night on the eve before a holiday and I needed it to be true. I combined my two quarts of milk and 1/4 cup lemon juice in a saucepan and heated it until 200?F and then let it sit in an unheated oven as directed for 6 hours. This meant I had to get up at 3:00 am in order to drain off the whey. The thought sounded tremendously unpleasant and yet oddly worth it. And it would have been if after using a whole 2 quarts of milk I hadn’t ended up with this:
(Actual amount ~ only 1/3 cup)
The moral of the story is if an online recipe seems too good to be true and has no ratings or reviews it probably is. On the plus side, it is the best fresh cheese I have ever tasted: milky, clean, and pure. It has a much fuller flavor than anything I’ve tried commercially and only a slight tang from the lemon. I’ve promised it to my boyfriend on a sandwich tomorrow so I will have to stretch it out with other ingredients. If I hadn’t, however, I would have probably eaten it straight out of the bowl with a drizzle of honey and some blackberries.
My hope is that someday my cheese making will become like my yoga practice. When I first started Vrksasana, or tree pose, seemed like a pipe dream. I had a terrible time bringing my foot to my inner thigh without wobbling and eventually, falling out. But over time with many patient instructors and oddly, the Wii Fit, I made it to today. Towards the end of a grueling 90-minute session of power yoga our teacher instructed that we rest in tree pose. And what had been so difficult less than a year ago suddenly truly was a rest. I’m hopeful that as I progress in cheese making Ricotta will be my resting pose and hopefully someday, Brie too. For now though I’m off to sleep. My eyelids are sinking and the dog keeps pawing at my leg as it to coax me away from the laptop. Pleasant dreams all.
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