There are times in my life when it’s easier to make something at home then drive across the city to get a needed ingredient. Like on Saturday. I had to prep ingredients for a demo appearance at Taste of the Eastside in Barnsdall Park on Sunday. It was partially a benefit for my nursery school. As in, the nursery school I went to, Rose Scharlin-Echo Park Cooperative. I love that kind of continuity! But to make my Ricotta Gnocchi I really need to use Italian Style Ricotta which is difficult to find retail. I had ordered some for the Angeli PopUp on Monday but it was all the way cross town. So somehow in my mind it was going to be easier to just make some. This is the second time I’ve make ricotta in less than a month. I find when I repeat projects pretty close together I get a better sense of mastery over them. Last time I used the Slashfood Kenji Alt method. I heated the milk in the microwave to avoid scorching, but I wasn’t that happy with the way the curds formed. So this time I was curious to see how different the finished product would be if I put the milk over direct heat.
I am so much happier with the result. Doesn’t the ricotta look beautiful? Nothing beats the delicacy of ricotta fresh from the pot, when it’s still slightly warm.
1 gallon whole milk
2 teaspoons citric acid
1 cup water
cheesecloth or thin cotton/muslin towel
Pour milk into stainless pot with a decent heavy bottom. (This will help prevent scorching). Add citric acid to the water and stir to dissolve. Add the citric acid solution to the milk. Heat over medium flame. Use a plastic or wood spatula to occasionally sweep the bottom of the pot as the milk comes up to temperature, also to prevent scorching. Your goal is to get the milk to 195 degrees without scorching it. As the milk passes 165 degrees on its way to 195 you will see the curds start to gather in the center of the pot. Eventually they will create a nearly solid mass. The curds will rise up and float on the top. and the whey becomes less milky and more transparent as the curds fully form.
Once the mixture is at 195 degrees turn off the heat and let the curds sit in the pot for 15 minutes. This step apparently makes a big difference in the taste and texture because the mass holds at nearly the same 195 degrees during the rest period even though there is no direct heat. Then carefully spoon out the curds into a cheesecloth or towel lined colander or strainer. Place the strainer or colander over a large bowl and let the mixture drain until you have a texture that appeals. I find that for gnocchi making a drier ricotta works best, so I usually let the curds drain for an hour. If I just want to eat the ricotta plain or use it for a tart or cheesecake 15-20 minutes of draining time is good.