We talked about cheese and rennet earlier today and how the rennin enzymes are key in most cheese-making. But not all cheese gets made with rennet - simple farmer's cheeses like paneer and ricotta depend on citric acid for their coagulation.
As we were getting into spring cleaning yesterday we found a whole quart of milk in the fridge that needed to be used up quickly. We couldn't really think of a quicker way to do this than to make fresh ricotta. It's easy - the milk heats slowly while you do something else (in this case, we cleaned our kitchen) then lemon juice or vinegar is added, and the milk instantly coagulates. See pictures below...
makes about 3/4 cup
1 quart whole milk
1 lemon, juiced
1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)
Prepare a colander in the sink and line it with cheesecloth, folded over several times so it's several layers thick.
Heat the milk slowly, stirring periodically to keep it from scorching. Heat until it hits 200ºF on a thermometer and stir in the lemon juice.
The milk will instantly curdle. Turn off the heat and let the milk sit for several minutes. Pour it into the colander lined with cheesecloth - the whey will run away immediately.
When the cheese has cooled a bit squeeze it in a ball and hang it over the sink faucet to drain. Let it drain for about an hour then stir in some salt, if desired, and refrigerate. This will keep for several days in the fridge; it can also be frozen.