Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fresh Ricotta: Remnants of a Failed Dinner


I’ve lived in Baltimore for nearly two years (I have?!??!) and this past Saturday was the first time I went to the Waverly farmers market. I’ve been to the Sunday Baltimore farmers market (the bigger one under the JFX) many times, but that one only runs from mid-May to mid-December.

The Waverly market is much smaller than the Baltimore market, and it also has a few stands that sell produce that is definitely NOT local (Florida corn, North Carolina strawberries – which were SO good, and bananas from who-knows-where). But one thing they have that the Sunday market doesn’t is a stand run by South Mountain Creamery, a dairy located in Middletown, MD. (You can buy eggs at the Sunday market, but I’ve never seen any purveyors of milk or butter).

I went to the market with the intention of picking up lots of spring vegetables for a light dumpling soup for a dinner sometime this week ,as well as milk and cream to make fresh ricotta and fresh spinach that would be combined with the ricotta to make gnocchi. I made the spinach ricotta gnocchi for my bff two Saturday ago (using milk and cream from my favorite dairy, Ronnybrook Farms), and I wanted to recreate it for the bf this past Saturday (and yes I’m trying to confuse you with the letters ;) As you might have guessed from the title of this post, the spinach and ricotta gnocchi never happened.


Making fresh ricotta is incredibly easy and it tastes infinitely better than the pre-packaged
stuff in the supermarket.All you need is milk, cream, salt, and fresh lemon juice – ingredients that are readily available to all of us. You’ll also need a large sieve or colander and cheesecloth – but you actually don’t really need cheesecloth, as I learned two weekends ago when I strained my ricotta through coffee filters (it worked out just fine). I really like using milk and cream from a local dairy for this – the milk and cream actually have flavor because they are not ultra-pasteurized the way that commercial dairy products are; they are usually just gently pasteurized because they’re not going to be sitting on a truck for a week before they get to you and therefore don’t need to be heated to death. I’ve made fresh ricotta with store-bought milk, though, and it still tastes better than the packaged stuff. The flavor is delicate and fresh and best suited to dishes in which the ricotta is the star and not mixed with a million other things (like in lasagna).
Anyway, the ricotta was supposed to be mixed with this here spinach (which I steamed in the microwave – it took all of 4 minutes and the spinach came out perfect) and some other stuff and then formed into gnocchi, but the gnocchi never made it to the table because I was having a mishap-filled weekend. I am determined to make them again this Saturday to make up for my culinary catastrophes of the last one.

Fresh Ricotta
(makes 1 cup)

1 quart (4 cups) whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice

Special equipment: large strainer/colander, cheesecloth*

* As I mentioned above, I made this a few weeks ago by lining a large strainer with a few coffee filters – a little creative tearing and layering was necessary but it worked out just fine in the end.

**************

Set a large strainer over a large bowl. Line the strainer with a double-layer of cheesecloth.

Combine the milk, cream, and salt in a large pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately lower the heat to medium and add the lemon juice. Stir constantly until the mixture starts to curdle – this will take a little over a minute. Stir for another 10 seconds and then pour the mixture into the lined strainer. Let it sit until most of the whey is drained out – depending on the size of your curds, this could take anywhere from 15 minutes (for larger curds) to 1 hour (for very fine curds) – it should be slightly moist.

Once the ricotta is drained to your satisfaction, discard the whey. You can use the ricotta immediately or store it for a few days in an airtight container stored in the refrigerator.

Suggested uses:
  • Spinach and ricotta gnocchi
  • Drizzled with honey and topped with fresh berries for dessert
  • Spread on crostini and topped with thinly sliced radishes

5 comments:

Michael Natkin said...

If you get too lazy to make your own, I think Calabro makes a great ricotta.

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danielle said...

I've been in Baltimore for 6 years (not counting college) and still haven't made it to the mkt under the JFX! I have been to the one in Waverly. I've never thought to make my own ricotta, but it sounds delicious and easy.

Meghan said...

there you go impressing my italian self all over again!

i love the waverly market!

John said...

I have only been to the farmer's market in Towson and I seriously need to get to all of these. Funny - I just read another blog post about the Waverly farmer's market.

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