June 4, 2012
If you will recall, a while back, we were cheesemaking with some abandon. And we quit, mostly because we couldn’t get raw milk for a while. And then we got on that fling with kefir, which has since gone by the wayside. And I got to jonesing for some cheese.
So I got a gallon of milk from the Mountain Pastures people, and I set about making a batch of ricotta over the Memorial Day weekend. It would’ve been mozzarella, but for the fact I’d left my Whole Foods bag with the rennet in the fridge at work and I didn’t feel like going back down there and fighting the alarm system, which doesn’t like me. So, ricotta.
I heated the milk to 185 degrees, poured in a quarter-cup of cider vinegar, and let it sit. Went away for 30 minutes, let the curds form. I kind of drug the spoon through it, and instead of whey, found….milk.
H’mm, sez I. Now, granted, it’s raw cow’s milk, and it’s way heavy on cream. But, y’know, if what’s left still looks like milk, there’s the makings of more cheese left in there.
So. I drained off the curds, but put the colander over another bowl. Saved the not-whey. Poured it right back in the pot, heated it back up to 185, added the vinegar, let it sit again. Voila! Curds and whey. Little Miss Muffett lives. And I got Two Pounds of ricotta cheese out of that gallon of milk, and whey that would have been freaking marvelous if I were baking bread, which I was not, because not only is it full of gluten, but it’s too freakin’ hot and we will NOT be baking bread in this here house until cooler weather, thank you very much.
So I let the whey run down the drain. Which I understand is a Bad Thing, because you can use that to water your plants or make dog food. I do not make my own dog food, and, well, I just didn’t think about watering the plants with it, because, well, two quarts of whey and 8 pots of herbs? What’s the point? The sewers need some love, too. So they got the whey.
In any event, I wound up with very close to two pounds of that ricotta cheese, which I put in a cheesecloth and tied up over the faucet and let drip for a while. And I’m thinking that I’d probably do well to transfer that to a mold and press it and let it become real cheese over a course of time. But ricotta/farmer’s cheese makes one feel like one has gotten in touch with one’s roots, cheesemaking, and all, and one wants to Do Something with the product. So I did. I made me a ricotta cheesecake.
Now. If you think a ricotta cheesecake, made with your own homemade ricotta cheese, is going to be like your basic get-it-at-Sam’s, 12-portion-with-paper-in-the-middle, cheesecake, think again. It ain’t. It’s going to have the homemade, grainy veracity of “this milk came from a cow!” about it. And it’s not going to be creamy, but, y’know what? It’s going to be real, authentic cheesecake, in the style that you have never experienced.
So let’s get going.
You get your gallon of cow’s milk, and you make your ricotta cheese, as detailed above. Then you put your two pounds, or thereabouts, of riccotta into the bowl of your KitchenAid mixer, and you commence to let it smooth out, with the addition of four whole eggs and a cup of sugar. And you let that beat for a long, long time. And along the way, you add an 8-ounce package of cream cheese and a teaspoon of vanilla.
And then you take some almond meal, and a half-stick of melted butter, and some turbinado sugar, and you put all that together make a crumbly stuff, and you press that into a pie plate. And you pour the beaten ricotta/cream cheese/egg/vanilla stuff in it. And you bake it.
And it comes out a beautiful thing. It is NOT creamy. It has a sort of, not granular, but maybe globular texture. It is not a homogenous mass, as cream cheese cheesecake is. But it’s good. Top it with strawberries macerated in sugar and basalmic vinegar, and it’s pretty damn marvelous.
Not dissing New-York-style creamy cheesecakes, here. Just sayin’ this is a nice, rustic, different alternative. Plus, well, strawberries. Can’t argue.
You and y’mama ‘n ‘em try this one. It’s worth the effort. I wouldn’t tell you if it weren’t so.