Sunday, October 6, 2013

Food Fun: Homemade Lactose Free Ricotta Cheese Part I

Because my re-lactose intolerance has somewhat plagued my existence since it came back at the end of 2011. I have tried and tried to live without dairy like milk, sour cream cheeses, cream, ice cream, etc. I've known about the lactose free products for a while but I thought I'd give the no dairy thing a try. Well the result of that helped me drop 10 pounds within a short period of time because forcing myself to stay away from items that contained milk. (To this day, I have been still able to eat butter without a problem.) So after all of my searching and experimenting, I have found there is NO I repeat NO substitute for cheese.

The lactose free milk tastes okay, but because it's been such a long time since I've had it, anytime I tried to drink it there has been an after taste to it. So far out of all the LF foods I've tried, ice cream has been the only successful item that has stayed in my diet.

When I discovered that I could make my own cheese, especially with using LF milk, I was all over it. Making ricotta cheese was a lot easier than I thought and I will definitely make this again. It doesn't take a lot of ingredients to make. This will also work for regular milk. I found a couple of recipes online simply by searching the Internet and compiling what I found with what worked best and what I already had in my pantry.

Ready...set...let's make cheese!

Here are the ingredients:

 
 
 
- Half Gallon of Lactose Free Milk or Regular Milk (Here I used 2%)
- 8 Tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar (Lemon Juice also works here)
- Large pot
- Large pitcher without the top
- Food thermometer (mine is a digital one)
- Wooden spoon
- Large deep bowl
- Cheesecloth
(Not Shown: Scissors, Twine, and a container to store your cheese)
 
Yields: about 2 cups of ricotta cheese
 
 
 
Step 1: Add the entire carton of milk to the large pot on medium heat. You don't want the milk to get too hot. So stir the milk as it get hotter to keep it from sticking to the bottom. Using the thermometer, periodically check the temperature, careful not to touch the tip to the bottom of the pot.
 
 
 
 
 
Step 2: Make sure the milk is at a temperature 175 degrees. This is the ideal temperature you want. Some recipes said to get it up to 190 degrees, but this works just fine to achieve the end result. While the milk it heating up, use your scissors and cut the cheesecloth and place two layers of it in your bowl. I laid each layer of the cheesecloth in opposite direction to catch as much of the cheese as possible.
 
 
 
 
 
Step 3: Now that the milk has reached the right temperature, turn off the stove and remove from the heat. Add the apple cider vinegar to the milk.
 
 
 
 
Step 4: Only give it ONE stir and let it sit, that is crucial. Over stirring will mess up the process. The milk will start to curdle. This is exactly what is supposed to happen so when you start to see separation in the pot don't worry! Let is sit for 15 minutes untouched.
 

 
 
Step 5: After curdling, pour the contents of the pot into the cheesecloth and bowl.
 
 
 
 
 
Step 6: Cut a piece of twine about a foot long. Set aside. Get your pitcher and sit it next to the bowl along with the wood spoon. Gather the edges of the cheesecloth and tie it closed leaving a tail on both ends. 
 
 

 
Step 7: Tie the tails of the the string to the wooden spoon. Carefully lift the cheesecloth out of the bowl and let it hang for a few seconds. Lift and place the bundle into the pitcher.  The pitcher will catch any additional liquid that drains from the bundle. Set it in the refrigerator for the next 2-3 hours, pouring off any liquid in the bottom of the picture.
 
 
 
 
Step 8: What is left in your bowl is whey. It can be used to thicken soups, to add to smoothies and drinks, and can even be successful in making more cheese! (It has to been heated to a higher temperature of about 200 degrees to make more ricotta). I've decided to freeze mine for now until I figure out what to do with it. From what I've read it lasts about six weeks so I placed it in a container and dated it with the date I made it and 6 weeks after. Don't get rid of the bowl just yet!
 
 
 
 
Step 9: Pull your pitcher with the bundle out of the refrigerator. (You will know it's ready because you will not find much whey left draining into the bottom. Take your empty bowl and place you bundle in it. Untie the bundle and open and spread the cheesecloth open. What is left in the bundle is your cheese!
 
 
 
 
 
 
Step 10: Take the spoon and scrape the cheese into your container. You can go ahead and add a little salt if you choose or you can eat it as is. Some people like to spread it on toast and add fruit or you can do it more savory adding it to stuffed shells. Depending on how much you need, you may have to make the ricotta in a bigger batch.
 
 
 
 
Stay tuned for Part II to see what I do with my newly made cheese!



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