Making homemade ricotta cheese using only whey is really simple to achieve. For anyone interested in making or trying their hand at cheese-making, ricotta would be the Pre-Kindergarten recipe to start out on. It takes having the right size pots, a few basic kitchen tools and room to work. As for the ingredients, there’s one, whey.
Now you may have to go out of your ‘whey’ to find it, but you could probably score it for free from a friendly cheese making dairyman. I just happen to be friends with the Jisha family out of Yantis, Texas. They’ve been producing EXCELLENT organic milk products for a few years and have turned to making cheese. They’re in the trial & error stages of learning to make cheese right now, and so far what I’ve tasted is very gouda. Anywhey. (I can’t help the puns, folks. It’s who I am.)
Ramy Jisha encouraged me to try making ricotta. She assured me it was super simple and I wouldn’t ever want to buy the store stuff again. That’s all I needed to hear. So Kent called me the other day and said, “We’ve just made Swiss Cheese and we have your whey ready.” WOO-HOOO!
SO LET’S GET STARTED
Kitchen Tools that make this easy.
- 2 large pots that can hold 18 quarts of liquid*
- large colander
- 2 clean tea towels
- long handle spoon
- Hamilton Beach Candy and Deep Fry Thermometer that clips to the pot
- a pitcher
- approximately 16 quarts fresh whey from making hard cheese
Set up your work station. Moisten a tea towel and drape it over the colander that is set over a large pot.
Set up the second large pot over high heat with the thermometer clipped to the side.
Using the pitcher, draw out 16 quarts of whey and pour into cooking pot. Wash the pitcher, you’re going to need it later.
Stirring occasionally and keeping watch on the temperature, the whey needs to reach 200ºF. As you can see by the next photo, after 180ºF the ricotta begins to appear.
If you’re cooking pot does not have a heavy or thick bottom, you may have scorched milk on the bottom of the pan. I did. Whatever you do, don’t scrap the bottom of the pan with the spoon, just stir to circulate the liquid. Once the whey has reached 200ºF, remove from heat. Using the cleaned pitcher, scoop and strain whey and cheese into the tea towel. Be careful the liquid is HOT.
After the pot is half empty, it’s easier to lift and pour to strain remaining liquid. It’s still hot, you can’t see that my right hand is wearing a oven mitt.
This photo was taken while straining the second batch, that’s why the colander is different.
After the whey drains away, all that is left is the fresh ricotta cheese. This only takes a few minutes.
Carefully lift out the HOT tea towel, close off the top and move to another bowl to continue draining or keep it in the same set up. I had another 5 gallon bucket of whey to process, so I moved this first batch to another bowl. I hung the cheese off the side without letting it touch the bottom.
In the end, 16 quarts of whey roughly made 1 3/4 cups ricotta cheese. That’s enough cheese for a Italian dinner. You can use your homemade ricotta in almost any recipe that calls for cottage cheese. It can be used instead of cream cheese to make cheesecake. You can also stir in some herbs and eat it on crackers. Ricotta will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge.
- I already own two Proctor Silex Stainless Steel 30 Quart Stock Pot with Steamer Basket. I normally use them to steam tamales. Their great to have around!
- I followed the ricotta making instructions from Fias Co Farm. They explain several ways of making ricotta. There’s more information on their site regarding other uses for whey. I saved the strained whey to feed my chickens and to water my acid loving Azalea shrubs in the front yard. “Waste not, want not” my Memaw used to say. That was long before we started saying “Be green. Recycle. Reuse.” ;D