Homemade Ricotta Cheese from Fresh Milk or Powder (plus a handy gardening bonus!)

Homemade Ricotta Cheese from Fresh Milk or Powder (plus a handy gardening bonus!)

Today I’m talking two topics: cheese making AND gardening! How? Well, stay tuned!

I love cheese, all cheese but especially ricotta. I can eat a whole tub of it with a spoon. A little sprinkle of nutmeg, some salt and pepper…mmm.

But unfortunately, it’s an expensive habit to have and all those little plastic pots it comes in are no good for the environment. So I wanted to make it myself. I’ve been trying more and more to reduce our plastic waste and homemaking cheese seemed like a good step towards that. Now before you ask, do I get my milk in glass bottles, the answer is unfortunately no. So to get past the plastic bottles milk comes in, I now make my ricotta and yoghurt using milk powder. My local binn inn stocks powdered milk in their bulk bins and you can bring your own reusable container to fill.

The below recipe is for ricotta using fresh milk OR whole powdered milk, whatever you’ve got.

To make this ricotta, use fresh milk or make up your milk powder milk per the instructions it comes with, usually 125g of powder to 230ml of water to make one cup of milk. Heat up milk, then add an acid to split the curds from the whey. Once strained,  you are left with a clump of curds (the ricotta) and an acid whey. This is not the whey you might see advertised in protein shakes, that one is a sweet whey. Sweet whey is the whey byproduct of making hard cheeses like cheddar, and traditionally ricotta is actually made from sweet whey. I, however, am no expert cheese maker and don’t have access to sweet whey so today we are making it the easy way, from milk.

Once the curds split from the whey, you’ll have a whole heap of acid whey and not as much ricotta. This is the bit where people might not think it’s worth homemaking cheese if you’re left with so much acid whey you can’t use! Well, I have good news! You can DEFINITELY use this acid whey as well.

Acid Whey in The Garden (and other uses)

Do you have blueberries, hydrangeas, azaleas, rhododendrons or strawberries? These are a few acid-loving plants and acid whey makes an ideal liquid fertiliser! Add 10ml of acid whey to a litre of water and pour around the base of your acid-loving plants.

On top of that, acid whey can be added to bread, smoothies, juices and more.

What acid to use

So we have established you can use fresh milk or whole milk powder, what about the acid to split the milk? The good news is that this bit isn’t hugely fussy either. I have made batches using lemon juice, white vinegar and my own homemade Apple Cider Vinegar. The only vinegar types I would really stay away from are ones with a very strong taste or colour such as red wine, malt or balsamic vinegar as they would change the taste and colour too much of the whey and cheese.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese - Makes about 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese

Ingredients

  • 1.5 litres whole milk (powder, or fresh)
  • 4-5 tablespoons acid (vinegar or lemon juice)
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. In a saucepan, heat the milk until just before simmer. A collection of tiny bubbles will start forming around the sides but the milk should not boil.
  2. Slowly add in the acid, stirring gently. Keep an eye out on the milk as you do so, it should split into white clumps of curd and yellow whey. If it's not splitting, add in a little more acid. Stir in the pinch of salt.
  3. Let the mixture cool, then strain in a cheese cloth, pushing the clumps of curd together gently to form a ball of ricotta.
  4. Store the ricotta in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within 3 days.
  5. The whey can be frozen or stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.
https://homegrownhappiness.co.nz/homemade-ricotta-cheese-from-fresh-milk-or-powder/

Homemade Yacon Syrup

Homemade Yacon Syrup

Let’s take about the benefits of yacon. This sweet, juicy tuber is packed with vitamins for a healthy immune system but one of its best properties is that it is meant to help with regulating blood sugars. It has a very low GI of 1 (Glycemic Index) which means the carbohydrates in yacon are metabolised and digested slowly which stops the peak in blood glucose levels which regular sugar causes.

Because yacon is sweet and ridiculously juicy, it is a great vegetable to turn into a syrup.

The syrup is made by reducing yacon juice until most of the water has evaporated and you are left with a thick, dark syrup resembling molasses. You need a lot of yacon to make the syrup, in my recipe 4kg yacon makes 250ml syrup, but yacon plants produce easily and plentifully so that’s not a huge issue. I get between 1-2kg of yacon per plant. The bonus is that you can replant tubers from the plant you have just harvested and have an endless supply of yacon!

The yacon plant produces two sets of tubers, the eating ones and the reproducing ones. Once you have harvested your yacon, you can store the reproducing tubers under mulch and compost and they’ll pop back up in spring. If you live in an area with snow or regular frosts, it’s best to store the tubers in damp compost inside a glass house or shed.

Yacon reproducing tuber (purple)

In total I harvested just over 4kg of yacon, it came to 4kg exactly once they were peeled and prepped. You can tell how juicy yacon is when you peel it as often the tuber will just snap like ice, as it so water filled.

Then it’s time to blitz up the yacon. I used a blender as opposed to a juicer because my juicer doesn’t extract the same amount of liquid as when I do it manually but if you have an extra good juicer, by all means, do it that way. I got 3 litres yacon juice from my 4kg yacon.

When the yacon is blended it will oxidise quickly and turn green. This is just a visual difference and does not change the taste. The green colour is responsible for the dark, molasses style syrup at the end.

Once the yacon has been blended to a pulp, extract the juice by passing it through a fine sieve, cheesecloth or similar. I used my Onya reusable produce bags for this. This post isn’t sponsored, I just love their innovative, environmentally friendly bags!

Then, bring the juice to a boil, then keep at a rolling simmer for about 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally  (increasing the frequency near the end) while it reduces. Scum will start to rise to the top and this can be scooped off with a spoon. Once the syrup has reduced to a consistency of runny honey, pour it into a sterilised jar.

This syrup is sweet, but only about half as sweet as cane sugar or honey so bear that in mind when substituting for sugar. Taste-wise, it has that hint of yacon taste at the end so it’s not a syrup I would use to slather on my pancakes. It makes a great sweetener in dressings, smoothies, coffee and healthy baking.

Homemade Yacon Syrup (makes 250ml)

Ingredients

  • 4kg yacon, peeled and diced

Instructions

  1. Blitz up your yacon to a pulp, then pass through a sieve or cheesecloth to extract the juice. (alternatively use a juicer). Add to a large saucepan.
  2. Bring the juice to boil, on medium heat and keep it continuously simmering, stirring occasionally.
  3. Scum will rise to the top and you can scoop this off with a spoon.
  4. After about 3 hours the yacon juice should have reduced considerably. Increase the frequency of stirring now to avoid it burning.
  5. Once it is the consistency of runny honey, pour into a sterilised jar.
https://homegrownhappiness.co.nz/homemade-yacon-syrup/

Plant Propagation- Ground Layering

Plant Propagation- Ground Layering

Propagating plants via cuttings is a well-known method but it is not the only method. There are many ways to multiply plants, some easier than others.

Today I’m going to delve a little into propagation via layering. The layering method has a lot of different varieties so more specifically, today we are going to cover ‘ground layering’.

‘Layering’ is simply, stems or branches of a parent plant that touch the ground and form their own roots and create a baby plant that is a clone of the parent. Once established, the link between the parent and baby is cut. Because you get an exact clone of the parent plant, choosing the strongest plants to layer means you know what you’re getting with these new plants. Read More

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)