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.
- 1.5 litres whole milk (powder, or fresh)
- 4-5 tablespoons acid (vinegar or lemon juice)
- pinch of salt
- 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.
- 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.
- Let the mixture cool, then strain in a cheese cloth, pushing the clumps of curd together gently to form a ball of ricotta.
- Store the ricotta in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within 3 days.
- The whey can be frozen or stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.