Monday, April 23, 2012

Homemade Ricotta with Marionberry Preserves

Farm fresh milk, earthy berries, crusty bread, cool mint.  Poetry.
I admit it, I was never a big fan of ricotta.  Until now.  And I will never, ever buy ricotta in the store again!  This base for savory OR sweet is delightful.  This is so easy to do at home, I promise! 

This wonderful dish could easily be served for breakfast or equally enjoyed for dessert.  Everything can be done ahead, and assembled in moments when you wake up in the morning or as your guests move from table to patio at that casual gathering.

The inspiration was the arrival of Fruit Perfect Marionberries from American Spoon.  Their website has some great recipe ideas, where I picked up this one and decided to adapt it liberally to my whim.

Marionberries are lovely, earthy berries who hail blackberries and raspberries as their grandparents.  Make no mistake, they are a berry all their own.  American Spoon really does this preserve justice.  You can taste a sunny day picking these gems in the brambles - right out of the jar.  I loved the idea of pairing them with a homemade element.  So I tried their recipe for homemade ricotta.  Epic fail.  There was zero curdling.  Where there are no curds, there is no ricotta.  There were two variables working against me, I believe. 

While lemon juice can work, it's not a reliable acid level.  Some lemons have higher acid, some lower.  To be certain of a success, I learned white vinegar is the sure thing. 

The milk...ehhh.  Well, we are an organic milk household.  I researched two recipes for ricotta and neither warned about the type of milk used.  So without a second thought, I went into this planning to make organic ricotta.  I found out after the fact that organic milk is ultra-pasteurized (heated) and pretty much takes away the milk's ability to form a curd.

Thank you, Hartzler Family Dairy! XOXO!
Back to the drawing board, I went out and found some wonderful local milk that was non-homogenized.  Starting over, slightly adapting Ina Garten's ricotta recipe, I had the immediate, satisfying result. The milk gave this ricotta the most delicate, almost sweet, hint of nuttiness.  If you can use local fresh milk, DO IT.  The flavor profile takes this from store bought to from the heart.  So. Very. Simple.

Homemade Ricotta
  • 4 cups whole milk (do NOT use ultra-pasteurized)
  • 2 cups heavy cream (do NOT use ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar
Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.

Pour the milk and cream into a pot. Stir in the salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 10 minutes until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).

Little Miss Muffet, stirring her curds & whey.

Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta.

Taking shape.
To help drain more liquid, I lifted the cheesecloth and gathered it around the ricotta, twisting it into a ball and wrapping the ends around a wooden spoon.  I hung the bundle over the bowl as it dripped the last residual liquid.  Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.

When ready to assemble, gather the following:
  • Loaf of rustic Italian bread, sliced into 1/2 inch slices and halved
  • Fruit Perfect Marionberries, or your favorite fruit preserve
  • Fresh mint, chiffonade or roughly torn
  • Toasted chopped cashews (375 degree oven for 10 minutes)
  • Fresh blackberries
  • Honey
Lay the bread on the serving dish, and dollop about 1/3 cup of homemade ricotta on the top of the bread.  Drizzle marionberries around the cheese, letting some soak down onto the bread.  Sprinkle chopped nuts over the top and drizzle sparingly with honey.  Lace with chiffonade of mint and garnish with a few fresh blackberries.

Have you ever made cheese at home?  It's a dessert course, ya know.  Tell me about it!


1 comment:

  1. I should mention that "a full boil" in my recipe was just about 200 degrees as measured on a thermometer. Stir to avoid burning the milk!


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