Sunday, July 17, 2011

Perfect-er Perfect Ricotta

I've continued to make fresh ricotta pretty frequently using the sous vide method from Ideas in Food that I outlined in a previous post. This became even easier when I got my chamber vacuum, making it possible to vacuum-seal the bag of ingredients without messing around with having to seal a zip-top bag inside a vacuum bag. The one thing that was still bugging me was having to go through cheesecloth during production. Over the course of the past few months, I've come up with a (quite ghetto-looking) solution to this problem, so I figured I would share it here. The new method has taken my perfect ricotta and made it even perfecter...The one-time purchase necessary to make this happen is a ricotta basket. (The site I link to there is also where I like to get yogurt cultures and crème fraîche cultures.) Anyway, here's the new draining technique: When I pull the ricotta mixture from its water bath after 35 minutes to begin its 15 minutes of cooling, I hang it from my cabinets using a bag clip and some kitchen twine. The key is to make the kitchen twine long enough that the bottom of the bag is well below the top of your sink (This is VERY important. I cannot stress this enough.), but not touching the bottom of your sink.
As the mixture cools, it begins to separate more thoroughly as well.After 15 minutes or so, take a couple metal skewers (like you use for grilling kebabs) and puncture one of the bottom corners of your bag a bunch of times. This is where, if you didn't think things through in terms of string length, you find yourself with a spinning bag spraying burning-hot whey all over your kitchen. Not that this would ever happen to somebody as intelligent as me, of course, but, ahem, theoretically, um, it is not fun...This will take care of a good chunk of the draining for you. Most ricotta recipes want you to gently scoop the curds off of the whey, and this is my lazy-person equivalent of doing that. (In my original method, everything was dumped into the cheesecloth together, which didn't give the same effect. If you want the potentially-boring details of how much of a difference it makes, ask me in the comments... I spent a lot of time screwing around with this stuff.) Remember those two skewers you just punctured the bag with? They now come in handy to prop up your ricotta basket over a bowl for the next phase in draining.
Now that the bulk of the whey has drained off, take some scissors and cut off one of the bottom corners of the bag over your basket. The ingredients will dump down, ready for the next phase.
This is now at the point where the draining time depends on your desired final consistency. I've been making a tighter ricotta lately, so I drain for an hour or two at room temperature,
then leave the cheese in the basket in the refrigerator overnight before transferring to another container.As far as I'm concerned, this new version is perfection. The method is quick and easy. The only consumable is the 15-cent vacuum bag. (I reuse the kitchen twine and bag clip, now that I have perfected the twine length...) The final product is creamy, rich, and delicious. I am a happy camper.


dmg said...

Emily, I want to thank you. Under the recommendation of Modernist Cuisine I was preparing a double boiler, ready to pour the milk when I found your recipe. I had to try it. And, you would not be surprised, it worked. I did 1 litre only because it was my very first time trying to do it.

Because the volume was not that much, when I hanged the bag, the horizontal surface of the milk was not that much, and the curds didn't quite raised to the surface (at least, I suspect that is the reason). When I pinched the bag, the hole got quickly clogged. By the way, I used the cord from a conference badge to hang the milk and a large folding paper clip (the ones for thick stacks of paper) because the my bag clip wasn't strong enough

I will have to experiment more.

Thank you nonetheless,

Lynn M. said...

Does this new technique seem to give you more or better tasting ricotta than your old way? Or does it just seem easier to you?

I don't have a chamber sealer, and I'm leary about using a zip-lock bag in higher heat. Years ago I bought a used Hamilton Beach bowl for $2-probably from an old mixer. The bowl happens to fit nicely inside the Sous Vide Supreme. I fill the SVS to the low-water level mark and place the bowl inside. Then I pour the milk, cream, salt, and citric acid into the open bowl and let it cook for 35 minutes.

When it's done, I remove the bowl from the SVS, let it cool a bit, drape a piece of thin muslin over my stainless steel strainer (like this one that I've set on top of a stock pot, and then ladle the curds and whey into the strainer and strain until the curds are the desired consistency. When the cheese is dry, it just peels right off the muslin, and I launder the muslin for its next use. I drink the whey that's drained into the bottom of the stockpot.

Seems easier to me than your method. Can you see any drawback?

I also use the open bowl in the SVS for cooking pudding.

emmo said...

Hi Lynn,

I hadn't made ricotta in a long time, but I made yogurt using your technique (milk in a bowl that fits in the Sous Vide Supreme) and it was fantastic. I just finished making a batch of ricotta this way, too, and you're right that it's totally better. No bags wasted, and only slightly more time in the kitchen than draining out the bottom corner of the bag.

In summary, you're a genius! Thanks for the great idea. =)

doubledip said...

great post!!!!