Thursday, February 19, 2009

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Soon we will purchase a loom

Isabel, the cheesemaker. 

Now I just need to acquire a cow, and she can become a milkmaid.

Here's a crazy fact: miniature dairy goats are legal in Seattle -- yes, Seattle, where they invented coffee -- but not in my own backwater suburb. Is it not wrong that one can own three slavering, barking Rottweilers, but not a pair of tiny, bleating ungulates who trim back the fire hazard brush, fertilize the earth, and provide both milk and old-fashioned chores for 21st century children?

Well, obviously it is wrong.  

Back to the cheese. This was our second outing with Mark Bittman's ricotta. This time we made it with Straus organic whole milk, as opposed to supermarket 1%. Definitely softer and creamier, and again the flavor was vastly superior to the ricotta you can buy. Last week we did a side-by-side tasting with a tub I bought at Whole Foods and there was no comparison. Fresh homemade cheese is hard to beat.

Here's how you make ricotta, in my own words, based on the Bittman formula:

1. Slowly bring to a boil 1/2 gallon of milk (preferably whole), stirring constantly. Slowness and stirring are important because it will save you from having to scour scorched milk off the bottom of the pot, an ordeal that could turn you off ricotta making forever.

2. When the milk starts to rise up in the pot as if it's going to overflow, pour in 2 cups of buttermilk. Take off heat. Stir. Add a pinch of salt. 

3. The cheese will separate into curds and yellowish whey within 30 seconds or so. Let it get nice and clumpy. Pour into a strainer that you have lined with cheesecloth or a piece of clean white pillowcase.

4. Let the whey drain away gradually. You will have roughly 3 cups of excellent cheese to use in lasagna or ravioli or cake.


  1. wow! that sounds easy enough! I was planning on taking a stab at homemade ravioli this weekend... I might just need to fill them with homemade cheese!

  2. oooo can you bring some of that ricotta for pizzas tonight?

  3. also, i wonder if goats are still legal in orinda, california like they were in the 70s. is orinda so much more rural than mill valley? and is there any 4-H presence in Mill Valley?

  4. balabanian -- I would love my kids to do 4H. We planted a whole bunch of bare root trees and berries yesterday and they got wildly excited and are out there right now checking on the orchard. I just need to figure out what legal form their 4H might involvement might take.
    I will bring ricotta tonight for sure.

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