|A full gallon of milk needs a big pot|
|All you need to curdle it - lemon juice and vinegar|
|Curds forming, whey separating. Nearly done.|
|After draining - curds dry at edges, wet in center|
Ricotta (makes about 2 pounds)
1 gallon pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized or UHT) whole milk
2 teaspoons table salt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup white vinegar (may need more so keep it out)
1. Line a colander with a triple layer of cheesecloth. Set it in the sink (or over a massive bowl if you want to save the whey for some reason).
2. Combine lemon juice and vinegar; set aside.
3. Heat milk and salt in dutch oven (I used my 7 1/4 quart and it was just big enough) over M-H heat, stirring frequently (but gently) with rubber spatula to prevent scorching, until temp is 185. (I used a candy thermometer to track the heat rise and then my instant-read thermometer to get the final temp)
4. Remove pot from heat and slowly stir in lemon juice mixture until fully incorporated and mixture curdles (about 15 seconds - yes, seconds. This happens quickly). Let sit undisturbed until mixture fully separates into solid curds and translucent whey, 5 to 10 minutes. If curds do not fully separate and there is still milky whey in the pot, stir in extra vinegar, 1 Tablespoon at a time, and let sit 2 to 3 minutes, until curds separate. (It took about 8 minutes for mine to separate. The liquid looked a bit yellow from the lemon juice, but not milky, so I didn't add any extra vinegar).
5. Gently pour the mixture into the prepared colander. Let sit, undisturbed, until whey has drained from edges of cheese but center is still very moist, about 8 minutes. Working quickly, gently transfer cheese to large bowl, keeping as much whey in center of cheese as possible (ha! whey streamed out like mad when I lifted the cheesecloth- be quick and have that bowl right next to the colander!). Stir well to break up large curds and incorporate whey. Refrigerate ricotta until cold, about 2 hours. Stir before using. May be stored in fridge up to 5 days.
I used regular grocery store whole milk. The end result was a creamy ricotta with none of the graininess that you typically get from store-bought. And since I sometime find recipes that call for ricotta impastata (the "Cadillac" of ricottas - ultra smooth, creamy texture with low moisture), I think this will be a good approximation. I can always drain it a bit more to get the moisture lower if needed.