October 30, 2014

Homemade Ricotta Cheese - (Use leftover whey from making mozzarella or use fresh, whole milk or even soured milk!)

If you make homemade mozzarella, you will have almost a gallon of whey leftover.  Hopefully you didn't drain it or toss it as it can be used for many things in its own right.  But the quickest, easiest and what I consider a 'no brainer' is to make a batch of ricotta from it.  A no brainer because you really don't need any new, special ingredients and almost no work.  It can be making itself while you are cleaning up the mess from the mozzarella you just made.

You can make ricotta JUST from the liquid (whey) alone, but I choose to add a little 'helper' to get the curds going, and it makes a firmer curd.  That helper can be either a quarter cup vinegar or about 4-5 teaspoons lemon juice, but the one I use is a teaspoon of citric acid.

The length of time you drain it is going to give you the difference in the texture from a more moist ricotta to a dry one.  I drained about an hour and pressed on it a bit to get the dry curds I wanted, that you see in the photo.

Hint & Help:  You can add a quart of milk or cream to your whey to make a bigger and more substantial batch. This is what I did - as you will see in the picture below.  I hadn't planned on it, but we rarely (ok, never) buy cow's milk so when I opened the quart I had in the refrigerator I smelled it and found it had gone sour from not being used.  NO PROBLEM!!!!   If you have milk that has naturally gone sour - don't throw it out!  MAKE RICOTTA FROM IT.  (Or pancakes or sour dough bread or cakes or a bunch of other uses... but never throw out 'old' milk.  It's still good for cooking, baking and cheese making).

Ricotta Cheese - homemade from leftover whey and/or soured milk

Use 1 gallon whole milk, soured milk or the whey leftover from  making a batch of mozzarella
1 t citric acid
1 t sea salt or other non-iodized salt
muslin, gauze, cheesecloth, etc. to drain (see the link below for my favorite; a cloth diaper!)

In your stainless steel stock pot, heat your whey to 195-198 degrees.  It will start to separate at this high heat.  Remove from the heat and if you are using a 'helper' add the citric acid now and stir.
Allow to sit 5-10 minutes.
Start to skim off the curds with a slotted spoon into a muslin lined colander or strainer.
Pour the last through to get all the curds.
Add the salt and break it in gently with your fingers or pressing with a wooden spoon.
Tie up and drain for 20 minutes to 3-4 hours, depending on how dry you want it.
Use it in your cooking or place in a container in the refrigerator.

Heating the leftover whey....

 It's richer looking as I added 3/4 of a carton of soured milk from the refrigerator
Heat to about 195-198 degrees - you'll know it's ready when it starts to separate.

It's separated!  These are the curds you'll gently spoon off.

Spooning the curds into a lined strainer

Mix in your salt to bring out a little flavor

Hang or drain however you wish (I do from the cupboard) - as long as you wish
(if you press on it or leave it a long time it will be dryer curds)

Fresh ricotta!  Now you can break it up if you wish, to make it look
more like the ricotta you buy in the store.

You might be interested in these ingredients for making cheeses of various kinds;

Lipase Powder-Italase-(mild) 1oz
NOW Foods - Citric Acid 100% Pure - 4 oz.
Organic Liquid Vegetable Rennet, 2oz.
Gerber Birdseye 10 Count Flatfold Cloth Diapers, White (24in x 27in)


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October 29, 2014

Easy Homemade Mozzarella Cheese in about 30 minutes - (Lots of pictures and links to specific ingredients included)

I will put links to the actual products I order, own and use, at the end of this post so you can see exactly what I use. Once you invest in a few key ingredients, you won't have to order them again for a long time because you only use about 1/4 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of them for each batch.  Keep your rennet and lipase in the freezer and it will last at least 6 months.

When you make mozzarella, you can throw out the whey (the liquid) but I beg you - please don't!  That whey is all you need to make delicious and amazing Ricotta cheese!  Just assume on the days you make a batch of mozzarella, you'll take another 15 minutes to make a batch of ricotta as well.  Two wonderful cheeses from 1 gallon of milk!  (I will try to get the ricotta recipe up as soon as I can.)

Homemade Mozzarella

1 gallon whole milk - not 'ultra' pasteurized
1 t citric acid - dissolved in 1/4 c cold water
1/4 t lipase - dissolved in 1/4 c cold water
1/4 t liquid rennet (or 1/4 of a tablet cheese making rennet) - dissolved in 1/4 c cold water
1 t non-iodized salt (use cheese salt, sea salt, kosher salt, ice cream salt, Himalayan salt, etc.)

Pour the milk into a clean stainless steel pot.
Heat to 55 degrees.
Add lipase water mixture and stir slowly.
Add Citric Acid water mixture and stir slowly.
Heat slowly to 90 degrees. Remove from heat.
Add the rennet water mixture, stir slowly but stir well for 10-20 seconds.
Cover and let stand 5-10 minutes.
During this time the curd should separate from the whey and become a firm jello like layer on top.
After 5-10 minutes check for a clean break with a knife or frosting spatula.
Cut a checkerboard pattern across the curd to cut it into 1 inch cubes.
Swirl the pot a little and put back on heat.
Slowly heat to 105 degrees.  Remove from heat.
Swirl the pan again (no need to stir, but you can if you must).
Slowly spoon out the curds with a slotted metal spoon into a colander sitting inside a large bowl to catch the whey - or if you only have a wire strainer, line it with cheesecloth or a gauzy fabric so the curds don't get stuck in the wires.
Pour the last bit of the curds into the cloth from the pan.
Set the whey to the side, you don't need it for this recipe any longer.
Gently press on the curd to press out a bit more whey liquid.
Place in a microwaveable bowl.
Microwave 1 minute.
Drain again.
Knead and press to get more whey out.
Microwave 35 seconds.
Knead and press again and drain.
Add your salt.
Microwave 20-30 seconds more and continue to knead and pull.
You can wear food safe heat resistant gloves if you have them as you are microwaving to get the cheese hot so it will stretch - and you will kind of burn your hands a bit.  It's hot!
You are hoping to be able to stretch it like taffy.
If it breaks more like bread dough, it's not hot enough.  Heat again and stretch again.
If you've reheated 3 times and it's still not quite as stretchy as you would like, that's ok, it will still look and taste great.
Form whatever shape you want (twist or balls, etc.) and plunge them into a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes.
Remove, wrap and refrigerate.


Read through the directions, and look at the photos so you know
what to have ready or on hand before you begin.


You need rennet - liquid or tablet (either vegetable or animal).
Do not use the Junket brand in the grocery store - it's made for custard and you want
a thicker curd than that.  Get real rennet or you may not end up with a good curd.
Citric acid and lipase -  Lipase is kind of optional; some people don't use it, but it adds flavor.

Heat your milk S L O W L Y so you don't scorch the bottom
and you never accidentally boil it.

When you mix your citric acid, lipase and rennet with water, do NOT use chlorinated water,
as chlorine kills the rennet.  If you do use tap water (which is chlorinated), 
add a bit of milk to it to neutralize it first.

  Have a thermometer.  You HAVE to know the correct temperature
of your milk.  Some people have a digital - I bought a super cheapy on Amazon,
calibrated it right before starting so I knew it was on target.  

 This is the "clean break" you look for after adding the rennet.
When you insert a knife or icing spatula you can see it is thick, like jello
and breaks away from the liquid whey under it.

Cutting across, turning the pan and cutting across the other way
gives you cubes.  This is giving the curds more surface area so the 
whey can separate from it.

Heating to 105 degrees before removing from the heat and starting to drain and knead.


After you heat to 105 and remove from heat, you can let the curds sit for 5 minutes.
During this time have your colander or strainer ready over a bowl to catch whey.
Have your cheese salt ready.
You can also get your bowl of ice water ready.

Starting to remove the curds from the whey.

Pour the last of the curds in.  The yellow liquid is the whey you will be
pressing out gently and draining off.

After the 1 minute microwave to heat it, press and drain.

This is after the second microwave, knead and drain.
You can see it all comes together.
Keep heating and pulling until it pulls like taffy.
Yep, it's hot - you'll get burned hands if you don't have food safe gloves.

Shape into whatever shape you wish.  I do balls.  Plunge in ice water 5 minutes.

SO GOOD!  The salt brings out the flavor so you don't need anything else,
but you CAN add whatever herbs you wish to it.  (Basil, chives, etc.)

These are the products I ordered from Amazon and Used;

Lipase Powder-Italase-(mild) 1oz
NOW Foods - Citric Acid 100% Pure - 4 oz.
Organic Liquid Vegetable Rennet, 2oz.
Gerber Birdseye 10 Count Flatfold Cloth Diapers, White (24in x 27in)


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October 23, 2014

Homemade Vegetable Soup From Scratch

This is a soup I love to make in Autumn.  It's also one you can play with - ingredient wise - based on what you have on hand.  I have made this with fresh tomatoes or canned.  Tomato juice and V8 or just tomato juice. I've bought 'stew beef' pieces and cooked them right before adding everything else and simmering - or make everything else and add some leftover grilled steak.  I've made this with ground beef as well (I'm just not really a fan of ground beef... so I usually use steak).  Vegetables... try to use everything listed but if you have to leave out something, that's ok.  Lastly, the spices are optional - and add to it.  If you don't have spices, then add salt and pepper - don't skip that as it brings out the flavors.   You can add a can of tomato sauce or even some crushed tomatoes if you like to replace some of the juice too.  See?  So easy to use what is on hand on this one.

My favorite parts of this soup are the steak and cabbage!  And I love the tomato juice base with the beef broth.  I don't substitute those items, ever.

Homemade Vegetable Soup  (Vegetable Stew)

6 c beef broth or bouillon and water equivalent
1-2 c steak pieces, chopped (leftover grilled or fresh)
1 - 15 oz. can diced tomatoes or equivalent
3 c tomato juice
4 carrots, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 onion, diced
2 potatoes, diced
1/2 head small cabbage, chopped
Optional:  1/2 t garlic salt
1/2 t onion powder
1 t paprika
1 t chili powder
salt and pepper

Brown and cook the steak pieces in a bit of oil in an electric skillet or a pan (or get your slow cooker hot and cook them right in the crock).  Add the vegetables, juices and spices.  Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to simmer at least 3 hours.  I think if you refrigerate it overnight and reheat the next day the flavors are even more intense.  Love it!  Goes great with homemade bread.

Lots of yummy fall 'harvest' vegetables

So bright and colorful; I love this stew

You might be interested in;
 Hamilton Beach 7 Quart Stay Or Go Slow Cooker
Rival RO180 18-Quart Roaster Oven, White

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