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.

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