- I love to eat.
- I love making things (not just food, but crafting, in general).
- I love praise.
This last is a big inspiration for me when it comes to cooking. If I were just cooking for myself I could satisfy the first two loves, but I would be missing that all-important third factor. So I share my creations with friends and family, thereby satisfying my need for positive reinforcement. To that end, today, I made cheese!
Cheese is surprisingly easy to make, as long as you're not hoping to end up with an aged cheddar or an authentic Italian parmesan. Easy cheese is soft and spreadable, like a ricotta, which is what I made today. And despite being pretty simple to execute, I'm quite proud of the result.
I got this recipe from the Internet, so if you would like to recreate it, I suggest you follow this link. But for the more casual cooking enthusiast, here is a brief summary of what I did.
First, I put a gallon of whole milk into a big pot and slowly heated it up to 185˚F, stirring frequently to keep the milk from scalding. This was also a great opportunity to finally use that candy thermometer I bought three years ago. I still haven't made candy with it, but it conveniently hooks onto the side of the pot so you can monitor the temperature as you go.
Once the milk reached the desired temperature, I removed it from the heat and added 2/3 cup lemon juice. I used a combination of fresh and bottled. I don't think it really matters, all you really want is the acid. I guess if you can tell a flavor difference, bully for you. I then left the lemon and milk mixture undisturbed for 25 minutes, during which time I minced some basil. Once the milk was all curdled from the citric acid, I strained it through some cheese cloth. That's what it's named for, apparently!
After it was all strained, I mixed in salt, pepper, and the zest of two lemons (hence the portion of fresh lemon juice). I then separated my cheese into two containers, one of which remained plain, while the other got the minced basil (because my dad doesn't like basil, and I didn't want him to miss out on the lemon ricotta).
Here's the end result (with a copy of Elizabeth Bowen's The Heat of the Day in the background for artistry):
Then I had to refrigerate it for a couple of hours; but when it was ready, my parents and three of my friends tasted it and gave me that sweet sweet praise I crave even more than I crave delicious lemon basil ricotta cheese.