Whey To Go!

Unless this is your first time here, you’ll have read this list before. Maybe lots of befores.

And here it is again.

This is the pre-nup division-of-labor contract NewWifey(tm) and I agreed to the day before we got married:

I will do all the cooking, including shopping for said, and all cleanup afterwards. In return, NewWifey(tm) will mow the lawn, repair cars and motorcycles, shovel the drive in winter, do any house repairs needed, and take care of all paperwork and finances. (These were ALL her suggestions, btw. As she put it, “I will probably only have to re-shingle the roof every 15 years. YOU have to cook every fucking day. Sucker.“)

I hasten to add – yet again – that NewWifey(tm) is not a bad cook. It’s just that 1. She has to have a recipe, and it damn well better have pictures and quantities accurate to 1/64 of a teaspoon or it’ll be ruined, just ruined!, and 2. She haaaaaaaaaates cooking.

I, meanwhile,  1. used to be a snooty toque wearin’ French chef, and 2. still looooooove to cook despite that. And I don’t need no steenkin’ recipe.

For just over 15 years that list has been strictly adhered to, with only the rare exception due to illness or stint in jail (stupid paternity suits).

This is one of those exceptions. And not the jail one. Sorry.

Just before I went in for my elbow surgery 3 weeks ago I crammed our freezer to near bursting with stuff that could be easily microwaved and enjoyed for the duration, provided we doled it out prudently.

Of course, we did not dole it out prudently. I’ve been eating like a starving Sudanese refugee out of sheer boredom to the point where I can now see the back wall of our freezer. And I still have 3 weeks to go in the cast.

On top of that, NewWifey(tm) is getting antsy. She misses the sorts of dishes I didn’t make because they don’t freeze well. Things like fresh veggie things, steak, and especially

Ricotta cheese” she said.

“Ricotta cheese?” I said. “You’re going to the store for ricotta cheese?!”

Yeah. I gotta have something other than microwaved frozen paella, or daube of beef, again. I want a simple bowl of ricotta cheese with honey drizzled on it, maybe with some sliced almonds. And a peach.”

“Yeah, but, those tubs at the  store go for something like 8 bucks now. And they’re terrible! I’m telling you, you’re gonna be really disappointed when it tastes nothing like mine. The plastic tub will probably taste better. Why don’t you just make your own?”

She looked at me like I’d just asked her to perform her own hysterectomy. “Are you nuts? Make cheese? From SCRATCH? Me?? Forget it. I’ll eat that plastic tub first.

“No! NO!” I begged. “Really, it’s not complicated at all. Even you could”…oops… “er, I mean, ANYONE could do it. You just heat some milk and a little buttermilk, add some acid, and poof! You’ve get a raft of pure ricotta cheese floating on top, ready to be scarfed.”

NewWifey(tm) looked skeptical. “Do you have a recipe?

“As a matter of fact I do.”

‘Skeptical’ morphed into ‘incredulous’. “You don’t use recipes” she said.

“You’re right. But a while back someone asked me how to make it and I posted a step-by-step photo tutorial for them. I’ll send you the link. C’mon, give it a shot. We’ve got all the ingredients.”

It took a little more wheedling and massaging, but she finally, grudgingly, agreed to step out of her comfort zone and enter the kitchen for something other than a frozen daiquiri.

And what do you know, less than an hour later NewWifey(tm) was face down in a trough of warm, freshly made ricotta cheese drizzled with honey and sliced almonds. Five minutes later she was all over FB gloating about having mastered the “unbelievably complicated” process of making homemade cheese. With no help from her husband!

Whatever. If it saves me 8 bucks and keeps us from eating a tub of factory extruded glop, she can say whatever she likes.

Now then, should you care to try your hand at this incredibly UN-complicated curdish delight, I’ll post those very same pictures here, along with the original captions.

Do this! Refuse to get in the tub!

And here we gooooooooooooooooo………….

1. Mise en place: Gallon milk, ~2 cups buttermilk, 2 tsp. or so of salt, coupla tablespoons of plain white vinegar. Strict measurements don’t need to be adhered to – hot milk plus some acid and a bit of salt is gonna make ricotta whether you want it to or not. Also have a strainer, and some cheesecloth or muslin to line it (along with a deep bowl or pot to set it in), and a good heavy duty cooking pot. The most important ingredient here may actually be the thermometer:

Ricotta 1

2. In a heavy pot, place the milk and buttermilk over a medium heat and bring the temperature up to between 185 and 190. You should stir fairly frequently towards the end to keep the bottom from scorching (the pot’s, not yours). Gotta say, enameled cast iron is da bomb for this:

Ricotta 2

3. Once you’ve pulled the pot off the heat, stir in the vinegar and salt. Admire your manly-yet-delicate grip:

Ricotta 3

4. After about 10 minutes, give or take, the curdling starts to solidify. (If it doesn’t, add a good slug more of vinegar. There can be a fair amount of variation between batches of milk I’ve found, so play it by eye.)

The curds are large enough here that you can see they’re not falling through the gaps of my spider (skimmer):

Ricotta 4

5. Gently ladle the cheese into the muslin lined strainer (make sure the strainer doesn’t sit in water – use a deep enough pot). Let it sit for 5 – 7 minutes, but not much longer or it will get too stiff as it cools. Then just turn it out into a bowl:

Ricotta 5

6. That’s it! The difference between this and Cheese Factory Inc.’s “ricotta” is the difference between Charleze Theron and a bucket of tapir entrails.  And you should – you MUST – try it while it’s still warm, with honey drizzled over the top and maybe some sliced almonds. Or I’ll hunt you down and force feed you some of mine:

Ricotta 6

See? It’s whey easy.




17 thoughts on “Whey To Go!

  1. Will definitely make some of that. I’ll have to get some cheesecloth but the rest is muchly doable. Do you use that version in lasagna too? Or do you opt for other cheesy options when you do your pasta dishes?


  2. Lol. Funny you should mention that. One of the only dishes that wifey insists on making herself is lasagna, which she does once a year. Rather odd considering she’s Irish, married to a Sicilian. But she loves the recipe she’s been using since she was a kid, and it specifically calls for NOT ricotta. And because recipes are more inviolate than even wedding vows with her, that’s all she ever does despite my pleas. (I will concede that hers is an excellent lasagna, btw, of the “not runny” style I particularly enjoy. It may, in fact, be the best lasagna I’ve ever had, heretical as that may sound.)

    However, flush with success following this episode, she actually ventured last night, out of the blue, “I wonder how this would go in my lasagna recipe?” So we’ll see. I’ve already received accolades for my use of it in homemade ravioli, manicotti, and Italian ricotta pie. So she knows it works well in other recipes.

    Her favorite preparation for it, though: mixed with rose water, a few raisins, orange zest, and mint leaves, rolled into a Viet rice paper roll and drizzled with honey syrup. I came up with it while playing around with variations on a Middle Eastern dessert called “Znoud el Sit’, which she always ordered when there was a Lebanese restaurant near us.

    BTW, I personally favor muslin over cheesecloth for this operation, for various reasons. My local WalMart, of all places, carries un-dyed, un-treated bolts that are food grade. Not nearly as expensive as the tiny squares marketed specifically to cooks, either,



    1. You lost me at orange zest (allergic to oranges and pineapple, sadly – which SUCKS). But sounds like this would be a perfect addition to lasagna. And the muslin might work if it’s an open enough weave. I agree – cheesecloth can be dear for something you use once then toss. My only thought is that everything from Wally World is from China, so not sure I’d trust “un-treated” anything from there as being safe to use with food.


      1. Like most recipes, accent ingredients can be considered just suggestions. Trouble with orange (which does massively suck) but still want the flavor? Try orange blossom water, or artificial extract. Or bag it and go with…cherries…almond extract…cocoa powder…you get the idea. Never dismiss an entire recipe because of an ingredient.

        Regarding muslin, even the finest, tightest weaves are not enough of a barrier to stop liquids from freely flowing across. I use the tightest I can find, and always have. (They’re easier to clean, lol.)

        FWIW, my WallyWorld cloth is tagged as having been made in India. Don’t know if that raises or lowers its status in your eyes. All I can say is it does a great job for me, and so far has been proven to be durable. And I’ve used mine as steamed and boiled pudding wrappers and other rather stressful applications. Still haven’t gotten sick yet, either. But it’s your call, of course. I know a lot of people are adamant about these things regardless. And really – again, as usual – none of this is really critical. You could strain through a woven mat of rushes if you like, and it will still work 🙂


        1. Honey, you’re talking to the queen of substitutions-because-reasons. I get it 😉 And I’ve used options for straining that would probably scare you, lol.


    1. You’re welcome! Hope you do make it some day. If anything, it’s even easier to make than I portrayed.

      I recommend the thermometer seen in the pics ( http://www.thermoworks.com/ThermoPop ) but any halfway decent instant read thermometer will do. In fact, if you can judge when the milk is about to boil and pull it off right before it gets to that point, you don’t need any thermometer at all. But it’s nice to have 🙂

      Go get ’em, Patty!


  3. I’m definitely going to try this! Here’s some questions:
    About how much does this make in the end?
    How long do you think it would keep in the fridge?
    Does it freeze well?
    Does it work with low fat milk?


    1. Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh………uh-oh.

      Let’s see:

      1. I’d say ~3 cups, give or take. You definitely pour a lot of whey down the drain (you could also use some for bread making, though).

      2. It seems to keep fairly long. Remember, you’re starting with a pasteurized product, then additionally heating it past the point most pathogens can tolerate (around 140, if I recall). To be fair, we rarely have enough self control to keep from finishing a batch within 48 hours. But once or twice I recall having some still in the fridge after around a week and it was still fine. Stiffer, but not spoiled. Could go longer than that for all I know.

      3. I have no idea. But my guess is “no” because of the high water content. Ice crystals would form, and they expand volume. When defrosted they re-liquify, but don’t go back into solution. It’s like freezer burn with meats – similar process. Why not give it try with a small amount and see? Then let me know!

      4. No idea. Try it…then let me know again! My guess here is “probably”, since the “real” ricotta is made from lean whey left over from making other cheeses (ricotta means “re-cooked”). You’ll probably have to add more vinegar, and expect less yield if it does curdle. But I’m guessing SOMETHING will happen. The overwhelming question, though, is “why the hell would you want to”?

      So listen, where have you been babe? I’ve missed your updates and crazy pics! What state do you call home these days? Running another wacky curio shop? Habla me!!



      1. Thanks for the info! I make a three cheese cannelloni that calls for ricotta. It will be interesting to try out this ricotta in that recipe.

        And I’m still around…I’ve just been lurking since you started up this site. I finally had to give up on Diaryland because it was having so many issues…as you know. I’m on facebook now, and post quite regularly there with my wacko updates and pics. There are links to my FB, instagram, and twitter on my last two entries at dogsdontpurr.com.

        I’m in California now, but still have the antique biz in Oregon. I kinda shuttle back and forth. It’s still hard to pin me down. Ha!

        Thanks again for the info! Hope your elbow heals fast (so that you’ll have plenty of percocet left over to share with me! Ha!) Take care! ~XxxOoo


        1. Yeah, I saw your last DL entry when you posted it. Made me sad, because I’m not on FB or any of those others. But I’m heartened to hear you’re still engaged in your usual nuttiness, posting pics and tales somewhere, even if I can’t follow along myself. Rock on, babe! 🙂


          1. Yeah…I put off getting on Face~twit~insta for a long time. But finally I was dragged kicking and screaming, and now I find I kinda like it. I steer clear of the bullshit and drama as much as possible. And I basically post the stuff I would on diaryland. You should totally get on one of the three, if only to follow me!! Ha! You don’t have to post anything, you can just…lurk!!! But I know…I really didn’t want to do it at all. I can’t remember know why I took the leap, but in the end it’s super easy to post photos and stuff…especially from my phone. So I’ve now been officially inducted into the cult. Ha!


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