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:
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:
3. Once you’ve pulled the pot off the heat, stir in the vinegar and salt. Admire your manly-yet-delicate grip:
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):
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:
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:
See? It’s whey easy.