I might have to put aprons aside for awhile and whip myself up a Cheesemaker’s Smock, like this classic from Folkwear Patterns: http://www.folkwear.com/102.html. (I’m a longtime Folkwear fan, but that’s another post. My brother got married in a Mississippi Boatsman’s Shirt.)
The Cheesemaker’s Smock would be a a fashion overstatement — I’m not storing fifty pound wheels in my nonexistent cellar. I made under a pound today, it won’t last much more than a week, and I didn’t have to lure beneficial bacteria into my kitchen. (I like to think, of course, that all the bacteria in my kitchen are friendly — I’m delusional that way.)
Nope, I made a couple of cups of fresh ricotta. It required five minutes of active time and the following equipment and ingredients:
An instant read thermometer. A saucepan. A strainer doublelined with paper towel. A slotted spoon. Four cups of whole milk, a half teaspoon of salt and four tablespoons of cheapo white vinegar.
Now, a purist will say, correctly, that ricotta is made from whey. I don’t happen to have a reliable retailer for whey, although I’m pretty sure my magical cousin Mary Fran could source me some raw milk whey should we do the illegal handoff at the Wisconsin line. No, this Little Miss Muffet made her own curds and whey.
So: put on an apron and pour four cups of milk and the salt into a saucepan. Lay the thermometer handy, measure out a quarter cup of white vinegar, and set the paper towel-lined strainer over a bowl. When the milk reaches a temperature between 170 and 190, add the vinegar to the milk and remove from heat. You’ll see the ricotta curds curdle — leave them alone for a couple of minutes. Then scoop them — gently! — with the slotted spoon into the strainer. Let it drip, draining the whey from the bottom of the bowl now and then to prevent it from touching the curds.
My friends, you’ve made ricotta. Ricotta without added gums, as most of the commercial products do. Tender, soft, mild (the vinegar disappears) and a tiny kitchen miracle.
I might order that Cheesemaker’s Smock pattern after all. I’m seeing it in seersucker over a pair of capris.