Purists may cry foul because this ricotta is made with whole milk (and a little cream), but I say let them. This is the internet. They’re miles away. Classically ricotta is made from the whey left behind after provolone is made. However few if any of us can just nip down to the corner market and pick up a gallon of provolone whey, now can we? And anyway I’m on record that I believe ricotta is a process, not a fat percentage, and I’m stickin’ to it!
Yes this cheese has a little more fat than the Italian or store-bought stuff, but as I can personally attest, this is how many, many Italian-American nonninas made theirs the last century. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. ‘Nuff said. Start by pouring your milk and cream into a large pot. The less it’s been homogenized and/or stabilized the better, since both of those processes are designed to inhibit clumping and congealing…and that’s what we’re trying to do here.
Add the salt.
Bring the whole thing to a rolling boil (it will foam quite a bit, which is why you want the big pot), then add the lemon juice.
Turn the heat down and let the pot simmer for 2-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, line a strainer with cheese cloth and place it over another large pot or pan.
Don’t be under the impression that the milk mixture is going to suddenly get thick or turn into a big blob of curds or anything. All you’ll notice are some spots floating around in it. There’s really not all that much in milk that can be solidified when it gets right down to it. That’s part of the reason cream is added to the milk in this recipe, to introduce more “substance” to this mixture so the curds will be larger. Believe me, it takes a whole lot of liquid whey to make a tiny amount of ricotta.
So where was I? Oh yes, pour the whole sloppy mess into the strainer, then just let it sit.
After an hour this about where you’ll be. It’s milky and ready to eat at this point if you like…and in fact you’ll have a hard time restraining yourself once you taste it, it’s that good.
About two hours later and it’s thick enough that you can simply turn it out into a fine mesh strainer for faster draining.
If you plan on using it as a filling instead of just a snack, let it drain for several more hours. Lay some plastic wrap on the top, put the strainer and the pot into the refrigerator and let it go for at least six hours or overnight. It’s best the day it’s made but will keep for several days in the refrigerator.