Ricotta cheese is creamy, a must-have ingredient in lasagna. Since it is so expensive here in Bangkok, I decided to make my own. This recipe was adapted from Ina Garten whose recipe calls for heavy cream or cream that is more than 36% milkfat. I cannot find heavy cream here in Bangkok, or if it’s labelled heavy cream it has other things in it besides cream. I used whipping cream instead which is less than 36% milkfat. It’s available in the refrigerated dairy section at supermarkets here.
Home-made Ricotta Cheese
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Resting time: 20-25 minutes
4 cups whole milk
2 cups fresh whipping cream
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons white vinegar
Prepare a large sieve and set it over a tall bowl. Line it with a doubled cheesecloth that has been dampened with water. Set aside.
In a large stainless steel saucepan, pour the milk and the cream. Stir in the salt. Cook over medium heat until the milk and cream boil, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. If a skin forms on top, I just skim it off with a spatula. The milk mixture will boil over if not watched. When it boils, a dome of milk forms on top. Just skim this off. Underneath the dome, the milk mixture will be bubbling. Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar. Let the milk rest about 1 minute. By then the milk mixture will solidify, and if pierced with a spatula, the whey, a yellowish liquid, is just beneath the surface. .
Pour the contents of the pot into the prepared sieve. It will begin to drain and separate into curds (in the cheesecloth) and whey. Occasionally drain off the whey and discard. This takes about 20 minutes or longer, depending on how thick you want the cheese. This yields about 2 cups cheese.
According to Ina Garten, the ricotta cheese can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days, so it can be made ahead. I used it all to make lasagna.
I have decided to stop eating junk food during the week when I’m at school. I’ve only been eating healthy on weekends and it’s beginning to show on the scale. I’ve begun to feel uncomfortably bloated. So this week, I made a pot of guisada at home to take with me for meals during the week. I also made a bowl of yogurt to go, and I’m bringing about a half dozen ripe mangoes with me to enjoy.
Mangoes are in season, and we are enjoying the bounties from neighbors, family, and friends. Even if they don’t have a tree, we share the riches. There’s nothing like a bowl of ice cold mango topped with fresh yogurt. And the best kind of yogurt is the one you make yourself. It’s so pretty, the top is like glass! It reflects the view from my kitchen window. Here is my recipe for yogurt that sets in an hour.
1 8 oz carton of plain yogurt, it must have active yogurt cultures
1 liter whole milk
In a medium saucepan, pour the milk. Put the pot over a medium flame and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges. On a candy thermometer, this would read about 150˚F. This is called scalding milk. It takes about 10 minutes. Turn off the flame and let the milk cool to between 115˚F to 110˚F. If a skin forms on top of the milk, skim it off with a spatula and discard.
When the milk has reach the cooler temperature, add the entire carton of yogurt and stir. Transfer to a ceramic dish and cover it. Put it in a warm draft free place for about 1 hour to set. You will know it has set when the surface is solid to touch and when the bowl is tilted, there is no liquid sloshing about.
Refrigerate overnight. Or if you can’t wait that long, at least 4-6 hours. Eat the yogurt you made with fresh fruit. And like I said, a ripe ice cold mango is so delicious with home made yogurt. There is nothing more satisfying (and virtuous) than eating your own yogurt. To quote Ina Garten, “How easy is that?”
I know I’m home when I take up my old routines! I still haven’t completely unpacked our boxes from New York but I made yogurt. I used to make yogurt all the time in Bangkok because I could never find a decent plain yogurt here. That is, yogurt that is unsweetened. Having plain yogurt on hand is great because with a bit of honey and fruit it’s breakfast or dessert. I can also use it to make smoothies, salad dressings, and as a substitute for expensive sour cream in cakes. Sometimes I would strain it with coffee filters to make Greek style yogurt. So yogurt is an essential part of my kitchen. Also essential to the success of yogurt making is that the yogurt starter must contain active cultures. And you will need a candy thermometer because temperature is the key to setting yogurt.
1 x 140g carton plain yogurt with active cultures, for example Dutchie
200 ml whole milk
200 ml 0% milk
In a kettle, boil enough water to sterilize 5 canning jars. Pour the boiled water in the jars and let it stand 5 minutes. Pour out the water and set aside the clean jars.
In a large pot heat the two kinds of milk over medium high heat. Put the candy thermometer in the pot.
Cook’s Note: Some yogurt makers say that yogurt made with only 0% milk won’t set. But I’ve found that it does; it’s just more watery. Yogurt actually sets better with whole milk. So I make a large batch combining both the whole and 0% milk to fill 4 1/2 Kerr canning jars.
When the temperature of the milk reaches 150˚F, you’ll notice there are tiny bubbles all around the rim of the pot. Turn off the heat. Let the milk cool to 120˚F. Add the entire carton of yogurt and stir well. Ladle the milk mixture into the clean jars.
Place the jars in a draft free area, like the oven, to set. The yogurt will set in 5 hours. Screw on the lids and refrigerate at once.
Cook’s Note: You’ll know the yogurt has set because, when you tilt the jar, the milk mixture has thickened so it doesn’t move or shake. When it is cold, eat! But remember to save 1/2 cup of yogurt as starter for the next batch.
As Ina Garten would say, “How easy is that?”