I saw a recipe for it in Sept/Oct issues of Cook's and it looked like a fun thing to try. Since ricotta and farmer's cheese are cousins of sorts, I thought it can't hurt to learn to make whatever Cook's was giving me straightforward instructions for. It turned out well, but I can't say it was a revelation. Sure it was head and shoulders above most store bought ricotta, but not any better than Calabro, which is my favorite store bought brand.
Farmer's cheese is a whole other story. I want to learn to make it not because it's fun in a science project sort of way, but because I am not crazy about the store bought products. The one I see in most stores is Friendship brand. It's ok in fillings, but not great on it's own. Any advice on how to do it? I've seen lots of recipes on-line, but I'd like to understand the science behind it and none of them explain it. Here are some specific questions that I have:
- The ricotta recipe I used, said to heat milk to 185F and then stir in enough lemon juice to make it curdle. The resulting product doesn't have much tang. This is appropriate for ricotta, but farmer's cheese is supposed to have a good bit of sourness. Does this come from letting it sit for a while and curlde on it's own at room temperature?
- What's the difference between using lemon juice and buttermilk as souring agents?
- How do you know if the milk curdled in a good way (like it's ready for cheese making) or in a bad way (like it spoiled)?
Heat 1 gallon whole milk and 1 tsp table salt (or 2 tsp Diamond Crystal Kosher salt) to 185F over medium-hight heat. Cook's recommends using a Dutch oven, but I don't see why it wouldn't work in any heavy bottomed pot if you stir occasionally. Remove from heat and slowly stir in 1/3 cup lemon juice.
Allow mixture to stand undisturbed for 5 minutes. If the milk hasn't curdled, stir in more lemon juice 1 Tbsp at a time until the milk curdles (let sit a few minutes after each addition).
Set a collander in a large bowl and line with 2 layers of cheese cloth. Dump the curdled milk in and wait for it to drain. Make sure your bowl is big enough to catch all the liquid or keep an eye on it and dump out the liquid as it accumulates in the bowl.
After an hour of draining, move to the fridge and let it sit overnight. Cook's said not to press or disturb the ricotta, but I found that collecting the edges of the cheese cloth and tying them up didn't hurt.
Now if only I could get my hands on some raw milk. My guess is that would indeed produce a ricotta superior to anything from the store, but the closest place I can get it is Foxboro, and I am not sure I am up for driving that far.