Anywhere you live, buying imported goods will be more expensive than buying locally. I try to eat locally and seasonally, but because we live in Shanghai, so far from our families, I tend to break that little rule when it comes to cheeses. You see, the Chinese don’t really eat cheese in their traditional diet, and most still don’t really appreciate nibbling on cheese. We on the other hand love it. Walker, when shredding cheese for me, will take one bite for every pass he makes at the grater. And I found that when cooking for a vegan, my biggest trouble wasn’t avoiding using meat. I had plenty of creative vegetarian ideas. I had the most trouble not using a cheese or cream product. I really could eat cheese with every meal if it didn’t mean I would blow up to be twice my recommended weight. Not to mention the cholesterol.
On the other hand, life can’t be one big diet of avoidance, and a little cheese craving here and there should absolutely be indulged. For any cheese, that is, except spray cheese. Spray cheese just scares me. So when I was needing some ricotta, did I go to the store and buy 8 ounces for the equivalent of 8 US dollars? No. Instead I bought milk for two dollars, and lemons for two dollars. Not only was it a money saving venture, but the cheese was fresher than those shipped packaged containers with expiration dates that are an oddly long time away. It took me 7 minutes, from opening the refrigerator to the draining of the curds. It’s fast and easy, and so much more economical than buying ricotta at the foreigner run grocery stores!
Fresh Ricotta Cheese from Fiasco Farm
2 quarts whole milk
3 tablespoons white vinegar OR 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste
1. In a heavy pot, over direct heat, heat 2 quarts of whole milk to 200° (sometime I accidentally heat it to boiling). Add 3 Tablespoons of white vinegar or 1/4 Cup of fresh, strained lemon juice. Make sure to bring the temperature back up to 200*. You will see very tiny white particles (the albumin protein) floating in the whey. The heat and acid from the ripe whey has precipitated the protein.
2. Remove the pot from the heat and set it, covered, to rest undisturbed for about 15 minutes.
3. Line a colander with very fine cheesecloth, called “butter muslin”. You must use a very fine cloth here, or your cheese will pass through the regular cloth. If you do not have fine cheesecloth, use a clean cotton cloth (like a pillow case). Place the colander over a big pot so you can save the whey and carefully pour the whey into the colander. Be very careful because the liquid is hot. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together and hang the ricotta to drain for an hour or so (the longer you hand it, the “drier” your finished cheese will be.
4. When it has drained, place the ricotta in a bowl, break up, stir and add salt to taste (1/4 tsp.- 1/2 tsp.). This Ricotta will keep for about a week in the fridge.