Homemade ricotta

Ricotta draining.

File this under: It’s so easy why didn’t I do it sooner?
Ricotta requires two ingredients: milk and some sort of acid to curdle it. In the past couple months, I’ve tried two methods for making my own. The first combined three per cent milk and buttermilk; the second three per cent milk, white wine vinegar and two per cent yogurt with live bacteria.
The final result in both cases was excellent. I used batch one in chicken cannelloni and batch two mixed with spinach and an egg for a layer in a roasted vegetable lasagna.
I think the curds formed quicker with the yogurt.
Here’s the basic technique.

Homemade ricotta mixed with spinach for lasagna.

Homemade ricotta
Ingredients 1
4 L (8 cups) milk
500 mL (2 cups) buttermilk

Ingredients 2
4 L (8 cups) milk
125 mL (1/2 cup) plain yogurt
5 ml (1 tsp) white wine vinegar

Line colander with two layers of cheesecloth, leaving enough to gather.
Combine ingredients in a large pot. Heat over medium-high stirring constantly until curds start to separate from whey (175 to 180 Fahrenheit). Turn off heat and let sit for a few minutes, allowing more curds to form. Pour through colander. Let rest 15 to 20 minutes. If necessary, gather cheesecloth around ricotta to press out additional liquid.
Transfer to bowl, cover and refrigerate.


Garden report: Part 1

Tilling the vegetable garden.

Over the past two weeks, I planted my cold weather crops.
First, I had to harvest the last of last season’s parsnips, which we enjoyed tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted alongside some carrots.
On April 14, David rented a tiller from a local shop and, I say without hyperbole, it was the best $20 we ever spent. In two hours, he had tilled the entire garden, incorporating some of the decomposing leaves we applied in the fall into the soil (the rest went into the compost heap) and leaving lovely, loose dirt at least 30 centimetres deep, ready for planting.
I sowed seeds the next day: two rows of harris model parsnips, three rows of organic scarlet nantes carrots, two rows of organic rainbow swiss chard (with a bit of leftover standard green mixed in), a row of pak choi and a row of baby leaf blend organic lettuce. The greens are already sprouting.

Red and green lettuce is beginning to sprout.

In my herb garden, I sowed some curly parsley seeds I harvested off a second year plant (parsley is biennial) last fall.
I also dug trenches in anticipation of the giant jersey asparagus roots I ordered from Vesey’s. Growing this vegetable is an exercise in patience; I’m not expecting a real harvest until 2014. But I could not resist the appeal of a perennial edible that is ready to eat in May.

Young leeks.

April 21, during at an impromptu stop at Joe’s Market for some local honey, I bought three small pots of leeks and a large rosemary plant. This year, I may keep the rosemary in a pot and bring it in during the winter. But a row of leeks was planted in a shallow trench the next day. (The whites of leeks are created by covering the bottoms with soil as they grow.) I love leeks in soups, grain dishes and pastas (including David’s favourite mac ‘n’ cheese, which also features pancetta, gruyere and blue cheese). After reading in Lois Hole’s Favourite Vegetables that you can dig them up whole (with a shovel or two of soil) and store them in a box somewhere cool like the garage to eat all winter, I knew I had to give growing them a try.
Yesterday (April 24), the asparagus crowns arrived in the mail. I planted them in my pre-dug trenches this evening.

This year’s harvest has already begun, albeit very slowly, with herbs: A few chives in a lemon chive mayo for a piece of grilled pickerel; several sprigs of thyme in a potato onion soup; lots of cilantro (self-seeded) to balance the pickled onions in fish tacos.
To my surprise, a lone kale plant survived the winter and should soon have sprouted enough leaves to add to a vegetable soup.