Homemade Ricotta Cheese with Red Wine Poached Cherries!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese with Poached Cherries | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

This week I discovered something that has changed my kitchen forever. I made my own ricotta cheese. It was a suggestion from one of the people at eGullet. We were discussing the recipe for calzone from the book and we were lamenting the state of ricotta cheese that is available in the super markets. No sooner had we complained than a recipe for homemade ricotta cheese appeared on the screen. Not one, but several.

Some of the recipes call for whole milk, some for cream and milk, but the one that caught my eye uses goat milk and heavy cream. You can find goat milk in co-ops and many regular grocery stores. I found it at Trader Joe’s. It has a wonderful flavor and is spectacular in cheese.

The poached cherries were my husband’s doing. We had a box of cherries that I just couldn’t walk by at Costco, but I should have, given that it is February in Minnesota. They were rather tasteless and not as firm and juicy as they looked behind plastic. Graham pitted them and threw them in a pot with a bottle of inexpensive red wine (the $2 variety), a small amount of sugar, a vanilla bean, the zest of an orange and a dozen peppercorns. Once they simmered for about an hour and the wine reduced with the fruit to make a syrup, it was utterly delicious.

I made the ricotta and it was still warm from hanging at room temperature for most of the afternoon. A dollop of the creamy fresh cheese on top of the chilled wine infused cherries, a drizzle of honey and that was all it needed. Perfect!

Makes about 1 cup

Homemade Ricotta Cheese:

1 quart goat milk

1 pint heavy cream or 1/2 & 1/2

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

pinch salt

Cherries:

1 pound pitted cherries

1 bottle red wine (anything you have laying around the house! The one he used was sweet so it didn’t require too much sugar. If you use a dry wine then you may want to increase the sweetness?)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 vanilla bean

zest of one small orange, left in large pieces so it can be removed. We used a potato peeler to remove the zest in large sheets.

12 peppercorns

Equipment:

candy thermometer

strainer lined with rinsed cheese cloth

wooden spoon or dowel to hang cheese

rubber band or string

Homemade Ricotta Cheese | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Put all of the ingredients for the homemade ricotta cheese in a medium sauce pot with a candy thermometer attached to the side. Gently stir the mixture over medium low heat until it reaches 175 degrees. It is very important that the mixture never goes about this temperature. I had to turn my stove off a couple of times when it seemed as though the milk might go above 175 degrees.

Candy Thermometer | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Once your milk hits 175 degrees it will start to curdle and you want to scoop up the large curds off the top. It may take several minutes for all of the milk to do this. Just keep the temperature as constant as possible and keep scooping the curds off the top.

Testing Homemade Ricotta Cheese Curds | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Scoop the curds out into the cheesecloth that is laid over a strainer with a deep bowl under it. I used the bowl to my stand mixer. The trick is to have enough room under the strainer so the cheese is not sitting in the liquid as it drains.

Ricotta in a Cheese Cloth | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

The cheese will be very soft and runny, until all the liquid drains out.

Ricotta in a cheese cloth | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Use a large spoon or rubber spatula to push the ricotta away from the bottom of cheesecloth so that it can drain more easily.

Ricotta in a cheese cloth | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Once the ricotta is as dry as cottage cheese…

Homemade Ricotta Cheese | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

use a rubber band or string to tie it into a bundle. Put a wooden spoon or dowel through the top.

fresh ricotta

Homemade Ricotta Cheese | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Find a large pitcher or vase to hang the bundle of cheese in so that it can finish draining. It takes about 3 hours to have a nice soft cheese. The longer you let it hang the firmer the ricotta will be. You can hang it in the refrigerator overnight for a firmer consistency.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

fresh ricotta

You can feel the cheese in the bundle to see if it is set up enough for your needs. I wanted mine to be set but still very soft, so I opened it up after only 3 hours.

fresh ricotta

fresh ricotta

It was soft and still warm. Yum! The texture is completely smooth.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I scooped some out put it over the cherries and with nothing but a drizzle of honey this made a sublime dessert!

To make the cherries:

Put all the ingredients in a non reactive sauce pan and simmer very gently for an hour or until the liquid is the consistency of thick maple syrup.

Fresh Ricotta with Red Wine Poached Cherries | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

14 thoughts to “Homemade Ricotta Cheese with Red Wine Poached Cherries!”

  1. That is so crazy!! Just this afternoon I was mulling the idea of making my own! I’m curious…how would one go about making “part-skim” or “low-fat” ricotta from home? Thanks so much for this post!

  2. Hi KN,

    Great minds think alike!

    I would do 1 quart whole milk and 1 pint skim. My only concern about eliminating too much of the fat is the consistency of the finished cheese. This was so amazingly creamy and luscious. But I bet even the skim milk home-made version will be so much better than anything you’ve ever bought.

    Please let me know how it goes!

    Zoë

  3. This is great! I just got Ricki Carroll’s book Home Cheese Making and made mozzarella, which was very good. I was planning to try ricotta tomorrow. Your photos are so helpful. And the cherries seem like the perfect accompaniment (though I’m not sure I can find any right now).

  4. THis is a great post and brilliant easy instructions. I’ve got to try this, just one question? How much is a quart in ml, and is an American pint the same as an English pint? Again, how much in ml. Thank you so much

  5. Hi Susan,

    Making cheese is so satisfying. I’ve always wanted to learn more about it. How do you like Carroll’s book so far?

    Fruit is an issue this time of year! I think this ricotta would be great with any dessert instead of vanilla ice cream. It may not be for everyone, but it adds a rich sophisticated taste.

    I’m going to make a cheesecake with the rest of it!

    Zoë

  6. Hi African Vanielje,

    It really is easy and the results are out of this world!!!

    1 quart = 946 ml
    1 American pint = 473 ml

    Are the pints the same?

    Thanks, Zoë

  7. Mmmm…this looks absolutely divine. I’ve seen my grandmother make ricotta cheese but haven’t thought of it since I was a kid. Oh my, you’re making me want to make this now. I wonder how good the ricotta and poached cherries would be a s a spread? Hmmmmm.

  8. Hi Joy,

    What a fantastic idea! I have just a tiny bit of the ricotta left and a couple of cherries, I’ll make a baguette this afternoon and try it.

    Thanks, Zoë

  9. Hello,

    Just curious, what would using the unused whey instead of water do for breads in your recipe? It seems a shame to throw away all of this liquid. It is acidified somewhat, would that greatly affect flavor or texture?

    Dan

  10. Hi Zoe!
    I was just reading Suvir Saran’s Indian Home Cooking cookbook – there is a tomato and paneer soup recipe in there that looks wonderful! Paneer is basically baked ricotta cheese, correct? I would love to know if he has made his own ricotta for that recipe – or maybe you could try it when you are together next week?!

    It sounds like a perfect match!! Thanks! Jen

  11. Hi Dan,

    What an interesting idea! The acid would work to relax the gluten, but I’m not sure that there is enough to make a significant difference?

    Please try it and report back!

    Zoë

  12. Hey Jen,

    I love Suvir’s book! Thanks for pointing out this recipe to me, I’ve not done it yet. I’ve also never seen pander made this way and am eager to try it. Paneer is typically much firmer than ricotta and he seems to achieve this by baking the softer cheese.

    Thanks!!! Zoë

  13. hi

    am wondering if when doubling or tripling this recipe, if one should also double or triple the vinegar.

    thanks.

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