Ricotta and Kefir

http://www.motherearthnews.com//real-food/ricotta-and-kefir-zbcz1311.aspx

We will explore my further adventures in cheese making, this time ricotta, but also kefir. Before we get into it, I want to give a heads up on the next couple of blogs. The next blog or so will be about something for the Holidays, then after that, I suspect we will delve into sourdough again, as it’s been a while since I’ve done that. So now it’s on to kefir and ricotta.

In my quest for better cheese products, ricotta came up on the list of things to do. Enter Cultures for Health, with kits for ricotta/mozzarella, and the starter for kefir. (Do check out their website, you will be amazed. I was.) The ricotta produced in the manner below makes a mild, delicate, ricotta, with none of the burnt plastic taste and smell of the commercial varieties. It is the best I’ve tasted in years. You can make many wonderful things with ricotta, that mild Italian cheese that goes into lasagna, manicotti, etc. Few people realize it can also go into sweet things, like pies, pastries, cakes, and in our case today, mousse. Kefir is very similar to yogurt, and I would say, could be used interchangeably, although kefir can be thinner than yogurt sometimes. I will pass on a luscious recipe for a white chocolate mousse, and a very simple thing to do with kefir as a refreshing drink. We’ll start with the kefir, and finish with the yummy mousse.

kefirKefir The kefir is super simple: Just follow their method. You start with the usual one gallon of milk, and heat to only 86 F. Add the culture, stir well, and let incubate in a warm place (70 to 78 F) for 12 hours or until it gets to the desired thickness. The longer, the thicker. I prefer mine not so thick, so I can use it as a drink. Refrigerate. That’s it. Done. It really doesn’t get any simpler than that. For an extra treat, I put some in a glass and add sugar free flavoured syrup, or any flavouring you prefer, and as Tasting Team Member #1 (the other half) said, “It’s almost like a milk shake.” Sans the calories. In my case, I used raspberry flavouring (see photo).

Ricotta You will need a large spoon and a large pot to hold the milk. Use the kit thermometer, and you will need a colander, the butter muslin, a ladle, large bowl, and a twist tie or rubber band. Try to keep stainless steel everything for the pot, colander, spoon, etc. Place the milk in the pot with the cheese salt and citric acid, and heat to 195 F. You will see curds start to form fairly soon. Stir frequently to prevent scorching. As you get close to the 195 mark, the whey will separate out more, and the curds will be more pronounced. You can now turn off the stove and let things sit for five minutes. Line your colander with the muslin and ladle the cheese/whey mixture into it. I place my colander over my small sink, where it fits nicely, or you could put it suspended over a large bowl. To do this, just tie up your corners and suspend in whatever fashion works for drainage. (They suggest suspending from a cabinet handle.) I use a metal shishkebab skewer over the colander. Let drain for 30 minutes. Once the ricotta is drained, refrigerate, where it will keep for 14 days, or it also may be frozen. Makes 1 ¾ to 2 pounds of cheese. ricotta

Mousse di Cioccolato Bianco or White Chocolate Mousse

This recipe comes from my favourite Italian cookbook author, Michele Scicolone, in La Dolce Vita, one of her earlier books, filled with luscious recipes for the inner dessert Italian in all of us. She in turn got the recipe from somewhere else. This too is a pretty simple recipe. She finishes with a raspberry sauce.

1 cup whole milk ricotta (which is basically what your ricotta is after you’ve made it)

2 tbl. amaretto, brandy or run (I used amaretto)

1 cup heavy cream

¼ cup sugar

4 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped

2 10 ounce packages of frozen raspberries in syrup, thawed

Fresh blueberries or strawberries (most any berry would be good here)

White chocolate curls

In a large bowl, whip the ricotta and amaretto until smooth and creamy. In a large chilled bowl, using an electric mixer with chilled beaters, whip the cream with the sugar until stiff peaks form. Beat in the ricotta mixture. Fold in the white chocolate. Chill completely. In a food processor or blender, puree the raspberries with their juices until smooth. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. To serve, spoon a pool of sauce onto each serving plate. Using a small ice cream scoop or two large tablespoons, place two scoops of the mousse on each plate. Garnish with berries and white chocolate curls. This is Michele’s exact recipe.

You will see in my photo that I decorated the mousse with a fresh raspberry and some sliced candied cherries to look like a poinsettia. Also, I know today that it was a pleasure walking down the dairy aisle, bypassing things I would normally have to buy there!

Michele Scicolone. La Dolce Vita. New York: William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1993. You can read more of Sue Van Slooten's food adventures, and listen to Sue in her podcasts, at www.suevanslooten.com.