Simple and requiring no cultures, mascarpone starts with cream rather than milk, and needs a full day’s or night’s draining to be ready to eat. Similar to cream cheese, mascarpone’s richness lends itself to sweet preparations, such as the Italian pick-me-up tiramisu. It’s also good in savory preparations and with fruit. The finished cheese can be soft and creamy or crumbly, depending on how long you let it drain. Tartaric acid is not the same as cream of tartar and the two are not interchangeable; tartaric acid is available from winemaking and brewing stores. Yield: about 1 pound.
1 quart cream (light or heavy); see note later in this article
1/8 to 1/4 tsp tartaric acid dissolved in 1 tsp cool water (or use 1 to 2 tbsp lemon juice)
1. Heat cream. In a heavy-bottom, nonreactive pot, heat the milk over medium-low to 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir continuously to prevent scorching. Remove cream from heat and stir for a couple of minutes to cool (to about 190 degrees).
2. Acidify milk. Milk separates into curds and whey when it is acidified. The warmer the milk, the less acidic it will need to be to separate. When the milk has reached the proper temperature, remove the milk from the heat and add tartaric acid or lemon juice and stir. Let sit at room temperature until a uniform mass of curd has pulled away from the side of the pot and there is a clear layer of whey over the top. When curds have separated from mostly clear whey, leave the pot alone for 10 to 20 minutes.
3. Drain curds. Line a colander with damp cheesecloth and set it over a large bowl or in the sink. Ladle curds into the cloaked colander to drain for about 12 hours. After the initial draining, you may salt the cheese by sprinkling salt over the curds and stirring to distribute.
4. Store cheese. Cover and refrigerate for up to a week.
Note: To make a quart of light cream (25 percent butterfat), combine 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream with 2 cups half-and-half.
Interested in other homemade cheese recipes? Read How to Make Fresh Cheese: The Basic Steps.
Photo by Tim Nauman: Mascarpone, the rich and creamy Italian fresh cheese, is superb with fruit.