Making ricotta cheese, sort of

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Living in Mexico can be eye-opening — provided you keep your eyes and mind open. I was reminded of this when I  first made requesón cheese, the name for ricotta in Mexico. It’s sold at all the cremerias here, but it’s so easy to make, plus home-made ricotta is much smoother and cheaper than store-bought.

Rural living in Mexico has a lot of pluses, one being that we can buy raw milk, sometimes so fresh it is delivered warm from the cow. As much as I would like to drink raw milk, I always pasteurize it first. It still remains unhomogenized, with a thick layer of yellow cream on the top.

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The eye-opening part of making ricotta occurred when Ruby, our house cleaner, tasted my ricotta and politely declared it “requesón lite”. What? I had followed the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen to the T. She patiently explained that requesón is made from suaro, the whey collected from cheese making, not from whole milk.

This explains why American ricotta recipes start with whole milk. After all, how many of us have a small herd of dairy cattle, make vats of cheese every day, and then have 10 gallons of whey to use for making ricotta?  No, I didn’t think so.

Our favorite way to eat ricotta is spread on toasted seed bread, a so called “Life Changing Bread” from My New Roots.

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Unless you have your own herd of milk cows, here is how to make ricotta, even though Ruby probably thinks I’m cheating.


Ricotta/ Requesón

makes about 350 grams or 12 ounces

  • 2 quarts whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons/30 ml. white vinegar
  • 1/6 cup/ 40 ml. lemon juice
  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat milk and salt over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.
  2. When milk reaches 165 degrees F./ 74 C., remove milk immediately from heat and add vinegar and lemon juice, stirring gently. Extra cooking will result in curds too firm for ricotta.
  3. As soon as curds form and the whey becomes mostly clear and yellow, pour into the cheesecloth-lined colander. It will take between 5 seconds and 10 minutes for the curds to form. If curds do not form, gently stir in more vinegar, one tablespoon at a time.
  4. Allow to drain for only a few minutes, until you have a spreadable consistency. Upend the cheesecloth into a bowl and stir the ricotta with a fork, breaking up the curds until it is smooth. If you would like it more moist, stir in a few tablespoons of reserved whey. Refrigerate.

Notes

~ Have everything ready before the milk heats — vinegar and lemon juice measured, colander lined with cheesecloth and set over a large bowl.

~ If using commercial organic milk, don’t use milk labeled UHT (Ultra High Temperature). The curds will not form as readily or as well. Hopefully, non-UHT organic milk is available.

~ Don’t use Meyer Lemons, as they are not acidic enough. Even regular lemons can vary in their acidity, requiring more lemon juice. All vinegar, instead of any lemon juice, supposedly can make the milk curd sufficiently, but I haven’t tried it.

~ Don’t throw out the whey! It’s great in smoothies, soups (so I read), and for bread making. My chickens like it, too.

~ Make an easy and impressive Raspberry-Ricotta Cake with this recipe from Epicurious.

© 2009-2016 COOKING IN MEXICO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

10 thoughts on “Making ricotta cheese, sort of

  1. Michael

    Hola from La Cruz Kathleen!

    Great job with the requeson! When I was looking into making mozzarella (still haven’t done it successfully) I discovered that they make ricotta from the whey left over after making mozzarella. Have you tried making mozzarella?

    1. I haven’t tried making mozzarella, but I want to learn how to make Oaxaca cheese, also known as string cheese. I believe mozzarella and Oaxaca cheese are similar, and in Mexico, requeson/ricotta is made from the whey from Oaxaca cheese. Perhaps ricotta is made from whey from other cheeses also. I still have a lot to learn here.

    1. I have only made it with whole milk, but my guess is that it would work. It wouldn’t be as rich, but should still form curds. If you make it with low-fat or non-fat milk, please let us know how it turned out.

  2. anneke

    Hola amiga, I am so happy to be able to follow your blog postings again! I don’t exactly know what happened, but it had been quite some time since I had received any. Could be that we’ve been on the move this year, but we are now full time live aboards at the harbor in Santa Cruz, CA. Since we cannot live out of the country anymore because our medical insurance does not cover is outside of the US and I need to be under continuous care, this is a great alternative. Lew grew up here and our kids (some but not all) and grandkids live very close by plus we have a ton of friends in the Bay Area, so we couldn’t be in a better place at this time of our lives.
    However, my love of Mexico continues and always will. Your blogs are pure pleasure. You and Russell were such a huge influence on our amazing years in La Cruz. I’m not sure if you knew how much teaching the English classes at Philo’s meant to me. I look back at those days as if in a dream. I loved it there and would do it all over again if I could!!!! So, I am so very happy to stay connected with you and Russ via fb and your wonderful blog. Thank you for sharing your lives and local knowledge in such a wonderful way. I am so enjoying all your pictures and your vivid descriptions of your somewhat new environment! I treasure all of it! Muchísimas gracias and abrazos for you both, also from Lew.

    1. Dear Anneke, it’s possible you have not seen my posts because I haven’t written very many since we moved. I’ve had computer challenges, plus there are so many new things to do here, like make cheese. I’m glad Cooking in Mexico helps keep you connected to Mexico. And I hope you can visit again some day. Abrazos to you.

  3. In India this us how we make Indian cheese called paneer. We just skip the salt. This soft cheese can be scrambled with caramelizedused onions bell pepper and tomato salt pepper seasonings. If placed in a fridge it gets firm which can then be cubed and fried to added to tomato and cream based sauces. It is also used to prepare various sweet dishes.

  4. S Harder

    Hola Kathleen!
    Thank you for this. I had no idea that there was a version of ricotta in Mexico, and how it would be different – for certainly it would not be exactly the same. I’m going to make some Ricotta and buy some Requeson and try them side by side. Food is so fun.
    I hope you are both enjoying your new chapter and I hope we might cross paths again one day.
    All the best
    Sylvia

    Sent from my iPad

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