Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ricotta Salata and Making a Cheese Press

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Dear cheeseheads,

It's summer time!

Time for long bike rides, hot afternoons on the beach, and fly swatters.

Visiting the farm on a warm afternoon, we recently enjoyed a light snack of homemade crackers, fresh ricotta salata, and lemonade.

Ricotta Salata
To make fresh ricotta salata, you will need a cheese press.  If you don't have one, a very handy one can be fashioned from tools you may already have in your kitchen.

To learn how I make ricotta cheese, click here (external link).  

This cheese press works excellently with ricotta cheese and farmer's cheese, also called farmhouse cheese or cottage cheese. 

Ricotta Salata
You can eat this plain, or slice it onto crackers or sandwiches or serve with cut pears.  It makes a beautiful appetizer!  If you use much more than two cups of cheese in this small press, your block will be a little loose in the middle and not quite as uniform.  It still works quite well - I often pour in much more farmer's cheese than I should and get large, misshapen blocks because sometimes I don't care - but two cups is the perfect amount for a compact piece of cheese.  

1 pound (about 2 cups) fresh ricotta
4 teaspoons salt

Remove the top and bottom of a 28-ounce metal can.  Carefully wash all three components - the edges will be sharp.  You can file them down if you like; I just treat them cautiously, like knives.  

Set the can on an inverted bowl or elevated plate, set inside a pan or bowl to catch whey which will spill out.  Place the metal bottom inside the can.  If your cheese is very soft and liquidy, you can lay a piece of cheesecloth or muslin in the can; this is optional.  

Pour or scoop the cheese into the can.  Set the second lid on top, and weight it down with a heavy jar - a quart jar of water or peaches will do the trick.  Whey will begin to ooze out the bottom of the can - if you press down heavily on the weight, you may press cheese out, so be careful.  Set on the counter or in the refrigerator for about four hours, or refrigerate overnight.  

Remove the cheese from the can gently.  If you lined the can with cheesecloth or muslin, peel it back from the cheese carefully.  If you are pressing farmer's cheese, it will be finished now.  For ricotta salata, continue on: 

Using two teaspoons of salt, rub the outside of the cheese and wrap it in a thin cloth.  Refrigerate overnight or for two days.  Remove and again rub with two more teaspoons of salt, curing it for another day or two.  Repeat this step again if you like.  The finished cheese will be firm and well-salted on the outside - don't worry, it won't taste ridiculously salty.  The curing process seems to absorb the salt into the body of the cheese.  

Putting the loose ricotta in
Rosemary croccantini can be made with various toppings.  The crackers on the left are topped with traditional sea salt and rosemary.  The center cracker has a multi-seed topping.  The final cracker on the right is topped with crushed black pepper.

You can also get creative with the shape and size of the crackers!  I made these small, as they were to hold cheese samples.

Eating my curds and whey,

Mrs H
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