Thursday, May 16, 2013

From the Missionary Kitchen | Ricotta Cheese

Over the years I have learned some tips and tricks in the missionary kitchen that have been "Aha" moments for me. When we first moved here nearly 9 years ago, my menu was very small. I got so tired of cooking the same things over and over and over again.

People would come and visit and share a trick now and then and my menu grew longer and longer.  One thing was still lacking for me though - and that was cheese. I started out on my cheese making venture by browsing the web. The New England Cheese Company stood out to me, and I ordered a ricotta/mozzarella cheese making kit.  It came with everything I needed to make those two types of cheeses. I decided to attempt ricotta first, since mozzarella seemed a bit trickier of the two.  The first batch looked gorgeous and I longed to make a pan of lasagna with it!  I had no lasagna noodles what's a girl to do? Improvise of course!

When I was newly married I'd once tried my hand at making crepes (I know there is supposed to be a french accent in there somewhere...).  I figured that making crepes was the easiest way to get a noodle type texture for a pan of lasagna rather than attempting to roll out a pasta dough to a paper thin consistency.  The result was actually very tasty! With the addition of my new-found ricotta, the recipe was a hit!  Shortly after that attempt at lasagna, I actually found boxed lasagna noodles in Douala after one of our trips there, so I've never had to make crepes again.  However, if there is ever a shortage of lasagna noodles here in Cameroon, I wouldn't hesitate to try my crepes version again!

The ricotta method was a tiny bit tedious having to keep track of the temperature and adding the certain ingredients at the right time. It was a few years later, that a fellow missionary was visiting and I was talking to her about making ricotta. She told me her method, which is infinitely easier than mine!  I will never look back!

So, I thought I'd quickly share how to make some ricotta cheese in a pinch! Here is what you need:
1 gallon of prepared powdered milk
3 TB white vinegar

I have never tried a gallon of processed milk like we would normally buy in the states. We only buy powdered milk here. You could give it a try and at worse you'd be out few bucks, or you could just buy some powdered milk to keep on hand.

Put the gallon of milk (I make it full cream, or whole milk version) in a large pot and turn on the stove.  I let it heat until it is just boiling. Once it is boiling pour in your 3 tablespoons of vinegar and you will see the curd instantly separate from the whey.

I immediately turn off the heat, and then let it sit there for a minute or two. Next, I line a colander with my cheese cloth. Let me quickly stop and talk about the cheesecloth. Make sure you get the finest weave there is otherwise you will lose the majority of your curd down the drain! My cheesecloth is actually called butter muslin and the weave is very fine. I still double it over when draining my cheese just to make sure I don't lose any of my wonderful cheese! I once was out of cheesecloth, and used one of my husbands t-shirts instead!  No worries - it was clean, and it worked like a charm. :)  

Ok, back to cheese making. Once you line your colander with the proper cloth,  pour the curds/whey mixture inside.  Now, I've read about the wonderful things that whey can be used for. Google it and you can learn too. If you want to reserve this miracle liquid, then be sure to drain your cheese into a bowl.  

Once I've drained the majority of liquid from the cheese, I take the corners of my cheese cloth and hang it up. I have a very handy place to do this as it can just drip right down into my drain.

You can let it drain as long as you like. I actually don't drain mine very long, especially when making lasagna. Once it drains a bit, I add my egg, and some parmesan cheese and salt, since it hasn't been salted at all yet.  

I have no idea how much ricotta cheese costs these days, but this is an amazing substitute if you have these ingredients on hand. The price of powdered milk would determine whether you are saving money or not. It is the only option I have since we can't purchase ricotta cheese here.

We are definitely a cheese loving family and the options for purchasing cheese have increased since our first move here. We used to be limited to Edam. Edam is good and I like it, but eating pizza with Edam just isn't the same as mozzarella. We can get Edam as well as Gouda, Swiss, and Mozzarella fairly regularly now. We can also get Cheddar and Feta in the big cities like Douala or Yaounde.  Edam and Gouda are both great substitutes for Cheddar though, so I never buy it.  And even though I can get it in the big city, my next cheese making venture will be one of my favorites...Feta!  I have all of the ingredients I need (purchased from the New England Cheese Making Supply company), I just need to motivate myself to do it.  I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out!

Pin It!

No comments:

Post a Comment