You'll be amazed at how easy it is to make your own cheese at home!
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You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to make your own cheese at home!

You may have heard the nursery rhyme that begins with, “Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey.” But what are curds and whey? They’re two products of cheese making!

Cheese is made by adding an acid (such as vinegar or lemon juice) or rennet (an enzyme that can come from animals or plants) to milk. Adding acid causes the proteins in the milk to link together and clump tightly. This process is called coagulation. The solid lumps held together by the milk’s proteins are the curds, and the leftover liquid is the whey. Cheeses made this way include ricotta, cream cheese, goat cheese, queso blanco, and paneer. Maybe Little Miss Muffet was eating ricotta on her tuffet?

How to use ricotta cheese

You can use creamy ricotta cheese in both sweet and savory dishes. One of our favorite options? Spreading it on warm, crunchy toast. For a sweet version, try topping your toast with 1 to 2 tablespoons of ricotta, your favorite berries, and a drizzle of honey.

Or go savory: Top ricotta toast with halved cherry tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Or swap in jarred artichoke hearts and chopped chives. Ricotta is also delicious dolloped on top of pasta or pizza. Yum!

DIY Ricotta Cheese

Recipe by America's Test Kitchen
Servings

2

Cups

Ingredients

  • 8 cups pasteurized (not UHT or ultra-pasteurized) whole milk

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, plus extra as needed

Directions

  • Line a colander with a triple layer of cheesecloth (let extra cheesecloth hang over the edge of the colander). Place cheesecloth-lined colander in the sink. Place a large bowl next to the sink.
  • In a large saucepan, combine milk and salt. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring often with rubber spatula, until milk registers 185 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 12 to 15 minutes.
  • Turn off heat and slide the saucepan to a cool burner. Slowly pour in vinegar and use rubber spatula to stir until milk solids clump together, about 15 seconds. Let sit, without stirring, until mixture fully separates into solid curds on top and watery, yellowish whey underneath, about 10 minutes.
  • Use a rubber spatula to gently pull milk solids (called curds) away from the edge of the saucepan to see if they have clumped together and if liquid left behind (called whey) is mostly clear. If the whey still looks like milk instead of mostly clear liquid, stir in 1 more tablespoon of vinegar and let mixture sit for 2 to 3 minutes until curds separate.
  • Carefully pour mixture into cheesecloth-lined colander in sink. Let sit, without stirring, until the whey (liquid) has mostly drained away but cheese is still wet, about 1 minute.
  • Working quickly, gather edges of cheesecloth into a bundle and transfer cheese (inside cloth) to a large bowl next to the sink. Slide cheesecloth out from under cheese (leaving cheese in bowl) and discard cheesecloth. Use a rubber spatula to break up large cheese curds.
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 1/2 hours. Stir cheese before serving. Ricotta can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to five days.

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