Ricotta rotta! Fix my cheese, please
January 23, 2006 4:21 PM   Subscribe

I just tried to make homemade ricotta cheese with a gallon of whole milk (to avoid burning) and a quart of buttermilk. Nevertheless, the majority of the ricotta burned to the bottom of the stainless steel stock pot I used, and the cheese which didn't burn, had that burnt-flavor. What gives?
posted by fourstar to Food & Drink (10 answers total)
Sounds like you let things get too hot. The tempature of your milk mixture should never be allowed to get above 190F. Did you use a double-boiler and a candy thermometer?
posted by nomisxid at 4:26 PM on January 23, 2006

Response by poster: I used a candy thermometer submerged about 2.5" into the liquid. I didn't stir frequently (as suggested), and didn't stir at all after the thermometer registered 170. I pulled it off the heat at 190. The bottom of the pot was covered in ~3/8" of blackened dairy product that was nearly impossible to remove. The double-boiler sounds like a great suggestion ... but I guess that means reducing quantity as I don't have a stockpot that can fit inside another stockpot?
posted by fourstar at 4:40 PM on January 23, 2006

Some helpful recipes - which address issues related to scorching -- here, here and here.
posted by ericb at 4:55 PM on January 23, 2006

I higher density and/or thicker cooking pot should help greatly.
posted by sourwookie at 5:02 PM on January 23, 2006

From your third link:
Place over high heat and heat, stirring the mixture frequently with a rubber spatula and making sure to scrape the whole pan bottom to prevent scorching.

I think your answer is right there. You need to stir/scrape more.

If that still doesn't work, just try turning the heat down a bit. A double boiler is probably unnecessary, as that produces ultra-low heat. I would never jump straight to a double boiler from a recipe that calls for high heat.

You might also try asking those bloggers for more tips either by email or in the comments of the posts you referenced.
posted by rorycberger at 5:30 PM on January 23, 2006

You most likely have a much hotter patch at the bottom of the pot-- I'd always go with a water bath or double boiler with cheesemaking, since getting it over its optimal temperature screws the whole process up terribly.
posted by NYCnosh at 7:20 PM on January 23, 2006

I know this isn't what you're asking, but if you want to make a kickass ricotta cheese substitute:

- 3 cups raw cashew nuts, soaked 4 hours or so
- 1/4 lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 1/4 to 2 teaspoons of salt
- 2 green onions (white and 1 inch green), minced
- 3 tablespoons minced tarragon
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley

Put the nuts, lemon juice, zest, yeast, and salt into a food processor and process till smooth (you may have to add a tiny bit of water, do so at the rate of 1/2 teaspoon at a time) - look for the consistency of ricotta.

Transfer to a bowl and fold in the onions, tarragon, parsley. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and/or lemon juice if needed.

This is terrific, and very healthy.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:19 PM on January 23, 2006

What sourwookie said. Stainless steel pans tend to be rather thin, and even if they're not, the material has a poor heat capacity compared to superior metals, and you get scorching. Whenever cooking something that will burn as easily as milk, you need a good heavy pot, preferably non-reactive (i.e. not cast iron or non-anodized aluminum). Invest in the heaviest anodized aluminum pot you can find (not very expensive) or an enameled iron pot (e.g. Le Creuset, fairly expensive) and it will be worth it for all sorts of cookery.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:06 AM on January 24, 2006

Also, I know I suggested making "poutine" with tater tots in that recent thread, but I don't think I deserved what YSStOG said.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:07 AM on January 24, 2006

rorycberger is dead on. It's important to scape the bottom of the pan as it's heading. That holds true for cooking any dairy product, from ricotta to gravy to pudding. Also, (on electric stoves) I never heat dairy without using a heat diffuser.
posted by ewagoner at 7:40 AM on January 24, 2006

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