Ricotta Salata is a dry, salted ricotta that can be eaten while it is still very young. It can be sliced and used as a dessert or garnish cheese, or it may be aged (5 weeks or more) and used as a grated cheese. The younger you eat it, the saltier it will be. If you choose to age your ricotta salata, by 2 months it will have bloomed in into a very lovely mellow cheese. It is traditionally made using sheep milk, but the cow-milk version is just as enjoyable.
- 1 gallon whole cow milk
- 1/2 cup rich cream
- 1 teaspoon citric acid powder
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cheese salt (or coarse-ground, un-iodized kosher salt)
In a non-reactive 4-quart cheese pot, combine the milk, cream, citric acid and one teaspoon of the salt. Mix it all very well using a wire whisk in a slow up-and-down motion. Put the pot on medium-low heat and slowly bring the milk temperature up to between 185°F and 195°F, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula to keep the milk from scorching. This process should take about 20 minutes.
- Once the milk reaches the right temperature, you may notice the milk start to separate and the curds begin to form. When the separation process is completed, with the whey becoming a yellowish green and appearing slightly opaque, remove it from the heat. Gently slide a rubber spatula in around the edges of the curd mass and rotate it slowly. Cover the pot and don’t disturb it for 10 minutes.
- Put a colander over a very large bowl or container large enough to catch all of the whey in your pot. Line it with damp butter muslin and ladle the curds from the pot into it. Use a skimmer to get all of the curds out of the pot of whey, but if there are some stuck to the bottom of your pot, leave them, so you don't get any slightly scorched curds ruining the flavor of your cheese.
- Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of salt over the curds in the colander and toss them carefully with your clean hands to mix it in evenly.
- Line a ricotta mold with a clean, damp swath of cheesecloth and place the mold on a drying rack inside a shallow whey receptacle. Scoop the cheese curds into the mold, pressing very lightly to make a level surface, then fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the top. Place a small weight, about 2 pounds, on top of the ricotta. (A pint jar filled with water seems to do the trick.) Press in this manner for one hour, then pull the cheese out of the mold and unwrap it. Very carefully invert it, rewrap it with the same cheesecloth, and put it back into the mold. Replace the same weight on top and press it for another 12 hours.
- After the pressing time, pull the ricotta out of the mold. Unwrap it carefully, and gently rub the surface with cheese salt. Rewrap the cheese with clean cheesecloth, put it into the mold, and put the mold into the refrigerator for another 12 hours.
- After the chilling time, repeat step 6, except that now you can continue using the same cheesecloth to rewrap it, and you don’t have to get a clean piece every time. Put it back into the refrigerator. Repeat this process every 12 hours for 3 days, after which time you can stop putting it back into the mold after each unwrapping and salting, and just keep it on a drying rack in the refrigerator. If mold begins to appear, wipe it off gently with a small piece of cheesecloth wet in a vinegar-water mixture. Continue this unwrapping and salting routine for one week, replacing the cheese upon the drying rack in the refrigerator each time you are finished.
- After 7 days, brush off any surface salt. Rewrap it and let it continue to age in the refrigerator until it is the texture and consistency you want it to be. Once it has reached the desired point, wrap it in cheese paper and continue to store it in the refrigerator.
You can eat it immediately or choose to wait and continue to age it for up to two months.