A Cheesy Post

Our life is dairy free. Jeff is quite allergic to cow’s milk, so we steer clear of the stuff. Through trial and error (and google), I have come up with non dairy alternatives to most things, and Jeff now enjoys butter chicken, mac ‘n cheese, nachos, pizza and ice cream as a regular part of life. Finding a non-dairy alternative for soft ricotta or paneer, however, was a challenge… until I started making cheese from scratch. It took multiple attempts to finally get it right but my perseverance paid off because this stuff is just delicious.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese
from… my own trial and error

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
2 litres (8 cups) full fat goat milk

Juice the lemon (I usually zest it first and put the zest into bread or some other baking because I just can’t bear to see it go to waste!) and set aside. Pour all of the goat milk into a heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat. It should build a slow simmer so stir it gently to keep the bottom from scorching.

The second before the milk is about to froth over the side of the pot, remove it from the heat and immediately stir in the lemon juice. Set it aside to curdle quietly by itself. Leave it completely alone for 25 minutes minutes before you disturb it.

After 25 minutes of peace and solitude, pour the separated curds,whey and water into a strainer lined with cheese cloth or a loosely woven clean dish towel. Leave it alone to drain for about two hours. Once drained, the curds will have formed a lovely lump of soft ricotta. If you want your ricotta soft (i.e. on pasta, in lasagna, or as a dip), it’s now ready.

If you want a firmer ricotta (for ravioli filling, on pizza, in pancakes, on salad or sandwiches), continue draining. At this point, I replace the draining cloth with a dry one, and weigh down the cheese with a heavy object to help draw out the water. Leave for 1-2 more hours, depending on how firm you want your ricotta to be.
Ricotta, wrapped in a dry towel, and weighted down with  by a full container of margarine
There are two tricks to making perfect ricotta. The first is using fresh lemon juice. For some reason, bottled juice just doesn’t curdle milk as well, so go with the real stuff. The second is leaving the milk to curdle on it’s own, before straining it. Many recipes I have read suggest straining the milk immediately after pouring in the lemon juice, but it just does not work. If you leave the milk completely undisturbed to curdle, your cheese curds will be twice the size and you will have triple the amount!

For Paneer: 

Follow all the steps as above. Extend the second draining process overnight (I just throw the cheese along with whatever is weighing it down in the fridge overnight). The next day, you will have beautiful and firm paneer.
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