I was recently asked if I would consider reviewing a new cookbook, ‘One Hour Cheese,’ by Claudia Lucero. I get asked to review a lot of books but I’m pretty selective about which ones I want to take a peek at; building a library of books I’ll never read is not on my bucket list! After making goat cheese with my daughter last year and being enlightened by how simple that process was, I was excited about a book that not only would increase my knowledge of cheese making but it’s title suggested that it could be done in an hour. Of course I was interested! The book arrived and the first word under the title said Ricotta and I needed look no further; I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making homemade ricotta and it seems that time had finally come.
I enlisted the help of my friend Sandy. Good thing it only took an hour; she gave me half the day and after we chatted FOREVER, we only had an hour to get the cheese done before she had to scoot and pick up one of her kids. Before I tell you about cheese; just one aside about Sandy? We met on Facebook and while I knew she was local; that was about it. One day, she asked about my girls Emily and Lauren and I was taken back a bit; as in ‘Do I know you?’ Small world moment when she said, ‘Yes, you were our neighbor when we first moved into Piney Creek; do you remember us?’ OMG, you mean you are THAT Sandy Fuller? Fast forward and we’ve reconnected in a big way. Sandy, itty bitty, beautiful Sandy was that young woman who moved in about a year before I moved out. I was immersed in an awful divorce (he was a scalawag I tell ya!) and she was the sweet young mom with a couple of kids. She is now just as sweet but with EIGHT kids. I still almost faint every time I think of that but she handles it with such aplomb. She is both a grandma and a mom of a 12 year old but more than that? We might have connected over her remembrance when seeing me on Facebook but it’s been through sharing our family history and dynamics that have seen us bond in a very special way…and for that I am SO grateful; I just adore her.
OK, on with the cheese! Though Ricotta intrigued me from the start I did spend some time peeking through the book at other cheeses but decided to stick with my first reaction for a couple of reasons. First? I love ricotta. That should be enough right? But the truth is that it was one cheese that didn’t require anything extraordinary. No rennet, no special ingredients at all; just milk, cream, lemon and salt. The steps were equally simple; simmer, drain, squeeze, salt. Perfect. I thought the Meyer Lemon Ricotta sounded amazing until I couldn’t find any Meyer Lemons! I have a little tree but it was no help at all so I just punted, went with standard lemons and I don’t think we could have been any happier. That moment when you taste the results of your labors and just can’t stop? When I knew I could have sat and eaten the entire bowlful with a spoon? That was us. Though my original intent had been to use the ricotta for a recipe in the book called ‘Holy Cannoli Dip’ with chocolate and pistachios I couldn’t wait for that first bite so I simply topped some buttered and toasted pretzel rolls with MY ricotta, topped it with basil and paprika and found myself in cheese Heaven. I had planned to offer up the recipe today for that wonderful sounding dip (and will soon) but this preparation really hit the spot.
Sadly, those rolls were gone in a flash (but I did send the above photo to Instagram) and while my intent had been to get some more I tried the same thing on Townhouse crackers with the addition of some lemon zest and loved how this simple cheese had become an even simpler appetizer. Yes, I might have had a plate of these crackers for lunch. OK, OK, I confess, I did. When the cheese is so fresh and flavorful it’s almost addictive. You have simply got to try this. Ricotta. One HOUR…seriously!! Also don’t miss the sections on snacks to serve with your cheese and on serving up accompanying cocktails using the herbs from your cheese-making (you know I LOVED that part right?).
The author of this book, Claudia Lucero, is the maven behind Urbancheesecraft.com and their DIY Cheese Kits are sold at Williams Sonoma and on Etsy. I love that all 16 of the cheeses in this book have endless variations, no complex or hard-to-find ingredients and no excessive prep times. We’re all busy; sometimes our wanting to try our hand at something new is stymied by the complexity and timeliness of the effort; this won’t do that to you. Buy some milk this morning; have homemade ricotta cheese TONIGHT! I love that Claudia has also included recipes for using the cheeses. No Bake Cheese Tarts, Cheesecake, Grilled Sandwiches, Pasta and Pizza…they all sound wonderful and I just want to become a cheese-making fiend so that my friends and family can enjoy them all!!
I’ve been part of a virtual cheese tour with this book as several bloggers have celebrated with their own cheese-making adventures. Next up is Host the Toast; be sure to check out their blog and look for the upcoming treat they’ll be making from this absolutely wonderful book. Take a peek after the recipe; you can also enter for a chance to win a copy yourself!
How to Make Ricotta (with Lemon)
A homemade ricotta that is both easy and delicious.
- Juice from 2 lemons (1/4 cup)
- 1 quart (4 cups) whole cow's milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
- 1 pint (2 cups) cream
- 1/4 tsp flake salt ( I used Maldon's) or to taste (if using 'regular' salt, use Kosher, not table salt)
- Measure out 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Squeeze the lemons and strain for pulp.
- Pour the milk and cream into the pot.
- Pour the lemon juice into the pot and stir thoroughly. Set to medium heat.
- You may already see some curds forming within seconds. Stay close and monitor the heat, stirring every few minutes to prevent a skin from forming on the milk’s surface and to check for sticking milk at the bottom. (Reduce the heat if needed.)
- Check the temperature once you see steam rising from the pot as well as little foam bubbles forming around the edge. Curds will form rapidly as the milk approaches the target temperature of 190°F, and it will look more like thin oatmeal.
- This is coagulation! Keep checking the temperature, and continue to stir, very gently this time, so that the newly formed curds are not broken up. Turn off the heat when it reaches 190°F.
- Take the pot off the burner and allow the curds and whey to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. The curds will release more whey during this time.
- While you wait, line the colander with cheesecloth. Place the lined colander in the sink.
- Pour the curds and whey through the cloth.
- Allow the whey to drain for about 10 minutes or until you get the creamy texture of smooth mashed potatoes.
- Gather the cloth into a bundle and give it a gentle squeeze to strain out that last bit of whey. The whey from this creamy cheese is somewhat milky in appearance. (Compare that to whey for mozzarella, which will be more clear.)
- Place the cloth full of drained cheese back in the colander, and add the salt.
- Stir just until the salt is mixed in thoroughly. Salt helps release more whey, and air dries out cheese, so if you stir longer than necessary, the cheese will be crumbly instead of creamy.
- Stir minimally for the creamiest ricotta! While warm, the consistency will be loose and creamy.
- It’s ready to eat! Scoop it into a bowl for eating right away or chill it for a firmer texture.
Use fine quality cheesecloth for straining called Butter Muslin. It has to be a tighter weave than the cloth found in most craft stores. I found mine at a local shop when I made goat cheese but you can order it online from Claudia if you can't locate any locally.
‘One Hour Cheese’ Book Giveaway Rules:
I’ve got a book to give away to one of my readers so you can start making your own cheese too. The Rules are Simple:
- You must be at least 18 years of age and a US resident.
- Leave a comment; would love to know if you’ve made any cheese before.
- For an extra entry; ‘Like’ my page Creative Culinary on Facebook and let me know you did in a 2nd comment.
- Contest closes Friday, May 30th at Midnight. Winner will be notified and have 48 hours to respond to my email with shipping info. After that time if no response is forthcoming, a new winner will be chosen.
Good luck and happy cheese-making!
I was provided with a copy of the book ‘One Hour Cheese’ for the purpose of this review however all commentary is my own.