Homemade Ricotta – Epically Delicious

Did you know that lemon juice makes a really good at-home skin peel? Well it does, and I found that out the hard way. 
(Now that I’m saying it out loud to you, it’s probably not a good thing to admit when I am talking about making food…but too late it stays)

Anywho. A few weeks ago, if you’ve stuck with me for a while, found out that I was going to be hosting an America’s Test Kitchen Dinner Party to review their newest cookbook, The Menu Cookbook. 
The dinner party was on Sunday and it went splendidly. Okay, there were a few minor hiccups, but what dinner party for eight is flawless? One of the dishes that I made for the dinner party was homemade ricotta. The few experiences I’ve had with ricotta outside of the realm of lasagna had not been the best. Namely, as a former South Beach dieter the use of non-fat ricotta with some no sugar flavoring added in didn’t sit to well with me. But make homemade ricotta with some actual fat to it? Sure I’ll try anything once. 
Needless to say, my mind and that of my dinner guests got blown. 
For the grocery list the ricotta required:
~ 1 gallon of Whole Milk
~ 2/3 cup Lemon Juice
~ 1 1/2 tsp Salt
~ 1/4 cup Basil, minced
~ 1 tsp Lemon Zest
~ Salt and Pepper for seasoning
The first order of business for the making of this heavenly ricotta was to line a strainer (or in my case two) with a double layer of cheesecloth. Make sure you’ve got ample strainers, colanders, or sieves available, this is a gallon of liquid after all.
Next was to juice the lemons. After 1 lemon I was putting an electric juicer on my imaginary Christmas wish list. Three lemons later, my hands were feeling all crackly from the incessant hand washing I’d done and the acidity of the juice. 
Once the liners and sieves had been all lined up, into the dutch oven an entire gallon of whole milk went.

ATK required that it be heated to 185, and voila it was done. What scared me about this process was the idea of scorching the milk. But after having made a few hundred lattes in my day, I realized 185 is just a bit above an extra hot latte…not quite so scary after that. Just make sure it’s stirred and moved around constantly and you should be okay. 

So once it reached temperature, the lemon juice was added and science took over. 

15 seconds in and curds started to form. It sat for 25 minutes undisturbed (we took the dog for a walk in the mean time or else i would have sat in front of the pot unblinkingly) and upon our return it was ready for the straining to begin.

Instead of pouring the whole kit and caboodle into the strainers and inevitably creating a mess of epic proportions, I gingerly ladled it into the strainers trying not to disturb the fluffy curds. Once it was all done and straining into my various contraptions, it set for about 15 minutes until they drained no more.
Each was placed into a air tight container and placed in the fridge to finish their business and after 2 hours, the minced basil, lemon zest, additional salt and pepper were added to taste.
Served along side garlic toasts just as ATK recommended and it was glorious. 
During the dinner party we held a little game of olive oil taste testing with a few bottles of infused olive oils I received from Star Fine Foods. 
Topped onto the garlic toasts with ricotta I wanted to see who could pick out the infusion of each oil. The flavors were pleasant, but they didn’t overwhelm the olive oil – which was brilliant. Everyone loved the guessing game. A fantastic party activity if you ask me.
We just couldn’t tear ourselves away. No really, it was all that good.
So, go forth and make yourself some ricotta – feel empowered and positively culinarily super-starish!
And splash a little olive oil on top. It’s magically delicious.
*Also* The rest of my cook book review will be up on November 8th on the ATK Feed Community page, but stop by and read the other reviews from fabulous foodies like Our Best Bites, Dessert by Candy and Beantown Baker!*

*Obligatory Author’s Note* I was provided the ATK Menu Cookbook by the fine people of America’s Test Kitchen for review. The opinions are my own, but dang I loved this book and I had to share this one recipe a little early, it was that good.
And Star Fine Foods did provide me with the afore mentioned olive oils, the reviews for which I have not ben monetarily compensated. They are just brilliant and tasty. Here, here!!