Homemade Ricotta from Buttermilk

We love to entertain! That said, I prefer a little advance notice when guests are invited to dine at our house so that I can be sure to have a little nosh prepared when the guests arrive (and run the vacuum!) So, I was caught off guard the other day, when my hubby announced that he and his buddy were on their way to the house for dinner. Quickly scrambling for something to put out, I found crackers, red pepper spread (made the day before), and ….. You guessed it a few carrots, an orange, a variety of hot sauces, but no cheese of any sort, no sour cream, not even yogurt. Then came the “Aha” moment - there was buttermilk and milk. Remembering a Martha Stewart segment with the Lee Brothers, I immediately pulled out a saucepan to make buttermilk cheese.

Buttermilk cheese is a form of ricotta cheese. Ricotta cheese, which literally means "recooked" in Italian, is a soft cheese made from the whey remaining after mozzarella or yogurt is made. When the ricotta cheese is made from whole milk (as in this recipe), it will be virtually same as Indian Paneer which is the soft cheese made by curdling heated milk with a food acid such as lemon juice.

  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups whole or low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt

Combine milk, buttermilk, and salt in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, and heat over medium-high heat until the mixture has separated into white curds and translucent whey. This should take about 8 minutes. (It will be obvious when this happens.) If you use lowfat buttermilk, the separation starts at about 180 degrees and the curds will stick together readily. If you use whole buttermilk, separation occurs closer to the boiling point at about 212 degrees, and the curds are finer-grained. When using whole buttermilk, let the mixture cool for about 3 minutes after separation to let the curds form.

Lay flour cloth or multiple layers of cheesecloth in a colander or medium strainer, Set colander in your sink. Ladle the contents of the saucepan into the prepared colander and let the whey drain out for about 1 to 2 minutes. Lift the four corners of the cheesecloth gathering them together, and gently twist the gathered cloth over the cheese and press out any excess whey.

The buttermilk cheese can be unwrapped immediately and served warm, or cooled to room temperature. The marvelous thing about this recipe is that you can add spices, herbs and flavors to suit your tastes. Try black pepper, fresh herbs or even vanilla!