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Experimentations with Cheese Making: Part 1

July 9, 2011

I went to a cheese making workshop several years ago. Although I found it extremely interesting, I never followed through and made any cheese at home. After purchasing several balls of “fresh” mozzarella at the grocery store for $3.50 a ball…and this is on sale mind you…I decided that it was time for me to try and learn how to make cheese at home once and for all.

I had been purchasing raw milk for many months from a friend of mine, but lost that supply when she up and moved to Denmark. Luckily…one of the students that I work with when I substitute teach has a farm and low and behold they too sell raw milk. So last week I picked up some cheap rennit and citric acid at the grocery store and made my first attempt at homemade mozzarella. I will go off in another post about the many recipes for mozzarella. I will say here that it annoys me that most of them recommend using a microwave, but that is for another time. Mozzarella ain’t easy. Mine did not come out the way that it was supposed to, but hey it was my first try and it did melt beautifully on pizza. The subject of this post though is what I did with the ricotta I made the following day.

When one makes cheese, you separate the curd from the whey, the curd becoming cheese and the whey gets used for something else. There are an unbelievable about of recipes that tell you to toss the whey in the trash afterwards. Are you kidding. We are such a wasteful society, but I digress. Part of the reason I wanted to make the mozzarella was so that I could also make ricotta. Although one can make ricotta from whole milk and some sort of acid (such as buttermilk or lemon) I find this as silly as throwing out the whey. There is a reason ricotta came into existence and is used so often in Italian cooking…the Italians don’t waste anything and I don’t like to either.

I followed a recipe to make the ricotta and after a short period of time I had a few ounces of the rich creamy fresh formaggio. Unluckily it was a little gritty. Not sure if this is because of my not so perfect mozzarella or because of another reason. Regaurdless, it would would not be perfect for just spreading on a cracker and enjoying straight up.  Instead I decided to use the frozen walnut basil pesto that I liberated from the depths of my block freezer and make ricotta croquettes.

They were a little tricky as the oil had to be the perfect temperature so that they croquettes would not fall apart in the pan…but once we figured it out they were absolutely delightful. The richness of the ricotta. The sweetness of the basil and the walnut. Pure heaven I tell you. We served our croquettes over slices of 460 Bakery baguette, but these croquettes would be perfect over an early summer salad of mixed greens with a light vinaigrette.

Basil Pesto and Fresh Ricotta Croquettes

  • fresh ricotta
  • basil pesto (I usually make mine with basil and walnuts, but any  pesto will do)
  • 1-2 eggs scrambled (depending on how many croquettes you make)
  • breadcrumbs
  • oil for the pan (we used vegetable oil…but I would recommend any oil with a med-high smoke point)
Heat oil in pan. Form ricotta into small cakes, dip in egg and coat with breadcrumbs. Place in pan and cook until golden brown on each side. Serve immediately.


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