Friday, August 24, 2012

Homemade Ricotta: Two Tastes

This whole escapade into homemade cheese has made me dream and concoct different combinations of flavours to create the perfect cheesy bite. When you put all of this effort into making your own cheese, you certainly don't want to see an iota of it go to waste. That said, there is only so much fresh plain ricotta that one can consume. I don't mean that to sound blasphemous, if you think it does! The 4.25 litres of milk and cream that I used to make my homemade ricotta yielded approximately 1.25 litres of cheese... and that's a lot of cheese!

So, I sat down with my new dedicated cheese journal and started jotting down potential flavour combinations. Then I grabbed my trusty Flavor Bible (if you aren't familiar with this reference book, I would highly recommend it) and went into flavour combination overdrive. What did I have in the house? What herbs were ample in the garden? Since it is such a subtle and mellow cheese, what would complement the ricotta without overpowering it?

These are the two bites that I landed on...
Fresh tarragon and lemon zest.
Cracked black pepper, fresh strawberry, and honey.

I portioned out my ricotta... two 500 mL portions and one 250 mL portion. The two 500 mL portions would be flavoured and I left the 250 mL portion plain. If you haven't gone down the homemade cheese path yet, grab yourself a tub of ricotta from the market... and try taking it to a whole other flavour level.

I combined a heaping tablespoon of chopped tarragon with the zest from one lemon and stirred that into the cheese. For the cracked black pepper, I added about 10-15 cracks of pepper. I entertained doing a swirl of honey right into the cheese but opted to add it to the final assembled bite. I still think it would look so pretty woven through the black pepper ricotta, almost like a flavour swirl in ice cream.

We tasted it right then and the next day after the flavours had a chance to mix and mellow together. The cheese definitely adopts more nuanced flavours after having some time to hang out together. I'd definitely recommend that your cheese is room temperature or close to. If it is too cold, you don't get the full spectrum of flavour and I don't find the texture to be as lovely, light and fluffy as it could be.

The fresh tarragon and lemon zest ricotta was bright and flavourful on its own. The zest only further emphasized the lemony flavour of the cheese and the tarragon added an earthiness without screaming "tarragon"! I envision this on an antipasto platter with proscuitto, other cured meats and cheeses, citrus cured olives, and veggies.

The cracked pepper ricotta was assembled into a bit of a free-standing treat. A smear of the ricotta, a slice of super ripe and deeply red strawberry, the scantest drop of honey. "The perfect bite," was one comment. It really was. Sweet, spicy, creamy, and surprising. A great combination.

6 thought(s):

Stephanie said...

Wow this all sounds amazing!

I have to admit that after I read the phrase "cheese journal" I raced away from your post for a bit to ponder what piece of coveted stationary I could justify buying to use for a cheese journal (I am total stationary junkie).
Glad that I came back to read the rest! I cannot wait to try out my own flavor combos, I have the flavor bible handy :)

A Canadian Foodie said...

I love the process you went through to find "the perfect bite! Very cool - and both look and sound terrific. A lot of people are using honey and I am still so hooked on the olive oil and salt with fresh ricotta on toast thing - that it will take a while before I crave new flavours... but, you have motivated me! With my "failed" ricottas, the Boursin recipe cannot be improved on for a savory herbed cheese. How's that for "cheesy vanity"? I love the idea of adding zest to the ricotta made with lemon, and tarragon is also a personal favourite of mine. Now I have to go and look up that flavour bible. I have heard of it, but not been there. LOVE your wreck jars. I am addicted to them - just hate how the rubbers stretch without reason!

Simones Kitchen said...

O dear... now you just have me wanting to make more ricotta! It looks amazing and wow 1,25 liter of cheese.. That is a LOT. I didn't think I was going to be able to consume all that so I opted to use a lot less and even then I had to think of ways to use it all up. Just put up the chevre post and can't wait to see your results for the next one!

wannafoodie said...

@Stephanie - I can't wait to see your Cheese Journal (yes, capital C and J). I too am a stationary junkie and am always game for an excuse to immortalize my foodie journey in that form. Between journals and pretty post-it notes tagged on the pages of my cookbooks, I could never move to a fully electronic recording of thought. :)

@Valerie - It's so funny that you commented on my Weck jars since I used your blog and photos as an excuse to buy them! HAHA. Thanks again for co-conspiring on this Cheesepalooza project... it's going to be a great year.

@Simone - Great chevre post... I'm opting for a second attempt before posting my own. Or it will be ricotta - part three - the goat. :)

Stephanie said...

ooh lemon and tarragon sounds perfect!! We will have to meet up at some point during the challenge for a tasting

Calantha said...

Mmm, those flavour combinations do indeed sound delicious. And I can relate about trying to find a use for all that cheese! Whenever I made ricotta it instantly because my go-to breakfast, with diced apples, nuts and honey. A mad morning dash to use it up before it went off. :)

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