Monday, October 8, 2012

Cheesepalooza: Ricotta Salata

Oh, ricotta salata... this is a cheese within a cheese. First, you need to make yourself some ricotta. You could opt for the whole milk ricotta or, as I did, you can build on flavour by utilizing whey ricotta. Then you salt and cure the ricotta to create a whole new cheese experience.

I made my whey ricotta using goat's whey and cow's milk, which made for a more complex yet still mild flavour profile. Since most commented that the ricotta salata was a fairly mild and innocuous cheese, I thought I would give it a bit more umph by using my combo whey ricotta.

So, once you've made your ricotta (in whatever form), you need to press it into a cheese mould, then salt it over the course of a week, then age it until it has reached whatever your ideal texture or density is, then eat it!

I lined my DIY cheese mould with cheese cloth, then ladled my freshly made whey ricotta into it. 

Then, it was set on a rack under two (ish) pounds of pressure to press and release as much whey as possible from the cheese. 

I was supposed to flip it earlier in the game but fell asleep so it sat overnight before getting its first flip. It was flipped in the morning, then returned to the mould. 

Then, the cheese gets salted and flipped daily for the course of a week, while still wrapped in cheese cloth. During this time, it is stored in a container in the fridge. I used a large rectangular container with a sushi mat at the bottom. After the week, it is unwrapped from the cheese cloth and ages until it achieves the desired texture. 

I made my ricotta on September 22nd and pressed it into the beginnings of a ricotta salata on the same day. It worked through the moulding, salting, and aging before being tasted on October 7th. 

A few thoughts:
- I think this was by far the easiest option in terms of moving into aged and salt cured cheesemaking. I didn't have to fuss about with humidity levels and could keep it in the refrigerator. 
- This was very successful, even in DIY land... a shallow and round plastic container became my cheese mould, a pint sized mason jar filled with water became my weight, a similarly sized plastic container became the follower (a flat piece that maintains the shape of the cheese while you press it), and a large rectangular plastic container with a bamboo sushi rolling mat became my "ripening cave."
- If you start with a great ricotta, you'll get a great ricotta salata. Make sure that ricotta is well flavoured and you're already ahead of the game.
- Watch for unwanted moulds on the surface of the cheese. I made beautiful little leaf wrapped cheese babies that were killed by bad moulds. (Insert: Wailing sobs.) We were already diligent with those cheeses and even further / almost obsessive with this one. Watch and, if spotted, treat immediately with a vinegar and salt solution!

T A S T I N G   N O T E S
- Appearance - Looks like a hard dense cheese. Warmer white/yellow colour. 
- Nose - Still subtle with slight salt aroma.
- Overall Taste - Slight but very subtle tang from the goat influence. Light saltiness. 
- Sweet to Salty - Lightly salty, mostly from the exterior. There was a sweetness to the interior. 
- Mild to Robust - Medium to mild. 
- Mouth Feel - A harder cheese that softens in the mouth. 

Some comments - "Cash money." (hahah) "Best one." It seemed to be one of the general front-runners from our Cheesepalooza tasting at family Thanksgiving.

6 thought(s):

Unknown said...

This cheese has inspired me to try to make cheese. I thought that it would need to be aged for a lot longer to get the firmness you had. A+ cheese, would eat again.

Denise @WholemadeGoodness said...

Yummy! I love ricotta salatta and hope to make some soon. Haven't done anything yet involving dry salting.

Addie said...

I so agree! This is totally DIY - doesn't need rennet, doesn't need fancy cheese equipment and the results are reasonably rewarding! Did yours melt? Mine melted well in a cheese sauce kinda thing.

wannafoodie said...

Addie, I had every intention of not only aging part of it longer and trying it in different applications but it was 100% devoured! It really was one of the most popular cheeses that I had put out there (next to two flavoured chevres, cabecou, goat feta, crescenza...). I was shocked! Especially after you commented that it wasn't the tastiest cheese in the world! hahah. I attribute some of the success to it being made with whey ricotta, plus the combination of goat's whey with cow's milk. I will absolutely make it again.

More Cowbell said...

Not a cheesemaker yet, but I am a ricotta salata lover. The place I used to buy it had it in huge sausage shapes, and you bought a "slice." I would use that as the base of a salad platter, drizzling it with olive oil, sprinkling it with fresh cracked pepper and chopped herbs, then put lettuce and tomatoes and olives etc. around the edges. It didn't need to be strongly flavored, just firm, yet creamy.

It's also good crumbled in salads and goes well with tomatoes the same way fresh Mozz does, just a different texture.

Anyhoo, I'm glad I found your blog, because ricotta salata was one of the few cheeses I was interested in trying as a noob. Thanks!

wannafoodie said...

Thanks for reading! I really really loved this cheese and plan to make more this weekend. I had hoped to age half of it further to see how the texture changed and the flavour developed but my family just devoured the whole wheel! Next time, I know better and will only put out a chunk, so I can try the remainder in some of the ways that you have described. Hope to see your comments again!

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