From the Kitchen: Homemade Ricotta Cheese

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This is a perfect beginner’s cheese.  It takes no time to make, can be used for almost anything, tastes amazing, and the bragging rights are endless. It’s perfect to dollop on summer heirloom tomatoes.

Ingredients:
1 gallon whole milk
1 quart buttermilk
1 cup heavy cream
Zest of 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon fine sea salt

Preparation:
Combine each type of milk into a large, stainless steel saucepan over medium high heat, preferably a thick-bottomed pan if possible.  Stir occasionally, while scraping the bottom, to avoid scorching. When the milk is hot, stop stirring and watch as the curds begin to rise to the surface. Run a spoon or spatula along the bottom of the pan to loosen any stuck curds.

While the milk is heating, select a sieve or colander with a wide surface area. Line the colander with a large piece of cheesecloth that has been folded numerous times – until you have about five or six layers. Place the lined colander over a large bowl or sink.

When the mixture reaches about 175 degrees, the curds and whey will separate. Remove the pan from heat and gently begin to ladle curds into the prepared sieve. Pull up on the sides of the cheesecloth to drain off any extra liquid, but avoid pressing on the curds. Gather the edges of the cloth and tie or fasten them into a knot, allowing them to drain for at least another 15 minutes. Once the cheese has drained, stir in the salt, zest and cream with a wooden spoon.

This is a great cheese to use as a canvas. If you prefer, leave out the lemon zest. This cheese has a lot of options so have fun experimenting and making it your own!

Makes about four cups.