Ricotta Cheese: A True Comfort Food!
While there may be some exceptions, just about everyone on the planet is familiar with ricotta cheese. This is probably because ricotta, which literally means re-cooked, is one of the most versatile cheese products out there.
According to agriculture historians, ricotta had its beginnings in the Italian Peninsula during the Bronze Age. There is evidence that the ancient Romans made ricotta but were not able to distribute it, due to its very short shelf life, so it was mainly consumed by the shepherds who made it.
Ricotta is made from whey, the watery protein-rich portion of milk that separates from the curds when making cheese. The majority of fat in the milk remains with the first cheese product made from the milk so the subsequent ricotta is naturally low in fat.
To make ricotta, the whey must be exceptionally fresh, used within 1-2 hours of collecting it from the primary cheese that was created from the milk. It is heated to a near boiling point and coagulated with either vinegar, or citrus juice. This causes the whey protein to denature and flocculate (curding). As the curds become more solid, they are strained using cheesecloth.
And this is how you get those creamy white, fluffy, and slightly sweet, sometimes tangy, ricotta curds! Each batch of true whey ricotta has a different flavor, depending on what type of primary cheese was being made. The flavor is influenced by the cultures of the original cheese. Ricotta that is sold in grocery stores is actually a very different product than whey ricotta, it is made from whole milk and has less flavor than whey ricotta as there are no cultures in this product. It usually contains preservatives to maintain it on the grocery shelves for much longer than is possible for whey ricotta.
Ricotta is highly perishable so it must be kept refrigerated and tightly sealed; without artificial preservatives it has a shelf life of 7-10 days.
Enjoy ricotta as a spread on bread and crackers, lasagna filling, on pizza, stuffed in pasta shells and peppers, or used to make a dip with herbs and spices. Ricotta might also surprise you as a dessert cheese, as a substitute for marscapone cheese, or topped with honey and cinnamon.
We hope this information was useful and that you continue to enjoy La Verde Oveja sheep milk cheeses.