Kitchen Tips

How to make homemade ricotta and cottage cheese

Simple, easy and requiring just a few ingredients, making your own cheese from scratch is a lot easier than you’d expect

Cottage cheese and its Italian counterpart ricotta are often called curd cheeses, because that's what they are - curdled milk. Cottage cheese is said to have got its name because it was made in cottages from milk left over after making butter.
True to its namesake, because it's simple enough to be made in a cottage, this cheese is a cinch to make at home.
Both these cheeses will keep for about a week in the fridge and are delicious served with fruit, as part of an antipasto platter, or added to lasagne or pasta. They're also just as wonderful spread on piping hot toast with jam, relish, lemon curd or even Marmite.

Tips for making homemade cheese

These recipes work best with unhomogenised milk, which you can buy at the supermarket under the brand name Sun Latte.
Most commercial milk is homogenised, where the milk is processed to prevent the fat particles from separating out and floating to the top of the bottle. This is why you don't get that layer of cream to pour off the top with homogenised milk.
You can use low-fat milk if you want but blue-topped and silver-topped (full-fat) milk will give better results. For the best results, try getting your hands on farm fresh milk - it truly does create a superior cheese.

How to make cottage cheese

The hardest thing about this recipe is finding the rennet, which is labelled Renco at your supermarket. If you're a vegetarian, you probably won't want to make this cheese as this rennet is not vegetarian-friendly. They usually keep it by the custard powder on the shelves but you may have to ask for it.
Ingredients:
3 tbsp skim-milk powder
600ml full-fat milk
1 tsp Renco (rennet)
Instructions:
  1. Mix a little milk with the milk powder in the bottom of a saucepan to form a paste, then add the rest of the milk. Heat to lukewarm, no hotter.
  2. Add the rennet and stir. Put aside in a warm place for 15 minutes to set.
  3. Get a carving knife or similar and cut the curds by slicing in a grid pattern to get lots of little centimetre-wide squares – this releases the whey.
  4. Line a sieve with a paper towel or muslin and pour the mixture into it. Leave over a bowl to drain for about two hours, or longer if you like it drier. Mash up with a fork if it needs it and store in the fridge.

How to make ricotta

You don't need rennet for this, just a few lemons off the tree and make sure you use full-fat milk. This recipe can be a bit tricky as you don't want to heat the milk so hot that the curds don't form, but you will need to simmer it on a gentle heat for a while, so be patient.
Ingredients:
2 litres full-fat milk
1 cup cream
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed
lemon juice
½ tsp salt
Instructions:
  1. Put the milk and cream in a heavy-based saucepan or preserving pan and heat slowly until it is just on the boil.
  2. Add the lemon juice and salt, then reduce the heat to allow it to simmer. After about five minutes you should see the curds separate from the whey. If not, turn the heat up a little but don't let it boil.
  3. Once the separation occurs, take the pot off the heat and gently pour the mixture into a sieve which you have lined with muslin, a fine weave tea-towel or a clean lace curtain. Gather up the cloth and tie at top, then hang from your tap or over the bath to drain for 15 minutes. Cool, then store it in the fridge.