Monday, August 29, 2011
Cheesemaking at Home: Creme de Ricotta
Sheana Davis, California cheesemaker and cheese shop owner extraordinaire, was in town this past weekend, teaching a class at the Carr Valley Cooking School in Sauk City. Over the course of 90 minutes, we got to try five different Wisconsin beers, five different Carr Valley specialty cheeses, consume two stellar appetizer courses, and in between, make a giant stock pot of Creme de Ricotta.
A fifth-generation native of Sonoma, California, Sheana teaches home cheesemaking courses on the West Coast. She's also the creator and cheesemaker of Delice de la Vallee, an award-winning fresh cheese. And while I've been to her Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference the past two years (and just made my hotel reservations for the 2012 conference,) this was the first time I had ever seen Sheana in action teaching a course.
Let me tell you, the lady not only knows her cheese, but also makes a mean Carr Valley Beer Cheddar, Wisconsin Sausage and Beer Mustard Sauce Sandwich on a Pretzel Roll. (Recipe to follow - scroll down past the cheese talk).
When we weren't drinking beer and eating cheese, Sheana had all of us actively involved in making a batch of stove-top Creme de Ricotta. She's perfected a recipe that's all her own, and involves four simple ingredients: whole milk, whipping cream, white vinegar and sea salt (complete recipe follows the narrative).
Once the milk was at 200 degrees, we turned off the burner, and stirring the milk clockwise, quickly poured in white vinegar (this is key, as it provides the acidity needed to curdle the milk) and then sprinkled with salt. The milk starting coagulating immediately, with white curds were already floating in the whey before we put on the lid and allowed to rest for 10 minutes.
While waiting, we lined a colander with 200-count cotton cloth, drank some more beer and ate some more cheese, and once 10 minutes was up, gently ladled the curds into the cloth, starting in the middle of the pot, cutting toward us, and gently lifting them to the side of the cloth-covered colander.
Because we were anxious to eat the cheese, Sheana then gathered the four corners of the cloth and gently lifted, allowing the whey to drain off, while at the same time, gently pressuring the liquid from the cheese. Another option would be to let it drain for up to 30 minutes on its own and then serve, still warm.
Warm and fresh Creme de Ricotta is fluffy, fresh and delicious - kind of like eating fluffy cottage cheese or chunky creme fraiche, only better. Sheana mixed some jam and dried berries into one of the batches, which provided a nice sweet taste. Other options are sprinkling in lemon zest and fresh ground black pepper, or fresh basil and garlic, or even maple syrup and pecans. Go wild and be creative, as almost anything goes with this cheese.
Here's the recipe:
Creme de Ricotta
By Sheana Davis, The Epicurean Connection
14 cups whole milk
4 cups whipping cream
1-1/2 cups white vinegar
2 teaspoons sea salt
1. Combine milk and whipping cream in large stainless steel stock pot and heat slowly to 200 degrees. Stir often to prevent scorching.
2. Remove from heat. Stir milk clockwise, quickly pour in vinegar and sprinkle with salt. Cover and allow to rest 10 minutes.
3. Line colander with fine cheesecloth or 200-count cotton cloth. Gently ladle curds into cloth. If adding fruit or jam, add now. Allow to drain for 30 minutes or gently lift and allow whey to drain off.
4. Remove cheese from cheesecloth and serve warm on a baguette. If desired, drizzle with desired pairing.
And, as promised, here is the recipe for the appetizer we heartily consumed while waiting for the milk to heat:
By Sheana Davis, The Epicurean Connection
4-6 links or 1 pound Wisconsin sausage
8 ounces Beer
1/2 cup mustard
8 Pretzel Rolls, sliced 3/4
8 slices Carr Valley Beer Cheddar Cheese, sliced
Over a medium flame, using a heavy bottom skillet, place ingredients and bring to a simmer. Stir together, cover with lid and allow to simmer for 10 minutes or until sausage is thoroughly cooked. Remove from heat, allow to cool, slice sausage, place back in pan and re-heat when ready to serve. Serve on a Pretzel Roll with slice of Carr Valley Beer Cheddar and glass of Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss.
Last but not least, I have to share a stellar cheese pairing we had at the class. While all five pairings were good, the last was take-your-breath-away perfect. The next time you want to impress your friends, serve this simple pairing: Carr Valley 4-Year Cheddar and Ale Aslyum Madtown Brown. One word: awe----some.