Author Topic: Puzzled with ricotta curds  (Read 1240 times)

Offline Zoey

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Puzzled with ricotta curds
« on: April 08, 2013, 12:16:30 PM »
Hey,

I've been away for a while, but now I'm back, wondering about ricotta curds.

I've tried to make ricotta many times, with whey left over from different cheese makes. Everything from drained youghurt whey to hard cheese whey. Always the same result...

See, when I make ricotta (heat to 91 celsius, add vinegar, rest long enough to form curds), I don't get anything that could be ladled into a cheesecloth lined colander or such, but a watery mass with teeny tiny bits of curd, small enough to pass through any ladle, sieve or anything. What I end up doing is pour the whole liquid into the cloth lined colander, but it takes ages to run through because the curd particles are so little that they go into the holes of the cloth, and create a very dense barrier through which the liquid doesn't pass easily.

So, if I have, say, 10 liters of whey, it takes me a whole day to pour it through the colander... I fill the colander, then I wait for the whey to run through, pour in some more, etc. And all I'm left with is a wet mass that is about 3mm thick above the cheesecloth. I'm lucky if I can scrape of a couple of spoonfuls of the stuff.

So, what am I doing wrong? The resulting whey appears bluish and quite clear, so I imagine that not much is left in it, but for some reason my curds gather into very small particles instead of larger ones that I could ladle.

It seems that the resting time after putting in the vinegar would not be the issue, since most of the stuff waits on the counter for hours, before there is room enough for it in the colander.


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Offline MrsKK

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Re: Puzzled with ricotta curds
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2013, 05:19:43 PM »
Have you calibrated your thermometer to make sure it is reading properly?  If it is off, your whey may not be getting hot enough to capture all of the proteins in the whey.

I don't use vinegar to make ricotta, just heat the whey to just below boiling point, so about 200* F or 93*C.  At that point, clouds of ricotta start showing up in the whey.  I remove the kettle from the heat and allow it to sit for about 30 minutes, then ladle through muslin.  It doesn't take very long for it to drain.

I hope you can figure it out and get some good results.  BTW, I get the most ricotta from cultured mozzarella.

Offline Zoey

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Re: Puzzled with ricotta curds
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2013, 12:23:56 AM »
Thanks for the reply MrsKK!


I have done this through the years with different thermometers, so I'm quite sure that at least some batches have been cooked hot enough. Still, I have never gotten anything big enough to be caught by a ladle.

It seems that the curds form, because I get tiny white particles and the whey loses color. But for some reason, mine don't cluster but stay very very small. So small that even my tightest sieve won't catch any of them. The cheesecloth does, but that's just why it takes ages for the whey to run through, and the result is practically no yield at all.

Offline Sailor Con Queso

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Re: Puzzled with ricotta curds
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2013, 08:25:10 AM »
Add a little whole milk to your whey. That will increase your yield substantially.
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Offline Zoey

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Re: Puzzled with ricotta curds
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2013, 12:01:46 PM »
Hmm. I could do that. But if my starting point is zero, won't I just get the yield from the whole milk and nothing from the whey? Since my original purpose is to make use of what is still left in the whey, otherwise I wouldn't be making it...


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Offline Sailor Con Queso

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Re: Puzzled with ricotta curds
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2013, 01:10:12 PM »
Right now you are getting zero, so what do you have to lose? By adding some whole milk, you will give the smaller particles something to bind to. Just try it once and you will see. I would add about 1 quart for 2 gallons of whey. You can always reduce that next time.

As MrsKK says, she doesn't add any vinegar (or other acid) at all. If your whey is already acidic to start with, you are probably over acidifying when you add vinegar. That will also contribute to the fine particles.
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Offline Zoey

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Re: Puzzled with ricotta curds
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2013, 12:08:45 PM »
Interesting. I could imagine that over acidification would be a part of the problem. Somehow I've always thought that if the curds don't form, I should add more vinegar. :)

I'll try it the next time, and then come back to report the results.

Thanks.

Offline MrsKK

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Re: Puzzled with ricotta curds
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2013, 08:43:11 AM »
Good luck!

Offline meyerandray

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Re: Puzzled with ricotta curds
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2013, 10:03:58 AM »
I want to preclude this post saying that I have never gotten a decent ricotta result either, and struggle with similar issues, so I am definitely no expert. That said, I too was told to only add acid (ì use lemon juice) to non-acid whey, whatever that means specifically I don't know, but I imagine that yogurt would definitely be considered acid.
Once the ricotta starts to come up, during the waiting phase, with a slotted spoon I guide the particles gently away from the edges of the pot, towards the center, this is supposed to help form larger particles that can be ladled as opposed to poured, which probably breaks up any grouped particles.
These steps have helped me go from zero to a very small amount of ricotta, so I don't know how much it will help.
Good luck!

Offline WovenMeadows

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Re: Puzzled with ricotta curds
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2013, 10:19:13 AM »
but I imagine that yogurt would definitely be considered acid.

Just a note on this, yogurt whey (from making strained yogurt) will probably not yield any ricotta. The standard for making yogurt is to first heat the curd to 180 F, which denatures the whey proteins allowing them to coagulate with the rest of the protein during acidification. The whey protein if what you are coagulating during whey ricotta making, so with no whey protein (from yogurt whey), there's nothing to precipitate.


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Offline Zoey

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Re: Puzzled with ricotta curds
« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2013, 12:42:44 PM »
Wovenmeadows, good thing you mentioned that. I have often added whey from straining youghurt to my ricotta concoctions. Although, I have always had some cheese making whey as well.

I did some changes now: Added 10% whole raw milk, heated higher (95C instead of 91C) and watched the coagulation before adding vinegar. First I didn't see anything happen, so after a few minutes, I added the vinegar, and in one second (!) I suddenly had a nice set of curds form.

So it seems that something helped. Maybe the milk, maybe the temperature. So thanks everyone!

Offline MrsKK

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Re: Puzzled with ricotta curds
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2013, 12:05:25 PM »
Next time, try taking it just one degree higher to see if you truly need to add the acid...acid will make for a more grainy product, where non-acid ricotta is very silky.

Offline Zoey

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Re: Puzzled with ricotta curds
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2013, 12:57:15 PM »
Oh, that's a good tip as well! I must say mine was quite grainy (but still somewhat spreadable). But I was really happy with it anyway. My 18months old twins also loved it, and they are a quite demanding jury.