Time has slipped away from me lately. Suddenly it's March and I was pretty sure I had at least a week left in February. Since when are there only 28 days in February anyway?
In the last week and a half, I have visited 5 museums in 3 different cities: The Art Institute, Chicago for the permanent collection, of course, and Edvard Munch; The Marlborough Gallery, New York City for some Cubist sculpture; the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia; as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation for Renoir's centrifugal swirls of color. Speaking of the Barnes, it's such a singular place, dedicated as much to one man's idiosyncratic view of art as to the objects themselves. When Albert C. Barnes established the foundation in 1922, he stipulated that his collection be forever hung in precisely the same organization as he had devised himself. The most amazing part is his insistence on symmetry, which necessitated buying pieces in part according to their size and how they would fit into the overall scheme.
But the Barnes Foundation is moving. Right now, it's still housed in the Barnes mansion in Merion, the pictures hanging on the same walls on which Barnes had placed them, their arrangement punctuated by small, decorative metal objects positioned between pictures, in an almost salon-like arrangement. On an as yet undecided date, the collection will be relocated to Philadelphia, to a new building which, it is claimed, will maintain the layout of the original house. But the mansion will have to stay behind, and with it, those Jacques Lipchitz reliefs which Barnes commissioned from the artist the year the foundation was started, about 20 years before Lipchitz fled to New York as a war refugee, and which decorate the house's facade. The setting will no longer be a somewhat secluded domestic location, but a modern building near the Rodin Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. So while the collection will be more accessible to the casual visitor (right now an appointment must be made at the foundation and I have no idea if this will change in the future), something of its status as personal collection (in the vein of the Frick Collection, for instance) will be lost.
But since this blog is about food, and not art, I won't belabor the point except to say that if you're near Philadelphia, and you haven't been, make an appointment and see the collection the way it is truly meant to be seen, before you no longer have the opportunity.
And then yesterday in New York, it was snowing. Actually, I guess yesterday in most places it was snowing. One of those huge blizzards that tries to make up for a relatively dry winter in one massive blow. Actually, that's fine with me, because while Mother Nature reigns down her snow drifts, I made some pretty wonderful snow of my own. Homemade ricotta. Which, by the way, is embarrassingly easy, with only two ingredients and almost no hands-on time. And what you're left with is a pillowy kind of ricotta to rival any of those fluffy flakes still falling, and, I imagine, infinitely better for snow balls.
This was February's Recipes to Rival challenge, but February snuck out in the middle of the night without even a word, so I'm a couple days late. And I still don't know exactly what to do with my ricotta, as anything this special deserves something extraordinary. But that's another post for another day in the very near future.
1 gallon milk (1% and up, the higher the fat content, the more cheese you'll end up with)
1 quart buttermilk
Into a very large pot, pour both the milk and the buttermilk. Heat slowly over medium low heat until it reaches a temperature of 185 on a thermometer. At this point, the mixture will have begun to separate into curds and whey. Stir occasionally so that no curds stick to the bottom.
Line a collander with cheesecloth and set over a large bowl or in the sink. Spoon the curds into the collander, separating the curds and whey. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together and hand like a sack for 10-15 minutes. I hung it over the nozzle of the sink.
Remove from the cheesecloth and place in an airtight container for storage.
UPDATE: Evidently this is a bit of an impostor, although it can be used in place of ricotta in any recipe. Thanks to Mark, who drew my attention to the fact that, and I quote "Ricotta is the oddball of the cheese world. During the cheesemaking process, the curds are separated from the whey, pressed, and subjected to various types of fermentation. Romano cheesemakers discovered that the discarded whey contained small amounts of protein which could be cooked to render additional curds."
As you can see from the above recipe, these curds are rendered only once, making this more of a farmer's cheese (or paneer, queso fresco etc.). Mark also gave us a link to a great site on cheesemaking in general, with a post on ricotta (among others). Isn't it nice to have such informed readers? Everyone give Mark a nice big "thank you!"
Need some ideas for what to do with your homemade cheese? Try one of these: