Fails & Saves | Homemade Ricotta Cheese

2015-03-24 19.09.21I’m a planner. Lists, schedules, calendars – I love them all. Both my husband and sister have mentioned, more than once, that this nature makes me a particularly irritating travel companion because I like to plan a trip down to the minute. What are they talking about? Travel provides the ultimate opportunity to experience variety at high levels! Why sleep away a vacation when you could be seeing, doing, going-going-going?! But what if something goes wrong and the schedule gets off track? That never happens…but if it did, I’d be totally calm about it, like that time my sister and I missed the bus from Marblehead back to Boston – twice. Or the time my husband and I didn’t eat during the scheduled “lunch window” due to heavy traffic in Rocky Mountain National Park. At no point did either of these events result in some form of stress, anger, tears, and/or low blood sugar freak outs on my part…right? Right. I’m pretty sure my sister and husband would beg to differ.

Okay, so I’m a planner…with a low tolerance for the shit life usually throws at people who love to plan. Hmm.

One activity that rarely goes according to plan is cooking, and I have learned to find ways to adjust and improvise so as to save the dish. The experience is always messy, frustrating, and sometimes the end result is disgusting: a complete fail. But it’s also rewarding, because facing a challenge spurs innovation, and more often that not, a delicious save. The same can be said for life’s plans: sometimes a fail turns into a beautiful save. Like the time my sister and I laughed our asses off at a bus stop in Marblehead, recreating the ridiculous events of the day as we waited a third time for our bus. Or the time my husband and I sat among the pines, gazing at the stunning mountain vistas of Rocky Mountain National Park, thoughtfully – deliciously – chewing  on our impromptu lunch of French bread and cold cuts.

Despite my schedules and lists, life rarely goes according to plan. I’m seeing that now with events much bigger than a vacation. There has already been failure; there will be much more, I’m sure. But I’m figuring out how to reinvent, innovate, save. It will be beautiful. 

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

The first time I made this, I completely screwed up the method by not paying attention to my time frame. Rather than throw out the ingredients, I simply started over and tweaked with the acid. The result was a surprisingly delicious ricotta – though it is much easier to just do it correctly the first time. Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen


3 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 t. salt

2 T. fresh lemon juice

1 T. vinegar (red wine, champagne, apple cider)


1. Pour milk, cream, and salt into a large saucepot. Heat to 190•F on medium heat (use a candy thermometer for accuracy), stirring occasionally.

2. Once liquid reaches temperature, remove the pot from the heat and gently stir in the lemon juice and vinegar. Allow the pot to sit for 5 minutes. You will be able to see the curds start to separate from the whey on the sides of the pot. 2015-04-26 13.58.12

2015-04-26 14.15.303. Line a colander with cheesecloth (I use a clean, thin kitchen towel) and place on top of a large bowl. Pour the contents of the pot into the lined colander and allow to drain for an hour or so. During this time, you will notice that the curds will coat the sides of the colander and thicken as more of they drain out.

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4. Discard the whey and scrape the curds into a storage dish and refrigerate. The cheese will continue to thicken as it cools. For serving, I like to scoop the cheese into a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and season with coarse salt & pepper. Yield: about 2 cups.

*For a fun summer dinner: Quarter 24 oz. cherry tomatoes and toss in a bowl with 2 cloves garlic (minced), 1 T. olive oil, 1 t. balsamic vinegar, 8 basil leaves (sliced thin), 1 t. salt, 1/2 t. pepper. Allow to marinate for an hour. Toast up a loaf of French bread in the oven. Slice and spread bread with ricotta and top with tomato bruschetta. 2015-04-26 16.04.20