Benvenuto a Foods & Brews! It seems more than appropriate that my first post on F&B be about making ricotta for the first time, a Saturday trip to various shops in Brooklyn, and meeting an Italian cookbook goddess.

You see, this Saturday was the first over 50 degrees day we’ve had in NYC since November, and naturally, the streets and parks were filled with folks getting their first glimpse of spring. Instead of taking my day to the park, I had already planned on paying a visit to the store-uprooted-from-Italy-and-planted-in-Brooklyn, D. Coluccio & Sons.

D. Collucio & Sons

This specialty store is in Dyker Heights, but it is exactly like a little store on the cobble-stoned streets of a small Italian town. From prosciutto di parma and their own olive oil, to fig preserve and my favorite biscotti, Pan di Stelle, this place has it all. This Saturday, it also had famed Italian cookbook author Michele Scicolone. Michele’s most recent book is The Italian Slow Cooker, which I am now in possession of and more than excited about. With recipes for seafood stew, pasta fagioli, creamy polenta with gorgonzola and mascarpone, a dozen ragus, and desserts like chocolate truffle cake, I’m pulling the slow cooker out of the closet, and will be reporting on the recipes here.

Michele and I

After meeting the super-sweet Michele, I headed to Bierkraft in Park Slope to pick up a few brews for the weekend. Andrew was off skiing in Vermont (I got some maple syrup, apple cider, and maple-smoked cheddar out of the deal so it is all good), so I didn’t have my handy dandy beer educator with me. I used my somewhat limited knowledge + my “judge a beer by its label” theory, and ended up grabbing a few favorites (Brooklyn Brewery’s Local 2, Dogfish Head’s Raison D’Etre), Whale Tale’s Pale Ale and a Red Seal Ale. I parked right in front of the micro-roastery Gorilla Coffee, and scored myself an iced Vermont maple syrup latte for the gorgeous ride home.

As the sun started to set, I didn’t feel so guilty about taking it to the kitchen. I grabbed a half-gallon of whole milk and attempted to apply my new-found knowledge of making ricotta to it. Last Sunday, my friend Christina and I played with the underground supper club folks at A Razor, A Shiny Knife, and one of the many creations was homemade ricotta. Here is the extremely loose recipe we used, and I followed on this attempt:

What you need for homemade ricotta:
gallon or half-gallon whole milk
distilled white vinegar
cheese cloth
a colander
a pot

I wasn’t kidding about the “loose” business. Get your desired amount of milk to 175 degrees, roughly a simmer, stirring occasionally. Then, slowly add tiny amounts of distilled white vinegar, and you will start to see the whey separate from the curds immediately. It is pretty cool.

It gets a little tricky here, since you don’t want it to separate too much. In the first batch we made at A Razor, A Shiny Knife, we let it sit too long with the vinegar and it was more like a cottage cheese. This is what happened to me, as well.

So you have slowly added in some distilled white vinegar, and you are watching science happen before your eyes. Use your judgment, but figure after about two minutes, take that bad boy off the stove, or you’ll get harder curds. Line a colander with cheese cloth, and pour the mixture in. Pick up the cheese cloth and tilt it, letting the whey drain off. Let it cool at room temperature for 20 minutes or so, put it in an airtight container, add salt to taste, and enjoy! This recipe will surprise you with how easy it is; just learn from my mistake and remember to not let the curds separate for too long.

Even though my first attempt at homemade ricotta didn’t come out exactly as I had hoped, it was pretty darn tasty. This morning, I toasted semolina bread, spread fig preserve on it, topped with my ricotta, and drizzled with honey for an extremely delicious breakfast.

Thanks so much for reading our first post at Foods & Brews and we hope you’ll be back for more!