As Harry and I set out for Cherry Grove Farm in Central New Jersey, we knew we were headed for a fun experience. We handmade ricotta, stretched mozzarella and stuffed ricotta burrata balls from grass fed whole cows milk. Even when we were in Sicily last spring we didn't get the opportunity to make or even observe how ricotta cheese was made. My last real cheese-making adventure was when I attended the Academy of Culinary Arts and learned how to make farmers cheese.
- Cheese is an excellent source of protein and calcium, but can be high in sodium and saturated fat - so enjoy in moderation.
- What's nice about organic farm cheese is that the milk is more nutrient-dense from pastured cows that feed on organic grasses and weeds like clover. For example, some milk may have a yellow hue, a visible sign of having more beta-carotene.
- Milk from free roaming pastured cows also contains much more beneficial conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than milk from grain-fed cows.
- Making ricotta and mozzarella is easier than you may think. But, before you make your own cheese at home it helps to understand curds and whey.
What is Whey Protein?
Remember the nursery rhyme Little Miss Muffet, who sat on a tuffet, eating of curds and whey? Well, curds come from coagulated milk. And, whey comes from the leftover liquid when milk coagulates and the curds are removed. Whey is a byproduct in cheese-making and is used to make ricotta.
Whey cheese is ricotta. Ricotta means "recooked". it is made from the leftover fluid after straining out the curds, which are coagulated proteins in cheese-making. Proteins are coagulated by low pH and high temperatures. Milk can be coagulated through the action of adding acid such as lemon juice or citric acid powder to the solution. Time and temperature become important elements in the cheese-making process.
In Sicily we had plenty of tastings though of warm, fresh made ricotta from sheep's milk. Molded Sicilian ricotta was served on the table with fresh bread. In Sicily, we used fresh ricotta in Italian Cassata - a classic Sicilian dessert. Ricotta is also popular in cannoli and in savory eggplant and pasta dishes.
Here in the US, most ricotta is made from cow's milk versus sheep's. There is a distinct difference in taste - with sheep's milk having more flavor, and cow's milk ricotta being more bland.
Cheers to Cherry Grove's cheese-making class!
In the cheese class, we didn't make Ricottone (whey only) ricotta, we made a ricotta variation from whole milk that some call farm cheese. The results are similar. Ricottone is finer in texture. Farm cheese has delicate ricotta curds that can be used as you would Ricottone or made into mozzarella like we did in the class. In the class, we took our stretched mozzarella and stuffed it with a creamy ricotta filling to make burratas.
Cherry Grove has over 50 milking cows that graze on 230 acres of certified organic grass pastures located in Lawrenceville, NJ. Cheese-maker Sam Kennedy, CIA graduate, uses their fresh milk production for making artisan cheeses that are sold at their farm and to chefs, restaurants and stores in the tri-state area.
I first visited Mercer County as a food vendor with my former health food store and restaurant, Garden of Eden Natural Foods and Country Kitchen, Inc. We proudly served organic foods at the NOFA Organic Country Fair on the grounds of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed. NOFA-NJ is dedicated to supporting sustainable food and agriculture throughout New Jersey.
If you live in the area and get a chance, visit Cherry Grove Farm for some sustainable agriculture fun. In addition to providing cheese-making classes, they have a small market that offers organic eggs, hormone and antibiotic-free meats and of course, their award-winning artisan cheeses.
Here are a few photos we took at Cherry Grove Farm
Excellent Source: Protein, Calcium, Phosphorus, Selenium
Good Source: Riboflavin, Vitamin A
Whole milk Ricotta: 1/2 cup (124g): Calories 216; Protein 14g (28% DV); Calcium 257mg (26% DV); Magnesium 14mg (3.5% DV); Phosphorus 196mg (20% DV); Selenium 18mcg (26% DV); Riboflavin 0.24mg (14% DV); Vitamin A 552IU (11% DV); Vitamin D 12 IU (3% DV)
Making Mozzarella, a Hands-on Affair
Ricotta recipe and using leftover whey
New England Cheesemaking Supply Co
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