Step by step
1 Fill a large saucepan with water to about 1cm deep; this prevents the milk from scalding. Combine 4 litres of homogenised milk with 300ml pouring cream and add to pan. The extra cream increases the fat content to make the curds extra creamy.
2 Add 120ml freshly squeezed lemon juice and 2 tbsp salt, and stir the mixture gently to combine. Lime juice (used to make paneer), apple cider vinegar or buttermilk can also be used as the acidic element in place of lemon juice.
3 Place the pan over low heat and heat slowly, without stirring, until it reaches 90˚C on a thermometer (about 1.5 hours). At around 80°C curds will form on the top. Resist the urge to stir – this will cause the curds to release more whey, making the texture chalky. A low heat is best to achieve nice soft curds with moisture in the ricotta.
4 Once the curds have formed, remove the pan from the heat and stand for 10 minutes for curds to settle. They will still float on the surface during this time. If you notice at 90˚C that the milk hasn’t separated or curdled enough, leave the pan on the heat and add more lemon juice, a tablespoonful at a time, until you can clearly see the separation of curds and whey. Don’t let the mixture exceed 95˚C.
5 Carefully scoop out the curds with a slotted spoon – do not pour – into a large ricotta basket or a muslin-lined colander. Stand the basket over the pan for 15 minutes to drain excess whey and reserve the whey (see below).
6 Ricotta can stand at room temperature for up to an hour if you want to serve it warm and fresh. Otherwise store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Ricotta can also be stored in the basket covered; the longer it’s left in the basket, the firmer it will become. Fresh ricotta will keep for 10 days to two weeks refrigerated.