Toast is hot. Hot as in warm, but more recently hot as in trendy. Here's proof from NPR, the New Yorker, and my neighborhood coffee shop. No argument here because toast is also delicious. I will stand firm that no topper can beat melty butter. But it is a thrill to venture into new territory on occasion.
That's where raw milk comes in. Because toast, whether trendy or humble, is decidedly safe. Toast can travel freely across state lines. Toast will never be labeled contraband. There are no bootleg toast operations popping up in the seedy part of town. Raw milk on the other hand might find itself guilty as charged in each of these scenarios (okay, probably not the last one). But indeed there is an element of danger to raw milk, a bad boy quality that is frankly irresistible.
Raw milk is simply milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized, and with that comes a risk of pathogens. Laws governing its sale and distribution vary wildly by state. In this 2012 article Dana Goodyear pegged raw milk as the new pot. It's an amusing but an apt analogy. Passions run deep on each side of the debate. Advocates cite its nutritional advantages while food safety officials maintain that it's a precarious choice.
I for one am uninterested in getting too hung up on the politics. For us, we're sure of a few things: other foods we enjoy are likely an equal gamble, it's gratifying to buy fresh milk directly from our farmer friends, and raw milk makes a mighty fine ricotta.
On our way home from Thanksgiving festivities last week we stopped at a farm that sells raw milk BYOB style (bring your own ball jar). This milk is but a few hours old and, honest to goodness, goes down like a vanilla milkshake.
Back at home base, the magic of cheesemaking commences.
In mere minutes: curds and whey. I have made ricotta successfully with regular milk several times. The curds tend to be smaller which I understand is a result of the pasteurization process.
After straining you'll be left with a generous supply of whey. The proportions in this recipe yield about 2 cups of ricotta and 6 cups of whey. Over at Don't Waste the Crumbs, blogger Tiffany has assembled an extensive list of ideas for using leftover whey, including household uses beyond the kitchen.
Raw Milk Ricotta
Yields ~ 2 cups ricotta, 6 cups whey
- 1/2 gallon (8 cups) fresh, raw milk
- 1/3 cup lemon juice, about 1 lemon's worth (vinegar may be used as a substitute)
- 1 tsp salt
- Set a colander lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth over a bowl (if you don't have cheesecloth a thin weave cloth or napkin or even a paper towl can stand in)
- Pour milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan and add salt
- Heat milk until it just comes to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent it from burning
- Turn off heat
- Add lemon juice (or other acid you're using)
- Stir gently to distribute lemon juice; curds will begin to form immediately
- Let sit for 5-10 minutes to allow curds (milk solids) to come together and separate from the whey
- Pour the curds and whey into the lined strainer
- Allow to drain anywhere from 15-30 minutes. The length of time will depend on how moist you prefer your ricotta. Try tasting at 15 minutes and decide whether to let it keep going. The ricotta in these photos strained for 20 minutes. If after straining, you find that the ricotta is too firm for your liking, stir a bit of whey back in one tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency
- Viola! You're ready to enjoy homemade cheese. This ricotta will keep in the fridge for about 5 days.
There are an infinite number of ways to enjoy ricotta on toast and of course, no rules. In these photos I toasted bread from a pullman loaf which is sufficiently dense so that cheese won't slip through any crannies. A naked slather is divine. I also like to add:
- Olive oil with salt and pepper (pictured)
- Drizzle of honey and cayenne
- Dollop of jam or preserves
- Pesto or oilve tapenade (a lazy lady's pizza!)