Dry milk powder was the blandest, most boring part of my prep pantry. Or so I thought! There’s a lot of great foods that can be made from dry milk besides milk: there’s yogurt, yogurt cheese, buttermilk, sauces, gravies and more. Today, you’re going to learn how to make a homemade ricotta-type cheese in a crock pot or on the stove, also from fresh milk or from dry milk. Let’s call it a house cheese.
This house cheese reminds you of cottage cheese with its white color, moist curds with a hint of sweet flavor but it is a bit grainier than cottage cheese. In Italy, these ricotta-like cheeses are made from the whey by-product of making mozzarella or provolone cheese so it’s more a cheese by-product than it is a cheese. Ricotta means “recooked” since the whey is reheated for the extraction of ricotta curds. This house cheese is made not from the whey but from the milk protein itself, but I am including a way to extract a ricotta-type cheese from the whey produced from yogurt cheese.
This is a fresh cheese made to be eaten without aging. The process is simple. We’re going to heat the milk, and add an acid, vinegar or lemon juice, to cause the curds to separate from the whey. These drained curds make the cheese. The more water you drain from the curds the drier and denser the final cheese will become.
Choose the fat content of your house cheese by using whole milk, 2% or skim milk. The richer the milk, the more luscious the final curd will be.
How to Make House Cheese from Dry Milk Powder
This is a great use for powdered milk. It’s a great thing to be able to make cheese from dry milk powder! Keep in mind that you’re going to get approximately an equal amount of cheese curd as the amount of dry milk powder you begin with. If you want to end up with three cups of cheese curds, start with three cups of powdered milk mixed into six cups of water.
- Mix together the powdered milk and water in a big pot until all the milk is thoroughly dissolved.
- Keep a thermometer nearby. Stir the milk over medium-low heat until it reaches 180º.
- Stir in 1/4 cup vinegar or lemon juice, mixing well.
- Turn off the heat, cover with a clean kitchen cloth, and let it sit for a few hours until it’s cool. When it is completely cool, a solid curd will separate from the remaining whey.
- Spoon the curds with a slotted spoon into a cheesecloth-covered colander to drain. After it drains completely, picks up the edges of the cheesecloth and squeeze the remaining whey out of the curds for really dense cheese, or skip the final squeeze for a moister cheese.
- Store your fresh cheese in the refrigerator.
Make House Cheese in the Crock Pot
Instead of using a cooking pot on the stove, you can also use your crock pot to cook the house cheese. Here’s how:
- Combine the dissolved powdered milk and the white vinegar or lemon juice in the crockpot.
- Set your temperature to low, checking frequently until it reaches 180º.
- Follow the rest of the steps outlined above.
For a richer cheese, replace 2 cups of milk with two cups of heavy cream. All other steps are the same.
This wonderful cheese you’ve just made will keep fresh for several days in the refrigerator. Remember this is a fresh cheese and is not aged. It will go bad on you quickly, even with good storage practices, so enjoy your cheese quickly. You can extend its quality life as much as possible by storing it in impeccably clean glass containers that cover securely and, if possible, remove the air. (for this I love hand held-kitchen vacuum sealers).
Ricotta-type Cheese From Yogurt Whey
Here’s how to extract a curd very similar to ricotta from whey you might pour down the sink when making thick yogurt cheese. You can save up the whey in your refrigerator until you get enough for a batch. When you have enough, take the whey and bring it back up to 180º in either a pot on the stove or in the crockpot. When you reach the correct temperature, add the vinegar or lemon juice, cover it, and allow it to cool. When the whey & curd is cool, spoon out the curd just like above. This method is the way real Italian ricotta is made, except they use the whey left over from mozzarella-type cheeses.
Your family will love this fresh, creamy cheese in many ways. Use it in lasagna, manicotti, and other Italian dishes, with vegetables, or fruit. Both ricotta and the house cheese described above make wonderful cheesecakes, and it’s great flavored with herbs, sweeteners, or fruit rinds. You’re only limited by your own imagination.
To think – it comes from dull, drab ol’ powdered dry milk! Those basic pantry items are the beginning of many happy meals when you know how to get every possible use out of them. You’ll never think of powdered milk the same. And neither will I.