winter preserving

I recently took a soft cheese making class at The Pantry here in Seattle. Making cheese has been on my bucket list every year for about 15 years so I thought it was about time I’d get to it. This was a great introduction and gave me the confidence to do something with the gallons of milk I have in the fridge since my kids suddenly decided they “do not like” milk the day after we got our weekly delivery. Fine. They better like ricotta.

My local market also had a load of Meyer lemons calling out to me the other day and my stash of preserved lemons ran out about 6 months ago so perfect!

These are two staples I always have in my kitchen. Ricotta is so versatile…..sweet, savory, creamy….I eat it on toast, in gnocchi, pasta, salad, topped with honey & nuts for desert…. and preserved lemons add life to any dish….stews, fish, grains, salad dressings, roast veggies….as well as a little sunshine to these endless cold, wet, dark days. (Which this California girl only two winters in to the PNW really needs right about now). I’ll post some recipes using these lemons when they are finished. Believe me, once you get used to having that intense lemony goodness handy year round, it will be hard to live without them.

whole milk ricotta

makes about 2 cups

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • cheesecloth and a thermometer

Line a sieve with a triple layer of damp cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl.

In a heavy, non-reactive pot (stainless steel works best, no aluminum, copper or cast iron), slowly bring milk and cream up to 205-215 degrees stirring occasionally in a figure 8 form to prevent scorching. Once it’s at temperature, turn off heat and add lemon juice and salt without stirring and leave undisturbed for 20 minutes. At this point you should see defined curds. If not, add 2 more tablespoons of lemon juice and let sit another 10 minutes.

Gently ladle the curds into the lined sieve and let it drain about an hour or more depending on how dry you want it. I like to tie the cheesecloth to a long wooden spoon and hang it over a tall bowl or pitcher to drain. Once it’s drained, discard the whey, cover the ricotta and store in the fridge. It will keep about a week.

ricotta finish


Preserved Lemons

makes nearly a quart

  • 8 meyer lemons, washed well
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt

Quarter 7 of the the lemons lengthwise and coat with the salt. Pack the pieces into a jar as tightly as you can. This should cause enough juice to release and cover all of the lemons. If it doesn’t, juice the remaining lemon. Put a weight, a ramekin or small bowl, whatever, to keep the lemons submerged in the juice. Cover with a loose lid and leave in a cool place for about a month. If a white mold forms, just skim it off, it’s harmless. After about a month, the rinds will be soft and the flavor intense. You can then remove the weight,  cover tightly and put it in the fridge forever. Though it won’t last that long.

preserved finish

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