Sunday, November 27, 2011

Herbed Ricotta Salata: Pressing Cheese in a Sink Drainer

Making cheese isn't something I've ever been interested in. I've just been interested in eating it. It wasn't until I came to Korea that my interest for cheese consumption collided with cheese production. After realizing I could make my own cottage cheese and ricotta, it wasn't a big leap to making pressed cheeses. The largest obstacle in making cheese isn't the process; it's getting the materials. Rennet can be purchased online in Korea, but cheese cultures are a bit more difficult to procure. The beauty of ricotta salata is that it doesn't require any special ingredients like rennet or cultured buttermilk. The hardest part is waiting for the cheese to cure for at least two weeks.

I've already posted about making a cheese mold and pressing out a ricotta salata. This post is still about ricotta salata, but instead of laboring over making a cheese mold, I've found that it's much easier to use a sink drainer.

What is Ricotta Salata?Ricotta salata is an Italian cheese made from sheep's milk. In its beginning stages, it's just ricotta. The difference is that it's then pressed, salted, dried, and aged. It's hard enough so that you can slice, grate, or shave it. It tastes salty and milky, and like Parmigiano Reggiano, it's a punchy little cheese that can go on top and into an endless number of dishes like linguine primavera and fried ravioli.

What Do I Need to Make Ricotta Salata?The list is quite simple. You're just making ricotta, and then from there you'll need a cheese mold, something heavy, and time. I outline how to make ricotta in a separate blog post.

Though traditionally, ricotta salata is made from sheep's milk; traditions, for the most part, suck (i.e. female castration and baseball). So, I'm going with what I can get. Cow milk.

Which Sink Drainer Works Best?
I bought every kind of sink drainer there is.  For smaller quantities of cheese, there are three basic varieties.  Short and fat.  Tall and narrow.  Metal. 

Based on experience, the two on the right (tall and narrow/metal) are not ideal.  The tall and narrow container is difficult to work with especially getting the cheese out and flipping it.  The metal one is a disaster for handling because the metal isn't flexible like plastic, so getting the cheese out and flipping it is nearly impossible.  Go for the unattractive short and fat one.  It's only 500 won.

Pressing the Cheese
To press the cheese, make some ricotta.  It's easy.  Just cook up some milk, add an acid, and drain the curds.  Drain for 30+ minutes until it's quite dry.  Then squeeze out as much whey as possible.

You'll need to salt the cheese, and if you'd like, add in some herbs.

On the far left is cottage cheese.  The three bowls are ricotta mixed with basil, parsley, and dill.
On the right is homemade granola.  It was an ambitious day.
Wash and dry the sink drainers.

Line the sink drainers with paper towels or cheese cloth.  I have cheese cloth, but it's too big to go into the sink drainers.  They would deform the shape of the cheese too much.  I chose to go with paper towels.  They're cheap and disposable.  

Spoon the cheese into their respective molds.

You can see in the picture that the cheese on the bottom is significantly crumblier.  The curds don't cling together like the two cheeses on the top.  This is because this one is made from ultra-pasteurized milk.  I almost never use ultra-pasteurized milk in cheesemaking because it's probably the worst milk you can use.  Use Denmark Milk or Pasteur Milk which are pasteurized at lower temperatures.  

You'll need to find a container or something that fits flush into the cheese mold and will provide even coverage of the cheese but not get stuck.  This pesto jar fits perfectly into the cheese mold and can move down easily with the weight to press the cheese.  

To press the cheese, you'll need lots of weight.  I use bricks.  Ideally, I'd want about 25 pounds of weight per cheese mold.  Because I couldn't get more than two bricks to balance, I used about 12 - 15 pounds of weight which turned out fine.

The bricks on the side help balance the bricks and keep them from toppling over.

After pressing for an hour, flip the cheese over and press for 12 hours or overnight.  In the morning, you'll end up with a nice round disk of cheese.

This cheese should be kept in cheesecloth and in a container that is as close as possible to the size of the cheese.  I tried keeping them in the sink drainers, but the cheese dried out too much.  Instead, store them in a container that fits as snug around the cheese.  

I have never had a problem with the cheese growing mold.  If this happens, just wipe it off.  If any beads of moisture appear on the surface, wipe it off as well.  

The cheese needs to be salted and rubbed daily for a week.  After that, let it age for at least a week longer.


  1. Awesome idea for a cheese mold. I am just learning to make cheese now. Thanks! :)

  2. I just moved to Korea...... This is the best blog I've ever seen in my life!!!! I really don't know much about cheese, I just know that I miss it a lot and it's so overpriced!!! Could you store this outside while it presses, and do you need to age it at room temperature? Thanks for the great ideas!!! <3 <3 <3 <3

  3. Wow...I can't count how many times I've wished that a blog like this existed!
    As a fellow Korea-dweller, I can understand the great length of DIY you must go to.
    Fortunately, I like DI Myself much better than simply buying things from a store :)
    Thank you so much for the recipe-so smart to use sink drainers!



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