|Photo: Mary Nelen, ValleyLocavore|
This is the one and only best way to eat fresh strawberries.
All you need is a big stock pot, a thermometer that goes up to 200 degrees, something called citric acid, a white salt-like substance you can buy at the hardware store (or online), some cheese cloth and a gallon of milk, raw is good if you can get it. Mint would be nice as a garnish if it is up yet in your yard.
Here is the recipe for fresh ricotta. I got it from the Cheese Queen who is never wrong about these things. Ricki Carroll earned her crown after decades of teaching homesteaders and artisan chefs cheese making technique. Just a regular gal in Ashfield whose range runs the gamut for those who are just learning to boil milk to romano, the Italian hard cheese. If you want to bask in her spirit and knowledge, take a class or pick up her book "Home Cheese Making," Storey Publishing 2002. But ricotta is pretty easy. Here's my version of her recipe. The strawberry sauce is my own, cooked up with grade b maple syrup for dimension and depth. Enjoy!
Strawberries with Fresh Ricotta
1- quart fresh, local strawberries
1- gallon whole milk
4- tablespoons fresh mint leaves
2- tablespoons grade b maple syrup
1- cup cool water
2- teaspoons citric acid
1- Food Thermometer that goes to 200 degrees
Dissolve citric acid in water and stir. Pour gallon of milk into a stock pot. Stir in ½ cup of the citric acid into the milk. Heat milk on low to medium and stir to prevent scorching. Tiny curds will begin to appear as they separate from the whey. Bring the mixture to between 180 and 190 degrees. When the mixture gets to the temperature range, the curds will become much more fluffy and rise to the top of the pan. When the whey is no longer milky, remove from the heat. Let the curds and whey rest for ten minutes in the stock pot off the heat so they continue to set.
Line colander with cheese cloth and place over a pan. Slowly remove curds from stock pot with slotted spoon and place into colander with a slotted spoon. Work slowly to prevent the curd from breaking up. When you have all of the curd collected, take the corners of the cheese cloth and tie together to create a small hammock for the cheese. Hang from the faucet of your sink or over a wooden spoon straddling over a bowl. Allow to drain for between 10 minutes and several hours depending on the consistency you desire. The longer it rests, the more dense the cheese becomes.
Wash strawberries and slice in half, length wise, removing the stem. Set aside four sprigs of mint for garnish and cut the rest of the mint into thin ribbons by rolling them and slicing width-wise. Combine mint, strawberries and maple syrup and heat over a small flame. Cook down until the sauce is somewhat thickened, about 10 minutes. Take off heat and cool down
Scoop ricotta like ice cream into small bowls and drizzle the strawberry sauce over it. Garnish each plate with a big strawberry and some mint leaves.