A few weeks ago, I attended a workshop in the Blue Mountains run by the the talented Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle et Vanille and Luisa Brimble, and hosted by Sophie Hansen of Local is Lovely. It was a three day gathering of wonderful company, incredible food, and beautiful scenery. A break from the city and the fresh mountain air was the perfect way to reset and get my creative juices flowing.
A couple of days after the much needed retreat, Dave and I had some family over for dinner. I wanted to use the beautiful bunch of peak-season cherries I had on hand, and opted to top them with some homemade ricotta for dessert, inspired by the fresh goat's cheese Sophie had made us earlier that week.
A simple ricotta is easy to make at home, and is best when made with the freshest whole fat milk. In this recipe, I've used cow's milk, but goat or sheep's milk will work. In place of lemon, you can use vinegar; you just have to use something acidic to activate the curdling process. Save the extra why for an additional boost of protein in smoothies, or even drink it a small dose of it on its own like thy do in some European cultures. If you don't use the ricotta straight away, you can refrigerate it in an air=tight container up to five days.
Homemade Ricotta + Rose Water Cherries
1/2 gallon whole milk
Juice of 2 lemons (about 2 tablespoons), plus more if needed
1 large sheet muslin or cheesecloth
Rose Water Cherries
1/2 pound (8 ounces) sweet cherries, pitted (fresh or frozen)
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon rose water
Zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
In a large saucepan, heat milk, stirring occasionally, until steaming but not boiling. Remove from heat. A little bit at a time, add lemon juice, stirring constantly, until curds begin to separate from the whey. Use as much lemon juice as needed for this to happen. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes (so curds can continue to separate).
Set a colander on top of a large bowl and cover with muslin. Slowly pour curdled milk over colander, allowing the whey to strain from the curds. For a slightly loose ricotta, let strain for 10 minutes. For a firmer cheese, continue straining up to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, add cherries, sugar, cinnamon, rose water, lemon zest, and salt. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, slightly macerating cherries until they release their juices but still hold their shape, about 5 minutes.
To serve, scoop a generous spoonful of cherries into a small bowl. Top with a spoonful of ricotta. Drizzle with honey and serve immediately.