Salvatore Bklyn Ricotta Goodness
The first time I tasted Salvatore Bklyn ricotta, I realized that I had been doing it at home all wrong. Granted, this wasn't exactly a shock. Even the color of my homemade ricotta paled (or rather, grayed) in comparison to the pictures of the cool kid's white, fluffy dairy glory posted all over the internet.
But Salvatore's version puts nearly any non-whey based ricotta to shame- not just mine. It tastes of fresh buttery cream and rich milk and has notes of lemon and grass or even flowers, depending on what the cows are eating that season. Bonus- unlike like those small pints of bland, grainy goop sitting on chain supermarket shelves trying to pass themselves off as the real deal, it has the perfect amount of salt to highlight its nuances.
Ricotta, like Bellwether's fantastic sheep's or jersey milk versions in Sonoma, is traditionally made from the whey leftover from cheesemaking. Salvatore's, however, is made the way home cooks in Italy craft their take on that cheese. Made from a delicious blend of rich milk from upstate New York, lemon juice, and salt, Salvatore's ricotta tastes like it would if an Italian mother whipped up a creamy batch at home, or, like how it would if the Italian man after which Salvatore ricotta is named made it- with lots of love, and with the best ingredients possible.
Before I recently visited New York city, I emailed Betsy of Salvatore ricotta, told her that I love her cheese, and asked if I could come watch the magic happen. She said yes. She let me take pictures, gave me coffee, entertained me while the milk was heating, and even let me taste granola made by her kitchen partner. Score. Although little is available outside of New York without a high shipping price tag, I thought you might enjoy seeing how the Salvatore team does their thing. Here's a photo tour of that day, less the granola.
First things first- Cheese is only as good as the milk. Owners (and chef) Betsy Devine and Rachel Mark only use uber-rich local milk from Hudson Valley Fresh, a non-profit dairy collective in upstate New York. They go through less than 100 pounds a day. The milk goes into a steam kettle and is slowly heated before the lemon juice or salt is added.
Before starting Salvatore, Betsy refined her cheese skills cooking at Lunetta restaurant in Brooklyn, where she was allowed to experiment with ricotta for the menu and build up clientele for her future brand.
Once the milk is sufficiently warmed and Ken, Betsy's accomplice who, she says, has pretty much become their head cheesemaker, has juiced enough lemons, the acidification process can begin. In goes the lemon juice. The lemon juice is the acid that initiates the separation of the milk solids- the protiens- from the liquid- the whey. This happens pretty quickly.
Once the curds show themselves, it's time to scoop them from the kettle to the tubs so more of the liquid can drain from the solids.
Next, the plastic tubs are lined with cheesecloth and filled with the fresh and delicate curds. The cheesecloth allows the whey to drain through its tiny holes and supports the setting of large, moisture drenched, rich curds that make this ricotta so darn sweet and creamy. After the cloth is securely wrapped around the ricotta so no curds are lost in the draining process, the tubs are wheeled into the walk in, where they hang out over night until they're ready to be packaged the next day.