whole milk ricotta & fig balsamic reduction

a few weeks ago i made 4 gallons of 'fresh breeze' whole milk into a giant batch of homemade ricotta cheese for a very large tasting event. thank goodness for ginormous all-clad pot for my parents gifted to me years ago, because i needed every single ounce of ricotta from that single batch. it was a project that took over my whole kitchen for the good part of an afternoon, but i assure you that ricotta is a much simpler endeavor when you are making small batches and takes hardly any more effort then it does to make a pot of tea so long as you have the right tools. it's one of those things that afterwards, when you are spooning fresh warm ricotta straight from the cheesecloth you ask yourself "why don't i make this more often?" because it's not just a lasagna filling. you don't even have to make it into anything really! you can just pile some on top of fresh fruit and call it breakfast... or dessert... or a sweet mid-day snack... 

whole milk ricotta & fruit ~ serves 2 
6 fresh figs
1 ripe nectarine or peach 
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoon fig balsamic reduction (see recipe below) 
2/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (see recipe below) 
mint leaves (optional) 

remove stems and slice figs into quarters. divide onto two plates. slice nectarine or beach into small bites and divide evenly onto the plates. top with 1/3 cup whole milk ricotta on each, and drizzle with equal amounts honey & balsamic reduction. top with torn mint leaves. 

for fig balsamic reduction
2 cup inexpensive aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons store bought fig preserves/jam

in a small sauce pan bring balsamic to a simmer, lower heat so that balsamic is hardly bubbling but steaming. simmer until volume reduces to a quarter. once reduced, add fig preserves (or 1 tablespoon honey) and stir to dissolve. remove from heat and let chill in a jar or squeeze bottle.

whole milk ricotta ~ makes about 20 oz 

1 gallon organic whole milk 
1 teaspoon citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon fleur de sel 

you will also need butter muslin or very fine-mesh cheese cloth. a nut milk bag would work as well! 

in large pot stir together milk with the citric acid & water solution. heat milk on stove top over medium heat to 185 degrees, keep covered to warm quicker, but stir often to prevent milk from scorching. keep the milk mixture simmering at 185-195 degrees until you start to see curds separate from the whey. the whey will become less milky and more clear - it will become distinctly curdy! at this point, remove pot from heat and let sit, undisturbed, for 10-15 minutes. 

line a colander with cheese cloth and carefully ladle the curds from the pot directly into the cheesecloth to strain. tie the ends of the cloth around the cheese and hang to drain for 20-30 minutes, or let rest suspended in a bowl in your strainer (as pictured above). mix with salt and serve immediately at room temperature or store in airtight container for 1-2 weeks.