I can’t believe Christmas is in just 4 days! This year, it’s my turn to cook. Instead of ham, which I never quite got the taste for, I have begun my own tradition of lasagna for Christmas dinner. I know that Garey and my mother much dislike my dislike for ham, as they both prefer it as the Holiday entrée. This doesn’t go unnoted, and I do realize that this is breaking tradition!
Ham, particularly studded with pineapple and cloves, gives me flashbacks to my childhood. I can vividly remember my maternal grandmother preparing ham in this fashion for not only Christmas dinner, but for many of our weekly family get-togethers at their house after church every Sunday. With 7 children, plus spouses, close family friends, plus grandchildren, this was an easy way to feed a crowd!
Since I am the Christmas cook quite often now, and the crowds are at a minimum, I tend to omit it from the menu or just prepare a few slices on the side to appease the company. My lasagna tradition started a few years back when my sister bought me my individual lasagna crocks, which I obsessively dreamed over for years prior. Yes, that’s right, who wouldn’t love their own individual lasagna for Christmas dinner?! Individual, or not, lasagna is simple and many of the ingredients can be prepped in advance. On Christmas Eve, I will also prep this homemade ricotta, which I learned to make a few years ago at a cheese making cooking class that Becky and I took together on a girl’s night out. It’s unbelievably simple and the freshness is outstanding!
- Pot large enough to hold half a gallon of milk
- Fine mesh strainer
- Stirring spoon
- Cooking thermometer (optional but recommended)
- 1/2 gallon of whole milk
- 1/3 c. lemon juice – I like to use fresh squeezed. In a pinch you could use white vinegar.
- 2 t. salt
In the pot, bring the 1/2 gallon of milk to a simmer (about 200 degrees if you are using a thermometer). You can stir gently while the milk is coming to a simmer, however, don’t scrape the bottom of the pot. Typically some of the milk will scorch and leave a film on the bottom that you don’t want in your cheese! Once the milk has simmered, turn off the heat. Gently stir in the lemon juice and salt. Let sit for 10 minutes to curdle (see the pic below) and then strain into a fine mesh strainer. Let the cheese sit in the strainer for 10-30 minutes, until a texture of your liking. The longer is sits, the drier the cheese will be.
Obviously, lasagna. For an awesome appetizer, though, try adding chopped basil, oregano, and thyme to the cheese to spread over crostini with sundried or roasted tomatoes.
If you can boil milk, you can make this cheese. After you realize how easy it is to make, you’ll be leaving the store bought ricotta at the store!
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 1/3 c. lemon juice
- 2 t. salt
- Bring the entire 1/2 gallon of milk to a simmer (about 200 degrees). Turn off heat and gently stir in lemon juice and salt. Let sit for 10 minutes before straining into a fine mesh strainer. Allow to strain for 10-30 minutes depending on the consistency you wish to obtain.