Fig-sap Ricotta

As soon as I saw it written on the page I knew I’d have to try making fig-sap ricotta. The recipe comes from Spiri Tsintziras’ memoir Afternoons in Ithaca (ABC Books, 2014) about growing up in Melbourne, the daughter of Greek migrants. Fig-sap ricotta is not so much a recipe as a brief instruction, add several drops of fig sap to milk, wait 12 hours for it to set then drain the curds and there it is, ricotta.

A scant 3 drops of fig sap are dripped into about 1 litre of milk
A scant 3 drops of fig sap are dripped into about 1 litre of milk

It was hard to believe that this would work – it’s almost too simple to be true. I cut two figs from our tree and squeezed a scant 3 drops of the sap into the about 1 litre of full cream milk that I had in the fridge. I did bring the milk up to room temperature before I added the sap. After mixing I covered the bowl with a clean cloth and left it to sit for twelve hours.

I checked it before I went to bed, nothing much was happening. The next morning I was a bit scared that it would still be liquid. TB said to go and check it out and what do you know it had set. Amazing!

Scooping the curds gently into the mould so the curds can drain.
Scooping the curds gently into the mould so the curds can drain.

I couldn’t go past Spriri’s serving suggestions. I started with breakfast – sourdough toast with the fresh ricotta drizzled with leatherwood honey. I’ve since also tried the ricotta on a great loaf of fruit bread that we bought from the markets. That also worked very well.

Toast, ricotta and honey
Toast, ricotta and honey

The great thing about this ricotta is that it can be turned to sweet or savoury use. We had a light meal of one of Spiri’s favourite childhood meals, tomato rubbed into bread with ricotta, sprinkled with dried oregano and a drizzle of olive oil.

Tomato rubbed into bread with ricotta, oregano and olive oil
Tomato rubbed into bread with ricotta, oregano and olive oil

What was nice is that apart from the olive oil and the milk, the tomato and oregano came from our garden and we made the bread and ricotta. That’s the way we like to enjoy the work of our hands. Given my very haphazard attempts at cheesmaking I think that this recipe will be used on a regular basis – at least while the fig sap is running.

I’m still reading Spiri’s book and I would definitely recommend it. If you would like to check out more of her work you can visit her website Tribal Tomato.


Finding our Whey

Last Friday my friend M and I found ourselves in Ulladulla, along with 14 other interested people, making cheese. We’d both heard Lyndall Dykes being interviwed on ABC Radio National’s Bush Telegraph program a few weeks ago about home cheesemaking and we were thrilled to find out that there was a class being held a few weeks later in our ‘region’. What a great reason to head down the coast to escape our frosty winter.


What don’t they do in Ulladulla?

What appealed to us about this class was the emphasis was on the simplicity of the cheese making process. It’s really easy to get carried away with the sheer foodie seduction that small scale cheese producers can induce us, but in reality making cheese is really a rather straightforward process.


To start the day we all sampled the cheeses and other products we would be learning to make – camenbert, fetta, ricotta, yoghurt and marscapone. We then got straight into making our camenbert and fetta, well that is until the fire drill interupted us. Anyway we were quickly back to the cheese making. Our third cheese for the morning was ricotta which we were making in time to eat for our lunch!


Ricotta and spinach patties with salad for lunch.

Somewhat like bread making we learned that cheese making has short periods of activity and then long times when you just let the product get on with it. Which is why we could get so many cheeses underway in one day. Our instructions were very straightforward and within quite a short period of time our curds were forming.

Once the initial cutting of the curds was completed and the curd had rested we were all encouraged to ‘lift and jiggle’ the curds to help the whey to drain out. After several lots of lift and jiggle we were able to scoop the curds into the hoops


By lunchtime we had our curds draining in the hoops.


Fetta to the left and camembert to the right.

After lunch we had a demonstration for making quark (cream cheese) and marscapone, using a yoghurt maker. We then had time to review the days recipes with the very thorough notes provided.


Camenbert, fetta and marscapone flavoured with rum and raisin and rolled in almonds

While there was still turning and brining of our cheeses to be carried out on subsequent days we finished the day feeling quite capable of making a variety of useful cheeses. The feta is ready to eat now and the camenbert will be right to go in about 4 weeks time.

If you are interested in taking a class you can check out what’s available at the Cheese Making Workshop website. They also provide cheese making supplies.To date the company haven’t been able to offer classes in Canberra, but they are currently looking for a suitable venue.