I thought I'd share some detail notes with others who may try making the ricotta. While it's extremely simple to make (very few ingredients, very few steps) it seems that this recipe can come out vastly different depending on the technique, and things like timing, temperature and technique play a big role in results.
Don't get scared. It's still easy. But it's also easy to avoid some pitfalls, so here we go.
I have made it twice now. I used the exact same ingredients both times. Both cheeses tasted good and were used in recipes! So it's a matter of preference and what you're going to use it for that will determine how you cook it.
First time: added lemon at 212 degrees (boiling) kept the heat on (but turned down) and stirred and stirred and stirred after adding the lemon juice. Result: a very firm, dry, crumbly ball of cheese. Drained very quickly and easily. Not at all spreadable. Cheese needed to be broken up with a spoon to use in recipe.
Second time: added lemon at 185 degrees (simmering) turned the heat off and left it off, added the lemon juice and did not stir AT ALL after adding the lemon juice (not one bit.) Just let it sit off-heat for 5 minutes and do its coagulation thing. Result: Very soft, light curds. Very wet, took much longer to drain. Soft and spreadable like a slightly lumpy cream cheese. After hanging to drain, it was similar to what I'm used to getting out of the tubs of ricotta from the store.
There was more leftover whey with the first batch than with the 2nd, because more water was squeezed out of the cheese by the heat and stirring and hanging. By the whey (ha!) you're starting with about 9 cups of milk/cream and will be left with around 7.5 - 8 cups of whey. It's proportionally a lot of whey leftover. Don't be surprised by all of the leftover whey.
DO NOT be tempted to crank the heat of the stove up too high to get the milk to heat up faster. Medium is good; if you're concerned, go between med and med-low. It will just take a little longer.
DO NOT leave the stove while you are heating the milk/cream. Not for an instant.
STIR while the milk is heating. Especially near the end of the heating, do not stop stirring!
DO NOT get scared and decide not to make it. (Really. It IS easy.)
Once the milk/cream begins to heat up it builds up heat fast, and as the heat gets up higher (above 150 degrees) it gains heat much faster than you'd think it would. I used a candy thermometer in my 2nd batch, and was amazed that the mixture heated slowly and evenly until about the 150 degree point, then shot up really fast.
So, in an instant, you can go from gently simmering cream (about 180 degrees) to a boiling milk volcano all over your stove. Milk volcanoes smell terrible and are a huge pain to clean up. AVOID the VOLCANO!
Use a heat-proof spatula and stir and stir, and keep scraping the bottom of the pot. The milk at the bottom of the pot will be hotter than that at the top, and the milk volcano happens when the stuff at the bottom starts to boil and the stuff at the top isn't yet and the boiling stuff expands and blows the top off of the thing. WOOSH. Plus, the stuff at the bottom will scorch if you do not vigilantly stir it.
I scorched my first batch a bit, and had some little brown flecks in my finished cheese. It was not ruined, but the little brown flecks just aren't so pretty in the snow-white cheese.
So, stir, stir, stir, stir, stir, especially near the end, to keep the milk heated evenly throughout the pot and to avoid scorching.
So after all that...
My recommendation is as follows: Avoid the possibility of the milk volcano entirely and don't boil the mixture. It does need to be hot, but does not need to be boiling for this to work. My first batch I boiled (barely, not rolling) My second batch I killed the heat when it reached 185. You will know that you are getting close to "hot enough" when the surface of the milk gets and keeps a thick frothy layer, like the top of an espresso. You'll see the ring around the edges of the pot. It really only needs to get "hot enough" to deactivate the anti-curdling enzymes. So you don't have to boil.
Turn off the heat when you hit "hot enough." You can always turn it back on again.
After you add your lemon juice, you can choose to stir or not. Stirring will give you firmer curds. Whatever you do, give your curds some time to form. A good 3-5 minutes.
Rather than pouring the whole pot into your cheesecloth-lined strainer, try scooping the ladling them in instead. It will give them a better chance to drain than just pouring it all in at once. Give it some time and patience to drain.
Do use cheesecloth (or thin dishtowel, or chinois or butter muslin.) Paper towel works, kinda, but it's iffy if you buy el-cheapo paper towel (I do) and you don't want to be picking Brawny Bits out of your cheese. Ew. Plus, paper towel just isn't strong enough to make the little hanging bag for further draining. Paper towel wicks up all of the moisture and then it rips when you pick it up. Too frustrating.
Hope this helps anyone who might want to try it. HAVE FUN!
Bobblefred by Tribe. Fred's snowed in by Agman