Mascarpone cheese is one of my favourite ingredients to cook with. Now, admittedly, it doesn't taste particularly exciting on its own, but combined with other flavours it becomes a knock-out. Mix with a little sugar and scrape in a freshly split vanilla pod, for a fantastic accompaniment to poached stone fruit or pears, or summer berries. Or use as an ingredient in savoury sauces - I love it stirred into a pan full of sauteed mushrooms for an instant mushroom sauce to go over pasta or polenta, or even a grilled steak if you lean that way. I even love it mixed with some freshly grated lemon zest and stirred into risotto just before serving. And of course, where would the classic tiramisu be without it?
For all that, much as I love mascarpone, it's not an ingredient that finds its way into my shopping basket on a regular basis. The price of mascarpone at the supermarket is ridiculous, and living on a fairly tight budget, as I do, it's something that falls into the "occasional luxury" category rather than a regular stand-by.
But no more. I have just discovered that not only is mascarpone ridiculously easy to make, but you can make a batch for a fraction of the price of buying it. I think I can now safely say that mascarpone just pretty much became a staple ingredient in my fridge, and what's more I will never buy store bought again.
My batch of homemade mascarpone cost me $3.49 to make, and yielded 300g. By comparison, store bought mascarpone averaged out across the board at $8.11 for 300g. So making mine at home worked out at less than half the price. And you know what else I like about that? When I examined most packets of store bought product, the ingredients listed usually showed cream, food acid, thickeners and stablisers. My homemade version contained just cream and lemon juice - that's it - nothing else - nada!
Now of course, because it is lacking in any preservatives, it won't keep as long as store-bought product - you will need to use it within 4-5 days. But seriously, you're not making this stuff just to have it sitting around. So, go and give it a try - find out just how easy this is. Then eat the lot and make another batch - at this price you can afford to.
Homemade Mascarpone Recipe
Makes approx 300g (10-1/2 oz)
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
500ml cream (17 fl oz)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
You will also need:
Put cream into a small to medium sized, heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat, and heat cream until it reaches a temperature of 88 degrees C (190 degrees F). Stir regularly to make sure it doesn't catch on the bottom, and don't leave unattended - if it boils over, not only will your mascarpone be ruined, but you will have a nasty mess to clean up.
Once temperature has been reached, add the lemon juice to the pan, and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes. You will feel the cream start to thicken almost immediately the lemon juice is added. Try to maintain temperature at 88 degrees C (190 degrees F) throughout, and stir constantly.
Remove pan from the heat and allow to cool for about half an hour.
Line a sieve with four layers of muslin, and place over a bowl. Pour the cooled cream into the lined sieve, cover with plastic wrap, and put in the fridge for several hours (overnight is ideal) allowing any whey to drain away and the mascarpone to thicken. I only had about a tablespoon of whey drain off, and my mascarpone thickened up a lot overnight.
Scoop the strained cheese into an airtight container and store in the fridge. Use within a week.
Make sure you visit again soon to discover how I used my mascarpone in a Maple Mascarpone Frosting for a Green Tomato & Walnut cake - sounds weird I know, but trust me when I tell you it was sublime. I also used the mascarpone in a roasted tomato and mascarpone sauce for pasta, which I will also share with you shortly.