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I buy ricotta in large quantities (1kg) and I'm always throwing it out when it gets yellowish on the top border, and I'm pretty sure that yellow stuff is toxic.

Since I always eat ricotta with lots of seasonings (most of which are also used to preserve meat in more humid places), I'm wondering if it would do any good storing it already seasoned.

Usually I use za'atar and olive oil. But I'm open to pretty much anything if tasty and will help preserve it longer.

I'm already doing the basics: airtight container, store at back of the refrigerator, do not leave it out more than necessary.

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To be clear, it's developing a yellow layer on top while frozen? Are you constantly thawing it in order to get some out, then refreezing? –  Jefromi Nov 1 '12 at 0:02
    
Why don't you just buy smaller amounts of ricotta? Also, do you really have evidence whatsoever that the "yellow stuff is toxic"? –  nico Nov 1 '12 at 8:51
    
@nico i'm basing my theory that most fungus and bacteria dejects are toxic :) and i'm not taking risks. also, it smells bad –  gcb Nov 2 '12 at 1:37
    
@Jefromi as I say, buying in the 1kg is cheaper at Costco than 400g at the other places, so even trhowing out half, i'm still financially better than buying smaller packs! and if i don't have to throw half away that time, i'm twice as better :) ...but yes, throwing away food saddens me. Also i'm not freezing. where i came from that word means what you call refrigerator... let me fix the question –  gcb Nov 2 '12 at 1:38
    
@gcb I'm not the one who asked about the quantities, but thanks for the clarification about the freezing. (I edited the price stuff out because it seemed obvious to me why one buys large quantities, and specifics of stores and local prices aren't relevant to most people, but apparently I should've left a hint in.) –  Jefromi Nov 2 '12 at 4:49

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Seasoning does not preserve food. Some foodstuffs normally used for seasoning, like salt and vinegar, can help to preserve food, but the concentration you need will make your ricotta unpalatable.

Salting can preserve food, when combined with dehydration. Bacteria need a humid environment to live in. Salt is hygroscopic, it both helps dry out the food you are preserving (usually meat) and directly dehydrates any bacteria which come in contact with it, killing them. Even then, you want to use charcuterie salt (a mix of NaCl and NaNO2) to prevent botulism, as pure table salt (NaCl) doesn't kill Clostridum Botulinum.

Trying to get ricotta preserved that way is counterproductive. Not only will it be way too salty to taste well. You will also have to dry it out to the point where neither mould nor bacteria can grow on it. Hard cheeses are durable exactly for these reasons, but dried-out ricotta is not tasty. In fact, I am not sure that "the yellow stuff" you see is "toxic", it could just be dried-out. Still, I wouldn't be willing to risk eating it, even if the taste was acceptable.

You could try preserving your ricotta by adding acid. To have it hold a long time in the fridge, it has to be as acidic as a typical pickle recipe. I only mention this because you say that you spice it heavily. But frankly, I can't imagine anybody wanting to eat ricotta that sour.

The option I would choose is freezing. You already mention "the freezer", but if you are really freezing it, then it sounds like you are thawing and refreezing the whole container. Alternatively, maybe it was a slip of the keyboard and you meant to say that you are holding it in the back of the fridge. Whatever you meant, I would suggest freezing it in portions, for example using silicone muffin moulds. Once you have frozen your ricotta (you can add spices it first, if you prefer), remove it from the moulds and place it in a freezing bag. Only thaw the amount you will need for a single meal. This should work well enough, in the worst case you'll have a layer of freezer burn to remove.

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You might consider editing this answer to what the OP can actually use with their ricotta. (though, as always, your info. is very interesting!) –  Kristina Lopez Nov 1 '12 at 2:05
    
@KristinaLopez I think the point is that there's nothing that will reasonably work and still have something that tastes at all like ricotta. –  Jefromi Nov 1 '12 at 2:52
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'Dried out' ricotta is actually very tasty. thekitchn.com/the-cheese-that-cant-stand-alo-80577 –  Stefano Nov 1 '12 at 10:59
    
excellent answers all around... this one even read my mind on the freezer/fridge part :) ok, I will quit being dumb and use smaller containers as soon as i open it as I wasn't doing that extremely basic thing! –  gcb Nov 2 '12 at 1:45

Since freezing is an option, (though texture will likely be affected), you can try freezing the ricotta in smaller containers so that you only thaw the ricotta you need and the rest can stay frozen (though most sources say to use the frozen ricotta with 1-2 months.) The source of information on freezing is the North Dakota State University Food Freezing Basics website:

NDSU food Freezing Basics

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This is certainly what I'd recommend, but the question also asks if seasoning helps. (rumtscho's answer addresses this too, and also essentially contains your suggestions.) –  Jefromi Nov 1 '12 at 4:45
    
@Jefromi, the OP's question is "best way to preserve ricotta". My answer succinctly addresses that one basic question. I will edit to add link to my source, though. –  Kristina Lopez Nov 1 '12 at 10:42
    
The title isn't the only question. It's just a summary. –  Jefromi Nov 1 '12 at 14:33
    
@jefromi, pls. feel free to provide the OP with a better answer. :-) –  Kristina Lopez Nov 1 '12 at 14:49

This link http://www.stilltasty.com/fooditems/index/18188 seams to imply that you can just remove the yellow parts.

Also make sure to drain off the whey.

I also think that saving in multiple vacuum packs or if you do not have a food saver, use zip lock bags would be better than one large container that you open multiple times, especially if you need to unfreeze the whole packet.

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