Here are two of my favorite beginner recipes: 

Ricotta

1 gallon whole milk + 1 cup heavy cream

3 1/4 cups buttermilk

3 tbsp salt

Pour milk in a thick-bottomed stainless steel pot. Add cream and salt then begin to heat to 195° F while stirring frequently (especially after 150° F).

At 195° F, add the buttermilk. Stir in quickly then stop stirring. Stop the movement of the milk and continue heating until the milk returns to 195° F. Turn off the heat.

Cover the pot and let it sit for 15 minutes. Afterwards, uncover and gently ladle curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth or a cheese form. If the whey left behind is still distinctly milky, after removing the curds, return the pot to the heat and repeat Step 2, using just 2 cups of buttermilk on the second round and half the salt.

Drain for 10 minutes for a moister cheese or up to 8 hours (covered and in the fridge) for drier cheese (better for baking with). Enjoy ricotta within several days for best flavor.

 

Crème Fraiche

1 quart heavy cream

2 TBSP cultured buttermilk, plain kefir, or cultured sour cream

Salt to taste

Pour cream into a clean glass jar with a lid then warm to 70ºF using a warm water bath. 

Next add buttermilk, kefir or sour cream into the warmed cream (or, alternatively, sprinkle 1/8 tsp of freeze-dried cultures over the top). Mix cultures in then cover the jar with a lid.

Ripen cream for 24 to 36 hours on the countertop (ideally staying near 70ºF). Depending on the ripening time, the cream will be anywhere from pourable to spoonable in consistency. Stir in salt if desired (~1/2 tsp) then place jar in refrigerator. Use within 2 weeks.