©David B. Fankhauser, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology and Chemistry
U.C. Clermont College
Batavia OH 45103
Light cream is heated to 185 F
and a solution of acid is added.
First posted 29 May 2003

This page has been accessed  Counter times since 29 May 2003.

Hang the precipitated cream to drain

Mascarpone originated around 1600 in Lombardy of North Italy Southwest of Milan. Some say the name came from "mas que bueno" (Spanish for "more than good") when the Spanish ruled Italy.  It is made from light cream (~25% butterfat) which has been heated and thickened by the addition of tartaric acid to product a rich creamy product which is spreadable. By the way, as we heard it pronounced in Italy, a friend of Italian descent urged me to point out that the correct Italian pronunciation is "mahs-car-PO-nay."

I have learned with the assistance of readers of these pages, that tartaric acid is found in the sediment of fermented wine along with settled yeast. The word tartar may come from the Arabic word durd meaning dregs.  It was also possibly harvested off the sides of wine kegs, formed as an encrustation.

Mascarpone can be used alone or with sugar added.  Perhaps it is most famous as an ingredient in tiramisu, the Italian "rocket fuel" coffee-flavored cake. It is often used in place of butter to thicken and enrich rissoti. 
    Ingredients: Equipment:
    one quart of "light cream," 25% butterfat  (900 mL)
        [Light cream can range between 18 and 30% butterfat.
          For mascarpone, it should contain 25% butterfat.
          I mix 16 oz heavy cream with 16 oz half and half.]

    1/4 teaspoon tartaric acid
    [or 1/2 tsp Acid Blend from L.D. Carlson,
           available at wine making supply houses.
           or 2 Tbl lemon juice.]

    Stainless steel double boiler with lid

    Thermometer, reading in the 185 F or 85 C range

    sterile handkerchief sterilized by boiling and hanging to dry thoroughly

    1 quart bowl to catch the whey


1) Warm 32 ounces (900 mL) of 25% butterfat light cream in a stainless steel double boiler to 185 degrees Fahrenheit (85 Celsius).

See the next two steps to produce 25% BF cream by combining equal volumes of "half and half" (~11%) and heavy whipping cream (35% BF)
10)  Cover and place the thickened cream in the refrigerator overnight to cool thoroughly.
2)  Measure out 16 ounces (450 mL) of half and half (10.5% to 12% butterfat)

11)  The next morning, the mixture will have further thickened, with traces of whey separating out from the creamy mass.
3)  Add to the heavy whipping cream (35% butterfat) in the double boiler.

Heat gently to 185 F (85 C).

12)  Place a sterile handkerchief in a strainer over a bowl.

(Sterilize the handkerchief by boiling and hanging it to dry in the sun.)
4)  Meanwhile, dissolve acid crystals in 2 tablespoons of fresh water:

either :
     1/4th tsp of tartaric acid
or (as here):
      1/2 tsp Acid Blend from L.D. Carlson
*  See below for use of lemon juice.

13)  Transfer the mixture into the sterile handkerchief.
5)  Continue to heat the cream until it is 85 C.

14)  Draw together the four corners of the cloth, use a heavy rubberband to tie the corners securely to gether.
6)  Stir the dissolved acid into the 85 C cream with thorough stirring.  You should notice that the cream thickens slightly almost immediately.

15)  Suspend the product in the refrigerator overnight to drain thoroughly.
7)  Be sure the mixture is thoroughly mixed.

16)  The next day, remove the assembly from the fridge and open the cloth.
8)  Cover and hold the temperature at 85 C for five minutes, with occassional stirring.

17)  Here is what the finished mascarpone looks like.  You are allowed to take a taste... YUM.
9)  After five minutes, the mixture will have thickened somewhat.

18)  Place in a container which seals tightly.  Use immediately for optimum flavor, but it may be stored in the fridge for up to a week or two.

     *  I have received an email from Fil and Pat in Quebec which reports that mascarpone was originally made with lemon juice. I now doubt the authenticity of this, but have wondered where ancient Italians would have gotten tartaric acid... (See intro above.) I have calculated that 1/4 teaspoonful of tartaric acid should be equivalent to approximately 2 tablespoonfuls (30 mL) of lemon juice. Fil and Pat (and others) report back that 2 Tbl in a quart of 18% butterfat cream made perfect mascarpone! Yea.

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