Mozzarella is a gateway cheese, once you have tried making it and see how easy (and frustrating) it can be, you are hooked. Not every batch turns out when you are just beginning, but even the mistakes can be quite tasty. It is a very frugal way for us to make the cheese we most enjoy on our pizza, and it's fun to boot. Learn to make this and take the things you will need to a party. You are guaranteed to have one heck of a crowd gather around and be amazed at your mad cheese making skilz.
Here are the things you will need to make your cheese:
Large stainless steel stock pot, colander, stainless steel spoon, measuring cups, distilled water, citric acid, rennet, 1 gallon of milk (not pictured) and a thermometer (also not pictured).
To get started, measure out 1/4 cup water and add 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet to the water. Set aside to use in just a bit. In another measuring cup, put 1/2 cup water and 1 1/2 teaspoon citric acid. Stir it well to dissolve.
Add the citric acid/water to the bottom of your pot.
Now add your milk to the pot and stir. You may see some funky curdling happen, but don't worry, you just made the milk very acidic and that may cause the milk to curdle a little.
Place your pot into a sink and add HOT water (I put about 2 quarts of boiling water and then enough of the hottest tap water I can get to fill it the rest of the way up). Watch your milk and bring it slowly up to 90 degrees. Add hot or cold water to your water bath to adjust however you need to. I usually have to add more boiling water to make it come up to temp.
Now that it is at 90 degrees, add your rennet. You should stir for about 30 seconds in and up-and-down motion. The best way I can describe doing this is to stir like you are using a potato masher. Here I am stirring the top of the pot ("top stirring") because my milk is raw and un-homogenized.
When 5 minutes have passed, check to see how your curd formation is going. By gently placing your hand on the edge of the curds and pressing *gently* down, you can see the curd start to separate from the sides of the pot. It should have a thin, clear whey beginning to happen around the edges. If you have good curd, continue on to the next step. If your's isn't quite there yet, wait a few more minutes and try again.
Now that your curd has set, you are going to cut it into 1 inch cubes. Cut first one way...
And then the other... Let it set for about 3 minutes and move on to the next step.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the curds into a colander. Keep the colander over a bowl to catch it, you are going to use it in just a second. Put the whey into the pot you used to make your curds. Put the colander into the pot of whey in the sink of hot water and let it rest. It might be necessary to add more hot water to keep it in the 110-115 degree range. You are now draining the whey from your curds.
When the curds start to look dry, put some boiling water into a bowl. Put the colander of curds on top of the hot water (it needs to be 175 degrees or so, you can make it cooler with come cold water), and begin to stir them around. You are heating the curds up and this will allow them to s-t-r-e-t-c-h into the mozzarella that we all love and enjoy.
Stretch the curds as far as you can. Keep doing this a few times until the cheese turns a shiny, smooth color. It will look a lot like taffy that has been pulled if you've ever done that. When it reaches smooth and shiny, shape it into a ball and place it in a bowl of VERY cold water. I add 3 tablespoons of salt to the water to make a nice brine, but I have done it without salt and it turns out ok that way too.
Let it chill for several hours, or until firm enough to slice.
There are a lot of step involved in making cheese, but none of them are what I would term difficult. Once you have done it a few times, you get the feel for what you are doing and you won't need to foloow the time tables as strictly as you will with your first batch.
Some helpful hints:
- I get my cheesemaking supplies and recipe exclusively from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. They are an invaluable resource for cultures, rennet, recipes and more.
- Please visit the "good milk" list while you are at the link above. Many milks in the supermarket are Ultra Pasteurized now and they simply will not make good cheese. Milk that is as fresh as possible is always best.
- I doubled the batch in the pictures and that is why my measurements in the pictures don't add up to the single recipe I have given here.
- This recipe, with more help and alternate directions for using a microwave, can be found here.
- Don't give up! It took me several tries to get cheese consistently. It's a challenge, but it's worth it.
- The more you work your curds, the drier the cheese will be. Keep in mind, however, the the driest homemade cheese will still be softer and moister than store-bought.