For years, I’ve been saying I need to start making cheese. This Christmas, my family gave me a kick in the pants to get that venture started: Home Cheese Making, by Ricki Carroll, as well as a few ingredients and supplies to get started. Since many of you tend to be foodies as well, I thought I’d share my first go at mozzarella, which was easy, quick and delicious.
Mozzarella, in words and pictures:
You start by taking one gallon of whole milk (grocery store milk that has been pasteurized and homogenized will work, as long as it hasn’t been ultra-pasteurized) in a pan and bringing it up to 55F. Stir in 1 1/2 tsp of citric acid (which you’ve dissolved in 1/2 cup of cool water). Stir until you reach 90F. You’ll get some curdling started.
Once you hit 90F, you’ll add 1/4 tsp. of liquid rennet (mixed in 1/4 cup cool water). Now you’ll stir in an up-and-down motion until you hit 105F. Nice big curds, well separated from the whey, which should be getting a little clearer. The range in the recipe said 100-105F, but both times I’ve done this, I went to 105, if not a touch further. At this point, kill the heat and use a slotted spoon to remove the curds from the whey. Place them in a large mixing bowl while singing Little Miss Muffet.
At this point, press down on the curds, and pour off the remaining whey. Press and pour, press and our, until you’re left with just curds in the bowl. I tasted the whey, then gave it to our cats for their own little feast. Thor especially deserved it, as he’s been killing mice left and right lately.
Now, put your bowl of curds in the microwave for about 2 minutes. At this point, we’re looking to bring the internal temperature of the curds to 145F, while working it into a mozzarella texture. After two minutes, press and drain any remaining whey, then knead like bread dough for a few turns. Back into the microwave for three or four or five stabs at 35 seconds, kneading again after each re-heating (after the second 35-second re-heating, work in a teaspoon of cheese salt).
During this stage, you’ll notice the texture changing from sorta mottled and grainy to smooth and shiny. It’ll start squeaking as you press it and make you hungry. Take the mass into your hands and give it a pull. If it breaks or looks rough, it’s not ready. If you’ve hit the right temperature, it will pull like taffy (an instant-read thermometer would probably confirm that you’re at 145F. I can’t find mine anywhere, but this is clearly dummy-proof, as it’s ready. You just know) and you’ll begin salivating. Good thing, because it’s ready!
At this point, eat your mozzarella, in all its fresh glory. You’ve earned it. If you don’t feel like eating a pound of cheese on the spot, form it into little balls and toss it in cold water to bring down the temperature quickly, then refrigerate. I planned on making homemade pizza on this fine day, so I pulled out my cheese grater and shifted into pizza mode.
There’s something dummy-proof about kicking ass, as well. I didn’t have a thermometer or barometer or hydrometer in use, but at this point, I knew I was kicking some ass.
This was confirmed when I pulled the pizza out of the oven. I coincidentally paired it with a bottle of Saison du Pont. I don’t know what Garrett Oliver says, but I thought these worked together like magic.
I saved back a couple mozzarella balls to marinate in olive oil, garlic, thyme and marjoram. I failed to take a picture, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. They looked good and were delicious, and paired well with whatever the heck I was drinking and served as a great precursor to whatever the heck I ate for dinner that night.
Give this a try. It was tasty and complete in 30 minutes. Now, onto the next cheese for me…