Saturday, December 13, 2008

Making fresh mozzarella cheese

I've always wanted to try making cheese. I've hated the thought of wasting mik doing so. But when sorting out the milk cartons, there were 20 gallons that weren't expired yet, both skim and whole milk. Excellent! Fresh cheese it is.

Finding a recipe on the internet is always an iffy proposition. What I do is go and find 5 or 6, and then average them out. For the cheese, you need rennet, citric acid, milk and some kitchen utensils. The recipes have different types of rennet (tablet, liquid) and different amounts of citric acid needed (1-3 teaspoons). Some called for unclorinated water, others didn't. Since i've got the luxury of lots of milk, and because I'd like to try the simplest way to make this, here's what I'm going to do.

All of the recipies specifc a non-reactive container -- glass, stainless steel, that sort of thing.

Using a thermometer, I bring the milk up to 50 degrees. I add one teaspoon of the citric acid. I found powdered citric acid in the canning section of a local store.
Adding the amount of rennet indicated on the rennet package itself. I purchased this vegetarian rennet at a small shop called "the creamery" in the pike place market, but you can get it mail order or from cheesemaking supply folks. In this case it called for 5 drops of rennet per quart of milk diluted into 1 tablespoon of water. 20 drops for a gallon.

For this first attempt, I'm going to ignore the filtered / non-chlorinated water thing and use tap water. If it works, it simplifies the whole thing.

Then I heat the milk from 50 degrees to 88 degrees and add the rennet dilution and a second teaspoon of citric acid. I stirred this for 15 seconds.

Then I let it sit in a covered pot for 30 minutes.

The milk turned into a pudding. I cut it into 1/2" squares and then let it sit for 15 minutes more.
This is really soft at this point, and really doesn't taste like anything.

Now I heated it to 108 degrees and stirred it while it heated. At the end, the curds looked like this

They are firmer but still contain quite a bit of liquid.

After letting it sit for another 10 minutes I strained out the curds. A gallon of milk produces about 2 cups of curds.

The puppies appreciate the whey

Here's the strained curds. From here it's just heat in the microwave for 10-15 seconds, knead and squeeze, and then heat again. Repeat until you have a shiny ball. I found it easier to split it into 6 equal portions about the size of a handball.

and voila! fresh mozzarella!

I like the fresh cheese sliced on top of a slice of tomato, topped with a leaf of basil, and drizzled with a finishing sauce -- in this case, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Delicious.

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