Have I got a treat for you! Despite my hectic life in these last 20 days of school with testing and mayhem, I attempted something crazy this last weekend. I decided to try making mozzarella cheese. I really enjoy making cheese and have had great success. Normally, in my experience, though, cheese-making has been a fairly time consuming process. Not this time. Hoo boy! Can you believe I made homemade mozzarella cheese in only thirty minutes?
I got the idea from my recent issue of Hobby Farm Home magazine. Apparently, the recipe in the article was based on a book I haven't yet had the pleasure of reading, Home Cheesemaking by Ricki Carroll. I have to say, I was a bit skeptical about the whole thirty minute thing. But, honestly, this cheese practically made itself. I was enjoying a beautiful, fresh caprese salad in the blink of an eye (well... maybe a few blinks, but it was fast!).
You need a few special ingredients for this cheese, but you can check out the link to New England Cheesemaking Supply here. I buy a whole bunch of the various starters and rennets and then store them in the freezer and/or refrigerator, depending on the recommendations that come with the ingredients, to use whenever the urge hits me. As easy and tasty as this cheese is, you'll want to stock up!
The first step is to pour a gallon of whole milk into a heavy bottomed stock pot. You can use regular old homogenized, pasteurized milk from the store, just be sure it is not ultra-pasteurized. Slowly heat the milk to 55 degrees F. Meanwhile, dissolve the citric acid in distilled water and set aside. Then mix the rennet and water together and set aside. Be sure you know which mixture is which! When the milk reaches 55 degrees, stir in the citric acid solution. Keep heating until you reach 90 degrees F.
At 90 degrees F, you need to stir in the rennet solution. It will immediately start to curdle the milk making it initially look like yogurt. Continue heating to 105 degrees F, stirring occasionally. In a very short period of time, there should be very distinct curds and pale whey. In the next picture, you can see how the curds and whey have separated at the edge of the pot. When the temperature reaches 105, remove from the heat. If the whey is fairly clear (it will have a slight yellowish cast), you are good to go on to the next step, if it is still a bit milky, wait a few minutes and it should clear up.
Here is what the curds will look like when it is time to drain. They are fairly loose compared to some cheeses I've made. The whey, however, is the key to knowing when it is time to drain.
I line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth and drain the curds and whey. You can catch the whey if you like and make ricotta cheese or keep the whey to use in baked goods. Or, you can simply let it go down the drain. That's what I did this time since I was kind of in a hurry. Let the curds drain for a few minutes. They do not have to be completely dry to continue on to the next step.
Place the mass of curds into a microwavable bowl. Heat the curds in the microwave, on high, for one minute. Remove the bowl and stir with your hands or two spoons to mix the curds and evenly distribute the heat.
Heat two more times for 35 seconds, mixing in between. After the last time, sprinkle on the salt and then knead the cheese. At this point, it should start looking different... smooth and shiny... almost like taffy. Extra whey will come out of the cheese; it can simply be drained off. I wear vinyl disposable gloves at this point because working the cheese with your hands is much more efficient, but that cheese is hot and the gloves protect you just a bit. Knead until the cheese is smooth and can be easily shaped. If it is uncooperative, try heating for a few seconds more. Just be careful, if you overdo the heating, your cheese can become grainy, which is no good.
Working quickly, before the cheese cools, form it into whatever shape you wish. I made two logs out of it, but you could make small balls or one large ball. You could even shape the cheese in molds, if you like! Place the shaped cheese in cold, distilled water to cool.
Store tightly wrapped in plastic wrap for up to one week. Slice and enjoy! What a treat!
Please note that I originally posted to store the cheese in water. While I will test it again with storing in brine like you see at the store, storing in water - ultimately - was a failure. By the end of the week, the outside of the cheese was a goopy mess. Wrapping in plastic wrap keeps it plenty moist and the cheese stays fresh for up to a week.
Yield: approximately 1 pound
1 gallon whole milk
1 1/2 tsp citric acid dissolved in 1/2 cup cool, distilled water
1/4 tsp liquid rennet mixed into 1/4 cup cool, distilled water
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
Place the milk in a large, heavy bottomed stock pot. Heat to 55 degrees F. Add the citric acid/water solution and stir to mix. Continue heating. When it reaches 90 degrees F, add the rennet solution. Stir to mix and continue heating. When the mixture reaches 105 degrees F, remove from the heat and check for curd formation.
When the milk has fully curdled and separated from the whey, drain in a cheesecloth lined colander. Let the curds drain for a few minutes and then transfer to a microwave-safe bowl. Heat the curds on high for one minute. Stir the mix the curds with your hands or two spoons to distribute the heat. Return the bowl to the microwave and heat two more times for 35 seconds each, stirring after each heating. After the second time, add the salt and begin kneading the cheese. Any extra whey that comes out of the cheese can be drained off. At this point, the cheese should start to look different and be more taffy-like. Knead until it is shiny and elastic. Form into whatever shape you please and submerse in cold, distilled water until it is cool to the touch. Drain and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Store, refrigerated, up to one week.