Posted by: michellelowrey | September 21, 2009

Mozzarella Cheese-making

So the invitation for cooking club is sitting in the mailbox.  I take hold of it, and flip it over anxiously a few times in my hand.  I hold it up to the light to see if I can tell what is inside, before actually opening up the beautiful envelope.  I walk ever so slowly from the mailbox to the counter, savoring this little bit of anticipation as long as I can, before actually breaking the seal of the envelope…  Just what am I going to be preparing this month?  This is the ritual I go through every month when the invite comes in the mail.  Every single month of cooking club, a beautiful handcrafted invitation arrives in the mail, and every month, I’m not going to lie,  I get a giant thrill out of it.  It may seem a little silly, but wow, I’m pretty easy that way…..  I’m always so excited to see what the host has in store for me, and this months invitation did not disappoint, let me tell you!!  This month my task was to make homemade mozzarella cheese……like, from scratch…..I was actually expected to gather some dairy products, and at the end, I was supposed to have some kind of something, that resembled cheese…..gulp!

It was Dina’s turn to host, and I won’t say too much about what her theme was, just in case she want’s to talk more about it when it’s her turn to post.  I will say, that she hosted cooking club last night, and it was absolutely fabulous, and man did I learn a lot!

Making homemade cheese was not one of those things that was ever on my to-do list.  Not sure why exactly, but I’d never really been interested in making my own cheese.  Boy, have I been missing out!  Cheese-making is not only very fun to try, it also made for a very rewarding afternoon. I started with a gallon of milk, and ended up with ………cheese.  Very cool!  I was really nervous to try my hand at making cheese, and thought for sure that “nothing good was going to come of this.”  But low and behold, I was able to follow the directions, and at the end, something that resembled cheese was at the finish line.

I officially have even MORE respect for the artists that make cheese.  I have more respect for anyone that makes ANY kind of handcrafted food product for that matter.  There really is an art to making fine cheese, and I know why cheese can be so expensive, as well as so darn fattening.  For my recipe, an entire gallon of whole fat milk, yielded this teenytiny little ball of cheese.  That’s a lot of fat and calories in a very small package…..but worth every bite, don’t you think?!!  Was my cheese as good as something from an artisan cheese maker?  Of course not!  The amount of skill it takes to do anything well, should be respected.  I could never even come close to that.  But, I will say, that my cheese tasted pretty darn good, and tasted all the better because I had made it myself!

The following recipe comes from Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll.  Ricki has taught thousands of people how to make cheese, and her devotees refer to Carroll as “The Cheese Queen.” You can order the special ingredients for mozzarella from her company, New England Cheesemaking Supply, or you may be able to find them in your local natural foods store.  All you need to begin making cheese at home is a stainless steel pot, a candy thermometer, measuring spoons and some cheesecloth. You can find these supplies practically anywhere that sells kitchen equipment, but you can also order them — and other equipment for more ambitious cheese making adventures — from New England Cheesemaking Supply.  About the Milk.  Historically, mozzarella has been made from whole sheep’s milk, water buffalo milk and cow’s milk (pretty much in that order). It’s great if you can find fresh cow’s milk from a nearby farm, but store-bought milk will work, too. Skim milk also works, but you’ll get less cheese as a result. Just be sure to avoid any packages that say “ultra-pasteurized” or “UHP.” Ultra-high-temperature pasteurization exists solely to allow milk to be shipped over long distances without spoiling. The protein in milk, the compound responsible for curdling ability, is destroyed by excessive heat. Ultra-pasteurized milk can sit around for many weeks without spoiling, but it can’t make cheese.

Ricki’s 30 Minute Mozzarella

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid, dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water
  • 1 gallon raw whole milk or pasteurized whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet, unchlorinated water or 1/4  rennet tablet, diluted in 1/4 cup cool unchlorinated water
  • 1 teaspoon cheese salt (coarse, noniodized flake salt similar to pickling salt, do not use iodized salt)

Directions

  1. Slowly heat the milk in a stainless steel pot to 55 degrees. While stirring, add the citric acid solution to the milk and mix thoroughly.
  2. Heat the milk to 88 degrees over medium-low heat. The milk will begin to curdle. (A NOTE that I found — The bit about milk not curdling at 88F is wrong, since it curdles just fine at 68-72F for chevre, and 88F is a standard setting temp for cheddar cheese. When I make cheese from my raw farm milk this is where I set it to coagulate. I may raise the temp a bit due to high buttterfat or other seasonal changes to get the whey out but not by much. However, if you are using store-bought milk, we do find that it needs to be heated a bit higher for coagulation (93-97F) after setting, and then a bit more after that to release the whey.).
  3. Gently stir in the diluted rennet with an up-and-down motion for 30 seconds. Then let the milk sit still while heating it to between 100 and 105 degrees. In about 5 to 8 minutes, the curds should be pulling away from the sides of the pot. Turn off the heat.
  4. The curds will look like thick yogurt and have a bit of shine to them, and the whey will be clear. If the whey is still milky white, wait a few more minutes before turning off the heat. Scoop out the curds with a slotted spoon and put into a 2-quart microwavable bowl. Press the curds gently with your hands, pouring off as much whey as possible.
  5. Microwave the curds on high for 1 minute. (Without a Microwave follows below.).
  6. Drain off all excess whey. Gently fold the cheese over and over (as in kneading bread) with your hand or a spoon. This distributes the heat evenly throughout the cheese, which will not stretch until it is too hot to touch (145 degrees inside the curd). You may want to don rubber gloves at this point, as the cheese will be extremely hot to the touch.
  7. Microwave two more times for 35 seconds each; add salt to taste after the second time. After each heating, knead again to distribute the heat.
  8. Knead quickly until it is smooth and elastic. When the cheese stretches like taffy, it’s done. If the curds break instead of stretch, they are too cool and need to be reheated.
  9. When the cheese is smooth and shiny, roll it into small balls and eat while warm. Or place them in a bowl of ice water for half an hour to bring the inside temperature down rapidly; this will produce a consistent smooth texture throughout the cheese. Although best eaten fresh, it can be stored in the refrigerator at this point.
  10. Note: If you are using store-bought milk, and your curds turn into the consistency of ricotta cheese and will not come together, switch brands of milk. It may have been heated at the factory at too high a temperature.
  11. Shape the curd into one or more balls, put them in a ladle or strainer, and dip them into the hot whey for several seconds.
  12. Roll the cheese into small balls, and serve warm. Or place them in a bowl of ice water for half an hour to bring the inside temperature down rapidly. This will produce a consistent, smooth texture throughout.
  13. If you have any cheese leftover (highly unlikely!), cover and store in the refrigerator.

Just so you know, mozzarella cheese is not hard to make, takes less than an hour to do, and is super fun to try.  So what are you waiting for??

Here are some photos of my first attempt at making cheese.  Enjoy!

The milk only 2 minutes after the citric acid and rennet is added

The milk only 2 minutes after the citric acid and rennet is added

 

The milk after being heated for almost 8 minutes.  It's almost to the correct temperature and is starting to pull away from the sides of the pot

The milk after being heated for almost 8 minutes. It's almost to the correct temperature and is starting to pull away from the sides of the pot

THe milk is now at the correct temperature and the curds are ready to be scooped from the whey

THe milk is now at the correct temperature and the curds are ready to be scooped from the whey

 

Draining the curds into the colander to remove the whey

Draining the curds into the colander to remove the whey

Pulling the cheese

Pulling the cheese

My little ball of cheese cooling off in some water

My little ball of cheese cooling off in some water

 

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