Monday, August 6, 2012

Mozzarella Cheese

We've been getting raw, organic milk from a local dairy recently, so I've been having fun coming up with new uses for the stuff we haven't used up by the end of the week. This weekend I tried mozzarella and it was surprisingly good, especially since it was my first attempt at cheese making. Ever. :)

You will need milk (I believe you can use any kind of milk....raw, store-bought, whole, skim, whatever), non-iodized salt (I used coarse sea salt), citric acid (found in the canning section), rennet (I used junket rennet tablets, found in the pudding/jello aisle...a few places online said that this will not work for making cheese, but there was a recipe in the box so I went back and forth between that recipe and one I found online using liquid rennet. I honestly don't know what I'm doing so I can't really enlighten you on the difference between junket and any other form of rennet...but hey, there's always Google if you're interested in learning more! :) ), a thermometer, and a cheesecloth or tea towel to strain out the whey. 

I only made a half-batch since I only had half a gallon of milk to use up...most recipes call for a whole gallon of milk. I will give you the measurements I used, so double everything if you're using a whole gallon. 

Warm 1/2 a gallon of milk over a gentle heat until it reaches 88°F. Stir often and be careful you don't scorch the milk. 

Dissolve 1/2 tsp. of citric acid in 1/4 c. of cool water. Add to the warmed milk and stir thoroughly. 

Dissolve 1/4 of a tablet of rennet into 1/8 c. cool water. (If you're not using junket, follow the directions that came with your rennet) Add to warmed milk and stir thoroughly. 

After adding the citric acid and rennet, remove from heat and let the milk sit undisturbed for 1-2 hours, until a clean break is achieved. To test for a clean break, push a finger into the milk and lift up. If it has gelled enough to break cleanly as your finger is lifted, go to the next step. If the milk is still liquid or only semi-gelled and it sort of flows over your finger, let it sit until you can get a clean break. I think this took about 3-4 hours for me.

Once you have gotten the milk to the "clean break" stage, use a knife and cut the curd into a grid pattern. 

Warm over low heat, stirring often, until the temperature reaches 108°F. Now the recipe I used said to hold the curd at this temperature for 35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. However, I dropped my thermometer into the pot and apparently it doesn't do well when it's full of whey. :( It was showing the temperature jumping up and down, switching between F and C, and just generally going berserk. The curds had stuck together into a big lump at that point and I decided it had gotten too hot and didn't want to burn it, so I pulled it out and went to the next step instead of waiting for 35 minutes. :) Worked ok for me...

I forgot to get a picture of this next step, but I'm sure you can figure it out. :) Set a strainer over a bowl or pitcher, lay your cheesecloth over the strainer, and pour the curds and whey through to separate them. If you want you can keep the whey to be made into ricotta cheese (which I will post about at a later date), otherwise just dump it and keep the curds. Let the curds sit in the cheesecloth and strainer for about 15 minutes to make sure they're thoroughly drained. 

After it's drained, break up the curd and add 1/2 tsp. salt. Mix thoroughly.

Put the curd in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for about 30-45 seconds. 

When it comes out, pull and stretch it until it is shiney, smooth, and elastic. If it isn't the right consistency yet just microwave it for a few more seconds and try again. 

Shape it however you want, and drop it into some ice water for a few minutes to harden. 

There you have it! Homemade mozzarella! It tasted really good...we all liked it. :) I think it was maybe a bit drier than store-bought and it had more of a raw milk flavor, but it was good!

It has a nice, stringy texture. After we'd all tried some I grated the rest and stuck it in the freezer to see how it would do. :) It's still in there, but I'm guessing it'll come out like any other frozen mozzarella. :)