Thursday, November 18, 2010

Homemade Fresh Mozzarella Cheese

After making homemade ricotta cheese a couple times this summer, I was intrigued by the other varieties of cheese I could make at home without having to go all crazy about buying special equipment.  While not quite as simple as ricotta, homemade mozzarella is a breeze to make and doesn't require specialized equipment or hard-to-find ingredients.  If you're like me and you love fresh mozzarella cheese, but hate paying $3+ for one ball, then this is a fun alternative and much less expensive.

There are a lot of options for this process if you google it; I will try to simplify it for you by telling you exactly what I did and where I found my ingredients.

The ingredients you will need are a gallon of milk (I used whole since I have a 1-year-old and that is just what I am buying these days), citric acid, rennet tablet, and some salt.
  • Let's talk about milk--your google search will tell you that you need local, organic, fresh-from-the-cow, milk.  Bah.  Just buy some milk, but make sure that it isn't "ultra-pasteurized" as that milk has been heated to a high temperature that kills the bacteria and cultures needed to make cheese.  I get my milk at Aldi for less than $2 a gallon.
  • Ok, next, citric acid.  I will admit to having a hard time finding this ingredient at my local Meijer, as I wasn't really sure where to look for it.  In my area of small-town "Amish-ville," there is a quaint little store that sells bulk foods repackaged in "normal" sized containers.  Voila.  Tripped across it there.  Those of you who know where I live in NE IN will know exactly what store I am talking about.  My best advice to you:  google citric acid and see where you can get it in your area.
  • Next, rennet.  Again, I found this at my little Amish-ville country store.  It is next to the ice cream making/custard making ingredients.  A brief google glimpse into what rennet actually is determined that I actually don't want to know what it is.  But, you're going to need it anyway.  It helps curdle the milk and make the cheese curds.  You should be able to find this fairly easily at your grocery store.
Ok, the equipment that you are going to need you likely already have in your kitchen--a large pot, a long thermometer (I borrowed my MIL's candy thermometer) that will read both 88 and 105 degrees, a mesh strainer or slotted spoon, a colander, and some cheesecloth.

Ok, now that you have all your ingredients and equipment, the only thing that you're going to need is about an hour to make this.  It is pretty simple!  Ready?  Here we go!

Homemade Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
1 gallon of milk (NOT ultra-pasteurized)
2 tsp. citric acid, sprinkled over the milk
1/2 of a dry rennet tablet, dissolved in 1/4 cup water at room temperature
salt, to taste

Pour milk into a large stock pot.  Sprinkle the citric acid over the milk and use a wooden spoon to stir.  Over medium-low heat, bring milk to 88 degrees.

Add dissolved rennet mixture to milk.  Stir until milk reaches 105 degrees and keep it there for about 5 minutes until curds begin to form and separate from the whey.  The whey (liquid) should be clear; if it is still milky looking, allow the mixture to heat a bit longer.  Off heat.

With a slotted spoon or fine mesh strainer, scoop out curds.  Place them in a cheesecloth-lined colander to drain whey.  When all the curds have been removed from the whey in the pot, place your hand in the colander to push/squeeze out remaining whey.

Form the curds into balls and place in a glass bowl.  Microwave them for thirty seconds.  On a dry, flat surface, knead the cheese balls just like you would bread dough, squeezing out whey as you go.  Re-form into balls, heat again for 30 seconds.  Knead again, and heat again.  After the second knead, add your desired amount of salt.  Continue to knead cheese balls, pushing together the curds and squeezing out whey until the cheese becomes glossy and firm in your hands.

The more you knead your cheese, the drier it will become.  The drier it is, the easier it is to shred.  I stopped kneading mine once it retained a ball shape in my hand--I didn't shred my cheese.

I yielded 2 tennis-ball-size balls of cheese.

See, simple, huh?  It takes bit of time to knead the cheese, but it is simple and not labor-intensive.  I was fascinated at how the curds transformed in my hands!  Welcome to the Homemade Cheese Club!

As for taste, you might ask?  Well, since mozzarella doesn't really have a strong flavor anyhow, it tasted just as you would expect fresh mozzarella cheese to taste.  I added it to a pasta dish and it was just what I had envisioned!

Ok, here are the pictures of the process:

 The ingredients that you will need--milk, salt, rennet, citric acid, and a candy thermometer.

 Dissolve 1/2 a rennet tablet in a 1/4 cup water.  You will add this mixture to your milk at 88 degrees.

 Though this thermometer is different than the one pictured above, you will need your thermometer to be able to read as low at 88 degrees.  The one above started at 100 degrees.

 Once your milk has reached 105 degrees, maintain that temperature for about 5 minutes to allow the milk to curdle.  Once large curds have formed and you can see them separating from the whey, use a slotted spoon or fine mesh strainer to remove the curds.  In the picture, mine were still a bit wet, so I let the milk sit for a bit longer before trying again.

 I found it best to line a large colander with cheesecloth and use my hand to push out the remaining whey.  You want your curds to be dry before beginning the kneading process.

 Once I pushed out the whey, I formed my curds into very rough balls.  At this point, there is still a lot of whey in the curds that I will have to knead out.

 Place the cheese in the microwave for 30 seconds.  On a flat surface (I used a wooden cutting board), begin kneading.  Repeat.
After the second knead, you are ready to add salt to your cheese.  How much you add depends on how salty you want your cheese to be.  I used kosher salt, and didn't measure.  Continue kneading the cheese until it becomes firm and stretchy.

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