Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cheese Recipe: Easy Mozzarella

A few years ago when my husband realized I was intent on making cheese with goat, sheep, and cow milk, he asked if I was going to get buffalo someday because their milk is used for real mozzarella. It is an intriguing idea, but I think I’ll stick with my smaller dairy animals. A mesophilic culture is used to produce really flavorful mozzarella. It takes a few hours to make, but we have been so spoiled by this quick recipe that we have not made the more authentic recipe in years. We use goat milk to make it, which is more flavorful than cow milk. When made with whole Jersey milk, this cheese tastes buttery, which is delicious, but not exactly mozzarella flavor.

This is a very forgiving recipe. We have made just about every mistake imaginable over the past few years of making it at least weekly, and it always turns into mozzarella in the end. One thing that will not work, however, is using ultra- pasteurized milk. Unfortunately, most organic milk in the store is ultra-pasteurized, so make sure you read the labels. Of course, you can always buy your milk from a local farm if you do not have your own dairy source. Using an induction cooktop on any heat setting other than low can completely ruin your cheese because the pot can get hot on the bottom so quickly that it can damage the milk the same way that ultra- pasteurization does. A gallon of milk makes enough to cover one or two pizzas, depending upon how cheesy you like it and depending upon the richness of the milk.

Makes 1–2 pounds

  • 1 gallon milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon citric acid diluted in 1/4 cup water
  • 20 drops liquid rennet diluted in 1/4 cup water (10 drops of double-strength)

At any temperature between 55°F and 80°F, add the diluted citric acid to the milk and stir. Over low heat, increase the temperature to 90°F. Without turning off the heat, add the rennet while continuing to stir. The milk will start to thicken, and suddenly there will be curds, which will start to separate from the whey. (This part is similar to making queso blanco.)

At this point, my husband and I do things differently. Remember, I told you this is a very forgiving cheese. My husband continues to stir, which he insists reduces his kneading and stretching time. I, on the other hand, use a large slotted spoon to press the curds together against the side of the pan while continuing to increase the temperature to 100°F.

Whichever way you decide to do it, you will use a slotted spoon to take the curds out of the whey at 100°F and put them into a microwave-safe bowl. Put the bowl of curds into the microwave for 1 minute and microwave on high.

Remove the curds from the microwave and knead like bread dough. Mike uses a big spoon and folds it over on itself again and again; I put on a pair of heavy-duty plastic kitchen gloves and knead it by hand like bread dough. (I have a special pair of gloves designated for handling food.) It is really not a good idea to do this by hand without gloves because the temperature of the curds will be 135°F–140°F at this point, which is hot enough to cause serious burns. Kneading will cause whey to squirt and dribble from the curds, so it is a good idea to do it over a sink. Once you can stretch the curd at least 12 inches, it is mozzarella. My husband can usually accomplish this without any additional heating. I usually need to heat the curds a second time for 25 seconds. Sometimes, if I’m having a bad cheese day, I have to heat it a third time before I can get it to stretch.

After you get it to stretch, shape the cheese into a ball and flatten it, then immerse it in a bowl of ice water to cool quickly. After about an hour of cooling, the mozzarella is ready to go in the refrigerator. It freezes nicely. In fact, when we are drowning in milk during the summer months, we make extra mozzarella to freeze for using through the winter when we won’t have enough milk for cheese making.

This is an excerpt from Homegrown & Handmade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living.

This post shared on the Old-Fashioned Friday blog hop, the Friday Frenzy blog party, and the Simple Saturday blog hop!

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