Turning a gallon of supermarket milk into about a pound of cheese is my idea of awesome. I love cheese and it’s even better when you can do it in a half hour and at home! I also think after a recent trip to California where I was served stretched to order mozzarella, at home cheese making changed my life.
In this instance I was granted an opportunity for myself and friend (Wendy) to attend a cheese making class through Beer and Wine Hobby in Woburn, MA. The Groupon (special online coupon for an activity) allowed us to take part in it for a fraction of the cost. It was well worth it for the both of us who now want to go home an make excessive amounts of cheese. What was most beneficial about this class was the ability to see the changes taking place to the milk. Whilst it is following things exactly, much of the process can come by touch and feel, just knowing when things hit certain stages.
Beer and Wine Hobby specializes in giving the tools and knowledge of various areas back to the home hobbyist. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they actually fly in Italian grapes for the home winemaker. What their general store had was everything you needed to make craft beers, wines and cheeses. They also had books and a staff who could help in a variety of areas. Their tools included pre made kits, all the way up to the specialty tools one may need to do this more seriously.
But onto the cheese! Mozzarella was first made by the monks of San Lorenzo di Capua, Italy from sheep’s milk. As things changed, water buffalo were introduced to certain regions and the rich milk of those animals was used (Buffalo mozzarella). Now, much of the mozzarella we find today is made from cow’s milk and can be made in a variety of ways, most recipes will take up to four hours, but in this process we did so in a very short amount of time.
Equipment, and having the right ones at that can make all the difference. It will generally be what allows for consistency and a recipe turned out right. Special equipment needed for mozzarella making:
- A large shallow pot, either stainless steel (preferred) or glass.
- Double colander or strainer with cheese cloth
- Liquid/alcohol thermometer, digital preferred
- Curd knife – very important!
- Slotted spoon
Sanitization is hugely important especially when it comes to cheese as the bacteria can throw things off, especially in terms of storage for consumption later on. This is most important with aged cheese, especially those like cheddar which would have to sit counter side for awhile. When sanitizing, it’s best to follow the practices as applied to commercial kitchens like this post here. This is the exact reason why one shouldn’t be using wooden spoons, or less than food grade plastic utensils in cheese making. Stainless steel is best!
Ingredients, and special ones at that, enable a person to turn milk into cheese. Specifically we’re talking about the following:
- Rennet comes in two forms, animal and vegetable. It enables a milk to coagulate and separate the curds and the whey.
- Citric Acid is a natural preservative that adds sweetness to the milk and increases acidity levels during cheese making.
- Lipase for cheese making typically comes from calves and allows for an increase in flavor and strength of the cheese.
- Cheese Salt is salt that is non-iodized and melts easily. Helps enhance flavors in cheese.
After we got this basic overview, we were given the recipe out of Ricki Carroll’s book, Home Cheese Making for 30-minute mozzarella. I have what we were given in class, but I’m going to add my notes an observations to the recipe itself as I give it to you. I haven’t made it at home yet, but I look forward to doing it soon!
30-Minute Mozzarella by Ricki Carroll
1 gallon of pasteurized whole Milk
1 1/2 teaspoon Citric Acid, dissolved in 1/2 cup of cool water
1/4 teaspoon liquid Rennet or 1/4 tablet of Rennet, diluted in 1/4 cup of cool water
1/8 teaspoon of Lipase, dissolved in 1/4 cup of cool water allowed to sit for 20 minutes (optional)
1 teaspoon of Cheese Salt
Step 1- Stir your Citric Acid until dissolved and keep available. Stir your Lipase well, if using. Keep in mind it does not dissolve so it’s best to break it up as much as possible, set aside with Citric Acid. Place your Milk into a shallow stainless steel pot over low heat and bring milk up to 55 degrees, stirring constantly. The stirring constantly in all these steps is very important as to not allow uneven heating and to not allow for a film to form later on. You may have to trial and error with temperatures as it may make more sense to pull the pot off the heat a degree or two early as the Milk may continue to cook. Immediately remove Milk from heat and continue stirring, slowly adding in Citric Acid, and then Lipase (if using).
Step 2- Place the pot back on the stove. On low heat setting, heat the Milk to 90 degrees, stirring constantly. Remove the pot from the heat and very slowly stir in the diluted Rennet with an up and down motion for about 30 seconds. Essentially it’s like folding in egg whites into a mousse, it’s done very gently as not to disturb the processes that will start to take place. Cover the pot and leave undisturbed for 5 minutes.
Step 3- Check the curd. It should look like a custard, with a clear separation between the curd and the whey. If the curd is too soft, or the why is too milky, allow to sit dow a few more minutes. Cut the curd with a Curd Knife making very defined slices in the Milk, not dragging your knife along. Make cuts about an inch apart going in both directions cutting all the way down to the bottom.
Step 4- Place the pot back on the stove, and heat the curds to 105 degrees. gently moving the curds with the spoon, not stirring. Once temperature is reached, move from heat and continue stirring for 2-5 minutes. The longer you stir during the process, the firmer your cheese will be.
Step 5- Scoop out the curds with your slotted spoon, and put into a double strainer sitting over a two-quart microwave safe bowl. Once all the curds are removed from the whey, gently press the curds together with your hands, pouring off as much whey as possible. Pour the excess whey back into the pot and place your cheese into the microwave safe bowl.
Step 6- Microwave the curds on high for 1 minute. Drain off all excess whey. Gently fold cheese over itself, as you would knead bread. This step will help distribute the cheese evenly throughout the cheese. The mozzarella won’t start to stretch until it reaches 145 degrees internally.
Step 7- Microwave two more times for 35 seconds each, until cheese becomes too uncomfortable to almost handle. Add salt to taste, and knead to redistribute heat.
Step 8- Knead quickly as the cheese starts to cool until it becomes smooth and elastic. Once the cheese stretches like taffy, it is done. If it starts to break instead of stretch, reheat.
Step 9- When cheese is smooth and shiny, roll it into small balls and eat whilst warm. Or, place them into a bowl of ice water for a half hour to bring the inside temperature of cheese down rapidly. This will produce a consistent, smooth texture throughout the cheese and allow for better storage.
When these steps fail in any way for you, you get left with ricotta. A pretty awesome mistake if you ask me!
If anything doesn’t make sense, watch the Cheese Queen herself reenacting this process in her video below! But definitely go get her book, you won’t be disappointed Home Cheese Making!