Do it yourself homemade mozzarella.
Recently I have become obsessed with self sustainment. Being able to provide for myself and my family healthy and wholesome food items that are not pumped with antibiotics, steroids, and preservatives. Recent research has shown that these three things have greatly affected our bodies, and our minds. So I decided to start producing some of the food stuffs we consume on a regular basis, to limit the amount of these "toxins" entering our home and subsequently, our bodies. One of these items that I found extremely easy to make was mozzarella cheese. I found that unlike almost all other cheeses, mozzarella has no curing time and is ready to eat in about an hour from putting the pot on the stove.
So what does it take to make your own homemade mozzarella? Well, it will need a few items you are not going to have in the average kitchen cabinet, or refrigerator. Namely, liquid rennet(also found in tablet form but not as effective) and lipase powder. Both are a type of enzyme naturally found in animals or their milk(respectively). The rennet is used to actually curd the milk and lipase, naturally found in the milk, is lost during the pasteurization process which is why we need to add some during our cheese making process. The lipase is optional and is only a flavoring preference. You can try this with and without the lipase to see which you prefer.
Beyond those two items you may or may not have in your kitchen(I’m not sure why you would unless you are already making cheese) is the last of the "odd" ingredients. Powdered citric acid. Found in most canning sections of your local grocery store. If you cannot find any of these locally, as I couldn't, you can order them online at a variety of cheese making supply websites. After you have secured these items the rest of what you will need should already be found in your kitchen, or can be grabbed quickly from a local grocer. They include 1 gallon of milk, more on choosing the type and brand of milk in a minute. You will need a sifter for straining. It needs to be a wire mesh sifter as the normal colander holes are too big to catch the loose curds. A candy thermometer, or small meat thermometer. Actually, any sort of thermometer that can be used to detect temperature ranges of 80 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit should work just fine. You will also need a few measuring cups and a few teaspoons, a large long knife, a microwave, a microwave safe bowl, and last but not least a large pot. About the only stipulation here is to make sure it’s not aluminum. Now that we have all the required gear let’s get to it.
1. Choosing the milk.
My preference is whole milk, hands down. But the following recipe will work for reduced fat milks, e.g., 1%, 2%, or skim. Its not the fat content that makes the cheese but it does add to the flavor. Also you must look for pasteurized milk instead of ultra-pasteurized. Ultra-pasteurization takes the milk to too high of temperature so that milk can be moved over longer distances and have a longer shelf life, but kills almost all the beneficial bacteria in the milk that makes cheese. Look for milk that is shipped locally to your grocery store. Or as close as possible. Some of the generic brands of milk use a practice of taking milk during pasteurization to just under the ultra-pasteurization temperature to get a longer shelf life without having to label it as ultra-pasteurized. Good for them, bad for us home cheese makers. The closer the milk is to its source the better chance you have of not having the almost ultra-pasteurized milk, and the curd not setting up during the first heating process.
2. Getting ready.
You are going to want to set out the measuring cups. Fill 1 cup with cool water and add and dissolve 1 and 1/2 tsp of citric acid. With a 1/4 cup fill with cool water and put 1/2 tsp of lipase powder and dissolve(if you've decided to use it). If you are using a tablet form of rennet dissolve 1/2 tab into a 1/4 cup of cool water at this time. If you are using liquid rennet do not do this step. After that is fully dissolved set your pot on the stove and pour in your gallon of milk. Some wait for the milk to warm up to about 50 degrees on its own but you do not have to.
3. Time to make the cheese!
Start by pouring in the dissolved citric acid and lipase(if chosen) and give the milk a good stirring. Approximately 1 min. Turn your burner on low and begin to heat the milk. You are taking the milk to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. You want to do this slowly. A good reference would be about 10 degrees every 5 min or so. The more slowly the less chance of burning anything and by slowly stirring during this process you are making sure of no "hot pockets" in the milk, and that it heats evenly throughout.
4. Remove pot from stove.
Once the milk reaches 90 degrees remove from the burner and let sit. Quickly dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of your liquid rennet into 1/4 cup cool water. If you used lipase powder you may need to add a little more rennet. About an addition 1/4 teaspoon. Add dissolved rennet to the milk and again slowly stir for about a minute making sure the rennet is fully mixed into the milk. Now put a lid on the pot and let it sit completely undisturbed or moved for 10 min.
5. Check the curd.
All the Little Miss Muffet jokes aside, it's now time to check the curds and whey. After the 10 min wait you should now see a separation in the milk. The white looking curd, and a sort of greenish, clear looking whey. The curd should be on top of the whey. It should resit being pressed into with your finger. On the edge of the pot, pull some of the curd towards the center and see if there is a good clean break between the curd and the whey. If not give it another 10 min undisturbed and check it again. It should be set up at this time.
6. Cutting the curd.
Now you are ready to cut the curd. Take your long knife and cut across the curd all the way to the bottom of the pan making about 1 inch squares of curd. Set the pot back on the stove and turn the burner back on low and heat the curd and whey to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, at the same rate you initially raised the temp to 90 degrees. Slowly stir during the second heating process once or twice. The curd should begin to get a little firmer as the temperature rises. Do not overheat. It is very important not to go over 110 degrees or the curd will fall apart and you will not get the consistency you are looking for.
7. Drain off the whey.
Using your wire mesh strainer, scoop out the curd and let it drain in the strainer for a couple of seconds and the put the strained curd into a microwave safe bowl. Continue this step until all the curd is the bowl. Drain off any excess whey at this point. (My later articles will tell you what you can do with the whey but for now...) If you are not saving the whey pour it down the drain.
8. Now the fun part.
Take the bowl and microwave it for 45 seconds. Pour off any whey that shows up. Knead the curd a little by hand and pour off any whey that comes out. Put the bowl back in the microwave and reheat for 20 seconds. Pour off the whey and knead the curd again. The temperature of the curd should be 135 degrees. Almost too hot to handle. Continue to knead the curd like you would bread. Folding it over and kneading continually, if need be reheat in microwave for 15 seconds at a time. At this point if the curd is hot enough it will be to stretch, and stretch and stretch some more. This is what makes it mozzarella. Continue kneading, and stretching and folding until the cheese resembles the mozzarella you know and love.
Now knead it into a ball. And there you have it. A fresh mozzarella ball. This can be eaten immediately or stored for up to 2 weeks. Same as the milk would have been. So note the date on the milk carton if you saving for later.
If you are planning on storing the cheese for later use get another large bowl and fill it with ice water. Stir it around to cool off the water to just above freezing and then sink your mozzarella balls into it. This will cool the cheese rapidly and will hold the shape better while its waiting to be consumed.