Saturday, January 29, 2011

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

Yes, I've been delinquent in posting new things. I've been busy with my recent marriage and all that comes with that, and it is hard to keep up with posting new articles.

HOWEVER....I learned something new, and it is really exciting. I learned how to make mozzarella cheese. There is a quick way, and a longer but better way. For now I will tell you about the quick way, since I have not ventured into the longer method.

There are a few things you will need that are usually not easily found in local stores.

One is rennet, this is what forms milk into curds. Another thing is Citric Acid. You can find this sometimes in the canning section of many stores; it is used also in canning tomatoes to keep their color and flavor.

The site that I buy my cheesemaking supplies is Ricki Carroll is an old hand at this, and has a good inventory of cheesemaking supplies. None of these ingredients are expensive.

Pour a gallon of whole milk into a large pot, from what I have read skim milk is NOT good for mozzarella. Add 1/2 teaspoon of Calcium Chloride (CaCl) into a quarter to a half cup of water, and mix THOROUGHLY. Then mix the water/CaCl solution into the pot. I was advised to use non-chlorinated water for mixing the ingredients, so I keep a gallon of bottled water handy just for cheese making. You can also let tap water sit for 24 hours to dechlorinate it. I don't really know at this point whether non-chlorinated water is that important or not. Since I am fairly new to this, I do what I am told.

Turn the heat to a low setting. My electric stove goes from 1 to 9 and I warm the milk at about 2 to 2.2. I could probably go higher but I'm a rookie and I'm scared!.

When the milk reaches 55 degrees F, add 1.5 teaspoons of Citric Acid, again mixing it into a quarter cup or so of water before adding to the milk. Stir it gently but well, and continue slowly heating.

It will start to look like Ricotta cheese.

When the milk reaches 88 degrees F, it's time to add 1/4 teaspoon of liquid rennet. Again, it is mixed with 1/4 cup water before adding.

Stir the milk with an up and down motion for one minute after adding the rennet. Continue heating the milk until it reaches 100 to 105 degrees. After adding the rennet you want to avoid bumping or moving the pot. Disturbing the pot can prevent a good curd from forming.

Turn off the heat but let it sit for about 20 minutes. The curd should start to separate from the side of the pot.

Using a large spoon (I found my pasta spoon worked wll) scoop out the curd from the pot and place into a large microwaveable bowl. I've heard the leftover whey (the liquid remaining) is great feed for chickens, hogs, etc, but I don't have any critters like that.

Press the curd down with your hand to remove excess liquid. Now place the bowl in your microwave oven on high for one minute. My microwave is fairly strong so you might want to add a little time to yours, depending on your microwave.

Since the cheese gets fairly hot, I put heavy duty kitchen gloves on at this point, and press the cheese with my hand to drain even more liquid from it. Wash your gloves before using, just like you do with your hands!

Drain off all of the excess whey that you can. Fold the cheese over and over in your hand to distribute the heat throughout the cheese.

Microwave 2 more times for 35 seconds each time. Each time you heat it knead the cheese again to distribute the heat. Knead it quickly until it is smooth and elastic like taffy.

When it feels like taffy, it is done! If the cheese breaks instead of stretching the cheese is too cold and needs reheated.

Mozzarella is best eaten fresh; roll it into small balls for fresh eating. However, it's not always practical to eat it right away. If you are making it for eating at a later time, you can form it into a loaf, a ball, or once I made 3 ropes out of the cheese and braided it (it looks really cool that way.) Then you want to place the cheese into a bowl of ice water for about a half hour to cool it rapidly. Now you can store it covered in the refrigerator.

Here's a idea I came up with, and it REALLY tastes good. When the finished cheese is still warm, shiny, smooth and like taffy, roll it out onto your counter with a rolling pin. Roll it into a rectangular shape about 12-16 inches long and 8-10 inches wide.

Now place just about anything you would like on it. In this batch I used fresh basil that I broke up into small pieces, and chopped black olives. A good prosciutto would be nice, I am going to try that sometime.

Now roll it up like a jelly roll

Place the cheese in plastic, wax paper or in a closed container until it cools and stiffens somewhat. Then slice across the roll to make small slices about a half inch thick, and eat.

Tonight I went to a dinner party where I made bruschetta and it turned out GREAT! I used this recipe for the bread. I cut the bread into about 1/2 inch slices. Then I made a batch of mozzarella and formed it into a loaf/roll about 2 inches in diameter.

When the cheese cooled I cut slices that were about 1/4 inch thick. I baked the plain bread for just a few minutes in a 350 degree oven (not broiler) to make it more crisp, then placed 2 slices of the mozzarella on each slice of the bread. I topped all that with a mixture of finely chopped tomatoes, smashed and chopped garlic, chopped fresh basil, grated Parmesan cheese and a quick splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I then baked it for a couple more minutes until the cheese was starting to melt and the edges of the bread just started to brown a little bit. Be sure to watch the bruschetta in the oven closely while it is baking. It doesn't take long and it would be easy to set off smoke detectors instead of eating a good bruschetta.

It was SO good, it disappeared quickly! I will have to make another batch for us to eat at home.

Mmmm....lotsa mozza!